Four games isn’t much of a sample size, but that’s how it’s just going to have to be for this lockout shortened season. Next month we’ll get a ton more to look at, but from what we CAN see so far, well, it doesn’t look that good.
Players Stats – Offense
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First of all, yes, there’s a lot of info here. The first thing I want to point out is that the information should be a lot more digestible than last year. Second, we are playing only one guy under the age of 24 more than 24 minutes per game: Gordon Hayward. Well, technically two guys – because Favors is playing 24.3 mpg. But overall, so far this season, we’re bringing the younger guys relatively slowly. This is going to change month to month as the season progresses and our veteran leaders get their annual injuries. (Oh wait, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, and Carlos Boozer are no longer on the team)
After the jump – we go into this deep. Players stats on offense, defense, and team stats. Of course, the "TL;DNR" version is: BRING ON JANUARY 2012!!
Players Stats – Offense (continued)
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The raw data shows that there are four guys on offense who are scoring 10 or more points per game (ppg): Al Jefferson (14.7), Paul Millsap (13.3), Josh Howard (11.0), and Devin Harris (10.5). Right on their heels are Derrick Favors (9.3), Gordon Hayward (9.0), and C.J. Miles (8.5). On the surface that looks like a nice bit of balanced scoring, and in a way it is. Veterans and youth, starters and bench guys, bigs and smalls. However, when you look into it you get a statistical car accident. Big Al is scoring almost 15 ppg, which isn’t bad for a guy playing with no preseason minutes under his belt. But he’s shooting only 40.8 fg%, which is really bad for a guy who almost always shoots the ball within 10 feet of the basket. It’s also bad when he shoots the ball 16.3 times a game, the most on the entire team. He shoots the ball 8 more times than Devin Harris, a shoot first point guard who used to be an All-Star – the only guy with that distinction on the team right now that isn’t named Josh Howard. Big Al has a usage rate % of 27.3%, which means when he’s in the game, more than a quarter of the plays are going to or through him. He’s highly inefficient right now, getting only 0.9 points per shot. And he almost never gets to the free throw line (which I failed to show in this chart). It’s not all inefficiency with him, though. He makes his free throws and is averaging 2.0 assists per game. This is a sign of continued improvement for him. I just think that he’s the wrong type of bigman we need. We need a more mobile guy who can run up and down the floor. Jefferson’s molasses boots and virtual lockdown in the halfcourt make Enes Kanter look like Carl Lewis. (Do younger Jazz fans even know who Carl Lewis is?) But that’s a qualitative statement, not a quantitative analysis. So we’ll forget all that.
I don’t want to single everyone out just yet, so let’s move on towards the team’s points per shot metric. Average is 1.22; and only three guys on the entire team are average or above it: Jeremy Evans (1.60), Alec Burks (1.46), and Devin Harris (1.27). Evans and Burks look great in these things because they produce and don’t play many minutes – but it would be silly to think that their numbers would hold up with greater playing time / playing time in non-garbage time. Harris is really interesting to me, because it appears at times that he’s either trying to change his game to take less shots and set up his guys more, or is just being disinterested. Game 3, home hosting the Philadelphia 76ers, was where we saw an emotionally invested Harris play, and he was unstoppable. The other games in December? Not so much. Speculation suggests that he felt the need to do more because Big Al wasn’t healthy and playing, or perhaps with Big Al off the floor he was able to increase the pace a bit more? Maybe it’s both? Does Jefferson have a little Ewing-theory about him, that without him everyone else gets to play better? Again, that’s speculation and not numbers based (yet…). Everyone else was below average in points per shot. We’re going to need guys like Millsap, Favors, and Kanter to be more efficient going forward – they are bigs, and it’s not like we can bank on C.J. Miles or Josh Howard to be 50+ fg% shooters for the season.
Our lack of a star means everyone should be passing on the court to the teammate with the best chance to score. To some extent that’s what is happening. Three guys are averaging around 3.0 assists per game: Gordon Hayward (4.0 apg, 4:1 assist to turn over ratio); Devin Harris (3.5 apg, 1.8:1 assist to turn over ratio); and Earl Watson (2.8 apg, 1.4:1 assist to turn over ratio). A ha, here we see some of the problem. Harris and Watson play 44.5 minutes per game, in a 48 minute long game. And they both have assist to turn over ratios worse than Paul Millsap and Raja Bell. We can’t have that going forward. Jamaal Tinsley hasn’t taken a shot yet all season long, but has played in all four games. He is bringing a 2:1 assist to turn over ratio to the team, though.
Some people don’t like PER, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s the best thing out there, especially since the best defense you can play doesn’t make it in the boxscore. (No one keeps track of how many times a play is run for your man, and you defend him so well he passes the ball out, for example) Go Rating is, obviously, even less well understood because no one in the world uses it except I. It’s Gestalt Offense, and weighs different offensive stats to find out how much pressure you put on the defense, naturalized for if you played 33.6 mpg. Last year Deron Williams was in the 140 range, Earl in the 20’s, C.J. in the 50s, and Big Al and Millsap were both in the 70s. This season? Well, Big Al and Millsap are down 20 points in GO rating. Everyone’s PER and Go Rating are jacked up right now. Either our good guys aren’t performing, or guys are just killing it in garbage time. Our best players are playing like rotation guys, not like starters. Or at least, that’s what the advanced stats say on offense. Or the regular stats. Or if you ignore the stats and just watch the game.
