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Sunday Syncopation #16

You voted, and now you're getting what you asked for!

  • First of all, thanks to everyone who voted in the poll last week. I appreciate the feedback. I'm not interested in just blogging about what I want to read (if I was, I'd just return to my blog), I'm interested in blogging about stuff that YOU guys want to read.
  • That said, I'm not getting enough questions (via the comments section and/or twitter) from the community asking me to look stuff up for them. I am, like a proverbial genie in a bottle, at your service. If there's something you'd like to see further explored, feel free to ask. [EDIT: Great stuff so far in the comments section and twitter. Keep it up!]
  • Unless you were away for a week (and lucky you if you were), then you may be a little down on the team right now. There's no immediate need to despair, our franchise has had a bad road trip before. That said, going 0-4 is never something to celebrate. I re-watched the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers games this morning. It's pretty obvious that we're not playing well right now.
  • An obvious 'culprit' would be to simply look at the points aspect of things - after all, points scored determines who wins and who loses, right? For the season, this very same Jazz team averages 100.1 points per game (ppg). Over the course of this disastrous road trip the Jazz have averaged a paltry 91.8 ppg. That's a difference of -8.3 ppg . . . that's pretty big. But that's not really the whole story.
  • The next obvious point would be to look at who usually scores for us, and measure that against who did (or did not) carry their scoring load over this road trip. (Simplest answer is usually the correct one, right?)
  • Here's a look at (in pie chart form) how we spread our points around. The first Pie is for the season so far, the second is the cumulative for the last road trip.

  • Fist of all, we need to recognize that pie charts display data that has a fixed upper level. In effect, it shows ratios (and in this case, the change in ratio) of a single category -- points. Our biggest scoring threats are Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles, Andrei Kirilenko, and Raja Bell. Over the course of the season, these six guys account for about 78% of our total points. But on this four game Eastern road trip these guys accounted for 75% of the total points.
  • This doesn't mean that the Jazz are spreading the ball around more (not necessarily at least), because the Jazz scored -8.3 points per game over these last four games. I probably should have included a complimentary set of pie charts looking at FGA as well, but this stuff takes time! The long and short of it is that each slice from the pie charts shot (on average) -1.2 FGA, with a standard deviation of +/- 1.2. That is, mind you, every group except Al Jefferson who shot +2.0 more times per game (FGA) than compared to his regular, cumulative season FGA average.
  • I'm happy with a decisive Al Jefferson who can take 16.5 shots a game. I'm not happy when his Points per Shot (or in Amar lingo: Shooting Worth) value is only 1.09 -- which is pretty crappy. His regular season cumulative average for Points per Shot (PPS) is a pedestrian 1.15; so he was even less efficient scoring this time around than "normal". (Going 1 for 11 against Boston will do that to your numbers . . . ) I do say pedestrian because Karl Malone's career (regular season and playoffs combined) was 1.39 points per shot. [That's over 1664 total games kids, including nearly 300 played at the age of 37+]
  • This is yet another aside, but Al Jefferson's PPS at the age of 26 is 1.15, which we know isn't so hot for a first option bigman with a variety of post moves. When Karl Malone was 26 (during the 1989-1990 season), his PPS was a blistering 1.56. What does that mean? Well, if Al Jefferson shot it 20 times, he'd score 23 points. In order to score 23 points, at his superb rate, Karl would only have to shoot it 14.7 times. That means Karl Malone would then have 5 possessions to actually pass the ball to someone else, without being the lesser of Big Al. (Don't get me started on Al's allergy to passing the ball out of a post up) Of course, if you wanted Karl to just shoot it 20 times (like we let Al), then the Mailman would deliver 31.2 points. Which is larger than 23 points (+35.7% to score, for you RPGers out there)

Yeah, I wanted an excuse to show that one good photoshop I've ever made again.

  • Of course, everyone's statistics look bad next to Malone. Carlos Boozer's PPS (regular season + playoffs) in a Jazz uniform was 1.31 -- way closer to Malone than what Big Al is managing right now, if we're being honest with ourselves.
  • Getting back on track here -- Pie charts showing ratios of shots are a good place to start; but for a team that (as a whole) scored more than -8 points than AVERAGE over a trip, we need to actually see the actual points.

