Well, we won every game. Each against a Western Conf. opponent, and only 3 of the games were at home. We did it without Memo for all of them, and without Deron for 3. Not too shabby when you factor in that 6 of them were against playoff teams. That said – you can’t really predict how great a team is going to play over the course of 82 games based on 8 games in the preseason. What it can show, however, is how the individual players happen to be playing right now.
Let’s look at the stats, in this brief review:
Deron Williams didn’t have to play a lot, and got a little roughed up and missed 3 of the 8 games. It’s nothing to worry about. Neither should we be worried by his lack of domination in the games he did play. He only played 25.2 mpg, and was very pass first when he was in the game. D-Will averaged 12.0 ppg (42.9 fg%, 88.2 ft%, 40.0 3pt%, 53.6 eFG%), 3.8 rpg, and 4.2 apg. He had over a steal per game as well. His assist to turn over ratio was pretty low, so that is something he will work hard to correct. Deron is a perfectionist. And he wants his game to be perfect. A great example of that is his added concentration he’s shown at the free throw line this year so far (30 for 34), and his renewed dedication to the three point shot (again, 40%). He had a +/- of over 50 for the games he played. No one else was close, even with playing 3 extra games. Deron went to the line 6.8 times a game – which is great. I want to see this go up to 8 times a game, if possible. It just may as in the regular season he’s going to shoot more than just 5.6 times a game.
Earl Watson appears to be the back-up to start the season. He’s a cagey veteran who is new to the team, and thus, is probably relying more upon instincts right now than actual Utah Jazz playbook knowledge right now. He played in each game and played 16.88 mpg in them. He did not bring much to the table in the three key stats: 4.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, and 3.3 apg. He really didn’t show much hustle at all (0.39) and is far from the feisty defender that we’ve had at this post in previous seasons (Brevin Knight, Ronnie Price) – Watson did not steal the ball even once. What’s worse is that he shot abysmally poor. Earl went 10/29 over all and 0/7 from deep. He was also in the 60% range on free throws. On the flip side, he did take care of the ball. Earl had an absolutely astounding 3.71 assist to turn over ratio. He seems to know how to play point guard, but is this enough to absolve his lack of defensive hustle and horrible shooting? I don’t know. He’s going to get better as the season progresses and he gets more familiar with his role in the offense. To be fair though, the guy behind him has made a career out of being the 3rd PG at the start of the season and finishing it as the 2nd PG. I’m talking about . . .
Ronnie Price, who is almost everything Watson isn’t. (And Vice Versa) Ronnie also played in all 8 games, and in them he played 13.88 mpg. In less time than his direct rival he did manage to score more points, and score them at a much better rate (eFG% of 50.0 vs. 34.5). Price also took fewer threes and made more of them than Watson did. Ronnie also had one steal per game and a defensive gambling value of 1.0 (Watson got 0.09). Rounding things our Price also dimed 3.0 times per game, but his assist to turn over ratio was 2.40. Price appears to be the same frantic, high energy guy that we’ve all come to terms with . . . as a guy who’ll never be a true point guard. He knows the system more, and knows his team mates. It’s Watson’s spot to lose, but their cumulative +/- scores are interesting: Watson is at -13, and Price is at +14.