Players Stats – Defense
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Things look a little better here, especially when you see that all of your bigs are averaging 6.0 or more rebounds per game. Rebounding was a problem for us last season, and right now we have three guys getting about 9 a game. What we love about this is that these four guys are responsible for 22.6 defensive rebounds a game. What we hate is that the rest of the team isn’t getting any rebounds. A lot of the rebounds that hurt us last season were rebounds our wings and guards should have gotten. Here we have the same thing – our guys aren’t doing their "job" on the glass to help out the bigs. I know this is crazy talk, but Gordon Hayward is 6’8 or 6’9 or whatever. He’s athletic, fast, quick, and has long arms. Better than all that, he has one of the highest BBALL IQ’s on the team. He is also playing 30 minutes a game. There is no excuse for him to be getting only 2.5 total rebounds per game. He should be collecting at least 4. The Precious is getting only one more rebound per game than Earl Watson, a short point guard who plays 10 less minutes than he does. Well, maybe we’d get more rebounding from the wing spots if we had Evans on the floor, but that’s just crazy talk . . .
Check out fouls per game (PFPG) in the chart, and look at our bigs . . . only one of them is fouling near 4 times a game, and it’s not Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, or Enes Kanter. Rounding up I’d say that Favors is on the right pace, playing half the game and getting three fouls. He has three more fouls to go, it wouldn’t be absurd to give him maybe 4 more minutes a game. It’s not like the world will end as a result.
Big Al continues to be the only real shotblocking threat right now. It would be nice to see him get some help – but I think we all know that neutered Favors can’t do it when he’s afraid to get called for a foul, or is on the bench. This goes right into the defensive gambling stat. This basically shows how many steals or blocks you successfully can get before being whistled for a foul. Favors has one of the lowest DG stats I’ve ever seen. Ever. Guys like Harris, Sap, and Tinsley seem to know what they are doing, and know when to make that ‘gamble’ to go for a steal. Evans and Burks do so as well, no doubt due to their freak athleticism. Even a 19 year old rookie like Kanter is 4x better than Favors at this, at this point in the season. Hopefully Favors can figure it out and/or get some slack from the refs. Also, it should come as no surprise that Millsap is kicking butt in the Pure Hustle stat, which factors in things like steals, blocks, and offensive rebounds against fouls and turn overs. Evans is right up there with him. Which also isn’t a surprise. We’re not seeing much ‘hustle’ from Raja Bell right now, and that was one of the pillars of his game.
This last section goes over things like opponents points per possession (O. PPP), and opponents fg% (O. FG%). It would also included Opponents PER, but I haven’t found that yet so far this season. Big Al needs mention here, his man isn’t scoring on him, and there are stats to prove it. That said, Millsap is flat out locking down his man. The defensive promise of Favors and Kanter have yet to be seen in the regular season, which is a shame because that preseason game in Utah against Portland showed us all a future where we have two defensive stalwarts in the paint. Right now Hayward and Harris’ men are scoring at a high fg% against them, but are so far being kept off of the line (keeping their overall O.PPP lower). We were just running into a Manu Buzz-saw last night – because our wing defenders haven’t been that bad this season. So far.
The Jazz are averaging 90.5 points per game, and shooting only 40.1 fg%. This is a far cry from those supper efficient, super scoring Jazz teams that plowed their way to the Western Conference Finals 5 times in 7 years. If there is any plowing done it’s by the other team, who is averaging 104.0 points per game, and doing it at a 48.4 fg% rate. Yes, our points differential is -13.5 points. Per game.
NEGATIVE THIRTEEN POINT FIVE . . . POINTS . . . PER GAME
Conventional wisdom suggests that you’re not going to win many games with that differential. Then again, in any other non-Stockton and Malone season I kinda would expect to get blown out if we’re playing three Western Conference playoff teams (as a lotto team) as 3 of our 4 games in a 5 night stretch. The Lakers, Nuggets, and Spurs are all better teams than we are. And we beat an East playoff team in that stretch. Are we -13.5 ppg behind the other Western powers? Right now we are, and I think we just looked over the player stats and saw some of the reasons why – volume scoring over efficiency; poor point guard play; not enough hustle; etc.
The Jazz are Top 10 in getting to the line (no thanks to Big Al), and 28th worst in sending the other team to the line (thanks Big Al, lol). We’re horrible at making threes, and defending threes – glad to see some consistency in our play from season to season at least. We’ve kept the turn overs down (#9 in getting them, and #9 in preventing them – with a +/- of +11 on turn overs right now). So that’s good. We’re -23 in FT attempts though, so, thanks LA.
Out of the sea of mixed news is the fact that we are REBOUNDING again. We’re #12 in total rebounds, being #7 in getting offensive rebounds. We don’t necessarily keep our opponents off of their glass (we’re #29 worst in opponents defense rebounds), but we are keeping them off of ours with our #14 ranked defensive rebounding crew that also contributes to the other team not getting offensive rebounds (we’re #7 on that list too).
So, progress! Four games and/or one month into the season!