  • I guess the next logical step is to place 'blame' on certain guys. Previously, we looked at how Al Jefferson is scoring less efficiently than normal (as seen as a reflection of a diminished PPS or SW), yet took 2 more shots a game. Less complex measures point out that on this road trip Paul Millsap scored -6.2 ppg; Raja Bell scored -4.2 ppg; Deron Williams scored -3.5 ppg; and C.J. Miles scored -2.9 ppg. Yes, they did shoot (on average for these four guys) -1.4 FGA per game; of course, shooting less than one and a half times a game does not in any way absolve scoring 6 points less than average. You don't have to be David-Locke-Locked-on-Sports to know this is a bad thing. A simple conclusion could be that Paul Millsap appears to have not pulled his weight on this road trip (when it came to scoring). He isn't the only culprit here, though.
  • Alas, pointing fingers and focusing on a failure to meet our average in points alone is only looking at the problem (the big picture issue of poor over-all play) in one way. The larger issue is defense. Or efense. Or something that is filed under "non-Jazz basketball". Take a look at what just happened:

  • Yes, the Boston game skews the data somewhat, but it's not like we were forcing the other three teams into difficult shots. There is no excuse (at this level, when our team is completely healthy -- and the same team that shut other teams down earlier this season) for letting the opponent shoot (on average) 50 fg% and 44 3pt% against us.
  • You will lose every time you play, no matter who you play, when you play defense like that. It's not like the Jazz were getting torched by teams who were hitting contested shots either. This was not a situation where a few guys got 'hot' and were making shots they would normally miss.
  • You are going to lose games when you let John Wall drive all day long; and you give open looks to Nick Young and Rashard Lewis. (Don't even get me started on not boxing out JaVale McGee either)
  • You are going to lose games when you let Devin Harris drive all day long; you give open looks to Travis Outlaw, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmar; and fail to box out Derrick Favors or let Brook Lopez best you inside.
  • You are going to lose games when you let Rajon Rondo drive all day long; you give open looks to Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Glen Davis; while letting Kevin Garnett and Semih Erden beast you inside.
  • You are going to lose games when you let Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams drive all day long; you give open looks to Jodie Meeks, and let Elton Brand beast you inside.
  • Does this sound repetitive? Imagine how great it was to watch these losses over again like I did this morning. The common problems are: stopping dribble penetration; leaving good shooters open; and turning solid inside scorers into all-stars.
  • What's the catalyst to the second two problems (leaving guys open, letting guys beast you inside)? It's dribble penetration (which causes an over-reaction by the defense to fill gaps and leave their man open). Whose job is it to stop dribble penetration? Whomever is guarding the ball handler.
  • I'm not going to fault Gordon Hayward for not being able to keep Iggy out of the paint on drives -- but I think some significant blame has to go to our point guards. Of course, it's not all their fault either. A number of times dribble penetration is facilitated by our opponents setting and using a number of screens. (The double screen employed by the Nets in the fourth quarter absolutely confounded our team, for example.)
  • Screen/Roll defense continues to haunt us. We do have defensive schemes for this, but even worse than the lack of familiarity and communication the team shows on offense at times, would be how poor our defensive communication and player familiarity is. Right now our team defense is abysmal. (Except in zone defense when Fesenko is in the game and able to be useful) Part of the problem is that we have a bunch of new guys. Another part of the problem is that guys who appeared quite capable in previous seasons (or previous parts of the season) are now failing to do their job with the same zeal as they had back in November.
  • The Jazz will get (at the most) two practices between these last four games and the 'official' end of our road trip: the Tuesday game against the hated Los Angeles Lakers. Hopefully the coaches and players will go over defense, otherwise our losing streak is going to only grow with each passing day. With the way the Jazz are playing right now, the Timberwolves will beat us on Friday (at home, mind you).
  • This is super long, and I didn't even get a chance to throw a bunch of links at you guys . . . oh well, room for improvement for me too, not just our beloved Jazz.