Raja Bell is a tough as nails competitor who is mentally tough and capable of hitting open three pointers reliably. He’s more than these things, and he’s surely more than what shows up in a box score. He’s not going to be the long armed defender who racks up steals and blocks. His defensive ability is the kind that does not get recognized that frequently. He makes other players miss their shots, or pass the ball away. Neither of those things show up on a box score. The 34 year old played in all 8 games, and played through a shoulder injury. In 19.88 mpg he managed 6.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, and 0.6 spg. His stats don’t look like much but he missed only one free throw all preseason (close to 90 ft%), he makes a three in each game, and had an eFG% of 50%. (Which is close to what Deron had) He also almost never fouls, so that’s even better. He’s a steady vet whose major contributions don’t show up in the box score. What I really appreciate is the chemistry he shares with Andrei. Having Raja around is going to help everyone out, but maybe it’ll help Andrei the most? (Removal of Boozer, plus rekindling the confidence Andrei had when they played together…. We can only hope)
C.J. Miles, honestly, should be starting. His offensive versatility is going to be needed at the beginning of some games against teams that play tough interior defense (Orlando, Boston, LA, Houston). That said, the 23 year old (yes, he’s still only 23 years old) is going to be coming off the bench so far. His ankle will be fine (he took a spill in the last game), and if his preseason is any indication, this season is going to be one of his best ever. If we remove the last game from the record, CJ was getting it done on both sides of the court. Even with the 1-6 shooting night he had in 9 abbreviated minutes he still managed the 3rd best GO Rating for the team (behind Deron and Jefferson). In 21.88 mpg Miles scored 11.9 ppg, slashed and got to the line 3.4 times a game, and was super efficient whenever he shot the ball (46.0 fg%, 88.9 ft%, 45.0 3pt%, 52.2 eFG%). C.J. had a Karl Malone like Shooting Worth as well (1.40). He wasn’t just shooting all the time though, he did his work on the glass as a back up guard (3.1 rpg), dished it out (0.75), and stole the ball (1.4 spg). I’m really encouraged by this, and as the season goes on I wouldn’t be upset if C.J. ends up starting. Right now the idea is to have him be one of the top options off the bench with the 2nd Unit. I think when Memo comes back he’ll take that role.
Apologies for earlier, but I lied. No one had a better cumulative +/- than Andrei Kirilenko (+57). It’s obvious that everything just runs better with him on the floor. He played in every game and played 21.6 mpg. We saw a lot of Andrei in this short time – 9.1 ppg (remember one season he averaged 8 ppg in 29 mpg), 53.7 fg%, 56.5 eFG%, 60.0 3pt%, 4.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.1 bpg and a LOT of deflections. Again, this is in only 20 minutes of action. That’s amazing. Probably the most amazing part of Amazing Andrei is that his inferential (Amar made) defensive statistics are off the chart right now. He hasn’t been playing this week since before Boozer was around. His Defensive Gambling value is 2.60. That means that he’ll get close to three combined blocks and steals for each time he’s called for a foul. This is an abnormally high value. His Pure Hustle is 1.42 right now as well. If you want to see what these numbers mean, and how they related to guys like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman then click here and scroll down. Andrei is doing great right now. I hope he plays a lot of minutes.
And it’s not just because Gordon Hayward had a forgettable Pre-Season so far. He’s a rookie, and he’s going to be great for us in time. Right now, though, he’s not where he will one day be. Yes, he’s played in every game so far, and in 22.8 mpg he’s averaged 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 1.0 spg. These are good numbers, but he’s not without fault either. And again, at the risk of saying something negative, he hasn’t shot the ball very well. He did go 8/10 vs. the hated Lakers on his way to 26 points. This was awesome. But even with that awesome night he’s only at: 35.3 fg%, and 11.1 3pt%. I’m not going to bother putting up what his percentages are if you remove that game from his shooting history, let’s just say that it’s low. He’s not shooting very well right now – but we know he’s a natural shooter and he’ll get it. Why am I so confident? Hayward is shooting 95.6 ft%. That’s not a fluke either as he’s gone to the line nearly 30 times in the preseason (3.6 ft attempts per game). He’s doing so well from there that it’s has carried his shooting worth to 1.27 (which is above the league average of 1.22). I think Hayseed will be fine going forward, he can do a little of everything. He even stayed in front of Tyreke Evans in the last game and got the ball back for the Jazz. He’s young (20), and work with Horny (and Harp, because you KNOW he wants to put him through the paces on that curl) will make him a better player going forward.
Boozer’s departure has paved the way for Paul Millsap to emerge and finally get some of the love from the refs that he deserves. Millsap is a very talented guy and he’s really been hurting other teams so far with his step back jumper so far in the pre-season. He played, and started, every game and played 26.0 mpg in them. That said, his numbers have been lower than what I expected from him at this stage. He’s only averaging 8.0 ppg off of 44.6 fg%. I’m not that worried about much else, he’s hauling in 4.9 rpg, dishing out 2.3 apg, and getting 1.5 combined blocks and steals a game. It’s only icing on the cake that he’s shooting 72.0 ft% and has a pure hustle of 0.85. It’s not quite what AK is getting, but it’s because Millsap keeps getting called for fouls. He finished the preseason with 2.8 fouls per game. (He wasn’t even playing 30 mpg!) With our big situation we need Millsap to play 30+ minutes, fouls will continue to be his Achilles heal.
Evans is a rookie and gets called for fewer fouls already. He has been a big surprise and I’m guessing that the Jazz see him as more of a 4/3 instead of just a straight up 4. He played in 7 of the games and in them he played 16.57 mpg. In that, he scored 6.9 ppg (69.23 fg% -- not a typing error either.), pulled down 4.9 rpg, and averaged 1.29 combined blocks and steals per game. Everything is very Millsap like, but decidedly in an above the rim type of way. He’s an exciting player, for sure. That said, Evans is about 4000 calories a day away from being a ‘true’ big. He gets eaten alive in the paint by true NBA vets, and we already know how skinny he is from previous posts. If he can develop a midrange jumper and learn to stay with his man through a series of screens them maybe he’ll get more playing time down the stretch as a back up wing? I know that minutes will be a crunch this season especially since we have a log jam at . . .
Al Jefferson is awesome. He played in every game, and in 26.3 mpg he gave the Jazz 14.5 ppg (51.7 fg%), 6.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.63 combined blocks and steals per game – and he shot 88.7 ft%. Anyone off the top of their head, what was Boozer’s ft% in the playoff last season? Do you know what it was? It was a blistering 54.3 ft%. What is also interesting to know that Boozer played 40.2 mpg in the playoffs and went to the line 3.5 times a game. In 26.3 mpg Jefferson went to the line 3.75 times a game. It’s going to be just lovely having a real post up guy this season – instead of a jump shooting power forward. Jefferson also had a 2.00 Assist to Turn Over ratio. He’s only going to get to know the system better with time. I’m really happy with Al. But the really crazy thing is that we have three other guys at the center spot who could easily start for us depending on the situation.
As I said on twitter a while back, seeing Kyrylo Fesenko play like this makes me a proud mother hen, or something to that effect. Fesenko played in 7 games and in 17.86 mpg he brought the house down with 8.9 ppg (55.8 fg%), 4.4 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.9 bpg, and a great many thundering dunks. He also showed us that he can take over a game and be the first option when we need a bucket with time running out in the 4th quarter (as seen in the Lakers game with his scores over Gasol and the Kings game vs. everybody in his path). Okay, jokes aside (or at least, semi-truths aside), he played well and made free throws. (Something he didn’t do before). He had a shooting worth of 1.44 which is better than every other Utah Jazz center in the history of this team. The best part of his game doesn’t show up on the box score – it’s taking up space in the paint and changing shots. I don’t think he’s quick enough to be a huge shot blocker, but he’s big enough to make people take dumb shots around him.
Francisco Elson took some time out of teaching Berlitz Language classes to play in 2 games for the Jazz. In 12 minutes per game he found a way to shoot crazy, quick in the shot clock, 18 footers for no reason at LEAST 3 times a game. He finished up with a scorching 37.5 fg% (nearly -20% from what Fes got). Other than that, his 3.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, and 4.2 crazy guy roughness non-fouls a game really showed us what this guy is all about. It’s hitting people. Hitting people and taking shots. He should have been a hockey player, I guess. He isn’t. He’s a Jazz guy, so I shouldn’t JUST make fun of him. I’m encouraged by his quickness and veteran savvy. His ‘always hitting guys’ thing is really going to improve Fesenko’s game in practice all season long. Some of that rough, nasty, Dutch physical play (don’t Google that) will hopefully rub off on Fes this year. Or it may just get to Fes to the point where he goes all Zangief on him in practice. Either way I think Jerry will be happy. Why? Don’t you know he’s loco?
Mehmet Okur will come back and knock down threes for us when he's good and ready. With this three headed monster up front, we may just bring Memo back as a PF instead . . .
Guys who got cut:
You can read all about them here. They didn't play in any of the games after that was posted, and they were all cut before the last game.
I'm so happy the regular season is starting. Also, I'd like to see Millsap more involved with the offense.