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SLCDunk Roundup - The Downbeat #870

A Jazz loss in Portland on Monday night means that it's the perfect time to assert that the preseason doesn't matter, and to look at some great Jazz writing from SLCDunk and beyond.


We've put up a lot of content, and with much of it being shuffled around due to the layout change (which, by the way, does much to legitimize the site), I wanted to highlight and then comment on a few timely articles. This won't serve as just a chance at self-promotion, but also a chance to expand upon those posts with some context.

I often feel that, due to the sheer quantity of posts necessitated by being the man in charge, Amar's posts get left by the wayside a little bit. This post on the performance of former Jazz players this preseason was both well-researched and interesting:

NBA Preseason 2012-2013: Statistics!!

The takeaway is that as a group, the Jazz players are underwhelming somewhat in the preseason in comparison to what they did as familiar Jazzmen. To be sure, there are exceptions: Kosta Koufos looks poised to take a role a Denver's placekeeper starter, Andrei's per 36 minute stats nearly exactly match what he did in his last season as a Jazzman, and CJ Miles is shooting the ball from outside better than he ever did as a Jazzman, though again, a small sample size is at play.

But as Amar says: "Out of all the ones that have gotten away, I guess the only ones that I really miss are D-Will, Andrei, Memo, Ronnie P, and Fes. And out of those five, only 2 are still playing in this league." And then also consider:

  1. Deron's no longer elite. This isn't based on his mediocre preseason play, but on the play of the last two seasons, in which he started shooting pretty poorly. This culminated in a season last year in which he really struggled, barely surpassing the 40% FG Mendoza line with a 40.7% performance, while also amassing a too-high 30% usage rating. He might be the new poster boy for Dean Oliver's skill chart concept, which shows a negative correlation between usage and efficiency. Devin Harris posted a higher number of Win Shares than Deron last year (4.2 vs. 4.1), and Harris didn't have a particularly great season. I don't at all believe that Harris is a better player than Williams, but that it's even somewhat close is particularly embarrassing for the Nets given that they also had to give up Favors, Kanter, the GSW pick, and a 5/99 contract.
  2. Boozer's no longer elite. His downturn, unlike Deron's, has been somewhat exaggerated by the media and contractual expectations, but his shooting percentage and rebounding have gone down significantly, and unfortunately, it was those two traits that made him an excellent player.

The occasional nostalgia (from LostTacoVendor, et. al.) for the late 2000s Jazz is understandable; they were a contending team with a spectacular offense and many fun times. But to act as if that level of success would have persisted had the Jazz kept the same core misunderstands where those players are today. Amar's roundup is a fine reminder of that general principle.

One reason I was excited for the merger between SLCDunk and TUJB was the content aggregation skills of one Spencer Campbell, and we've been lucky to see those skills come to the Dunk in the form of the "High Notes" series.

High Notes #3

The focus of the Utah Jazz season previews from around the league's writers is on Utah's size. This makes sense: Utah's 3 best players last year were PFs or Cs, and even on the wings, Utah's length in the probable starting lineup is a real change from most teams.

But the preseason success, when it's happened, has not been about the consistency in the post, as it was last year, but rather league-leading perimeter shooting - something that the previews either brushed over or ignored. This will be an interesting litmus test for the importance of preseason: we know it can obfuscate the true ability of teams and players alike, but can it reveal the lasting impact of a playing style change? Only time will tell.

Personally, I think Yucca's crazy. I believe us to be watching the same games, but the conclusions he draws are so radically different than mine that it reinforces a belief in the goofy metaphysical conclusions of some quantum scientists. Luckily, we're currently taking part in a series of emails in which we try to reconcile the facts that a) he's obviously wrong and b) he believes it anyway. We'll publish those emails soon.

The belief in Yucca's insanity was only magnified by his most recent article, in which he took a look at David Berri's Wins Produced stat as it applies to the Utah Jazz:

Wins Produced and the Utah Jazz

David Berri's in an interesting place amongst basketball analysts. I would summarize it like this:

  1. Berri has some interesting thoughts about how to do basketball analysis. They do make some sense from a traditionalist academic perspective. In many ways, the question much of his analysis ends up asking ("If a team were made up of clones of Player X, how would that team do?") has been enormously helpful in baseball research, especially with regards to offensive production.
  2. The answer to that question means significantly less to basketball than he thinks it does. In particular, skill curves exist: if Jeremy Evans was Utah's star player, and had to use 30% of possessions for 36 minutes per game, he would not shoot 66.1%. Berri doesn't account for this anywhere near the amount that he should.
  3. As a result, the results he comes up with make people who watch basketball go "OMGWTFBBQ?" He then ignores those people, only looking at his own statistic.
The classic example is that Berri has argued that in some years, that Dennis Rodman was "more productive" than Michael Jordan, even in his post defending himself, he just isn't anywhere close to where he needs to be in the Jordan vs. Rodman comparison.

I wish Berri was more reasonable, but the truth of the matter is that we live in a post-modern NBA world with a bevy of statistical tools available to us, and when Berri's conclusions differ significantly from others', we may be well served to look elsewhere.

(Of course, the ironic thing about that whole rant is that nothing about Berri's WP stats about last year's Jazz were particularly outrageous, though I do think the statistic underrates Jefferson's contributions - he's a perfect case of someone WP doesn't value very much. I just worry about conclusions that could be drawn.)

This is kind of cheating, because, well, I'm involved. But the podcasts on SLCDunk have been awesome. Honestly, I was somewhat worried when we went from 0 to 2 podcasts on the site in the course of a couple of weeks, but they're such disparate shows that it just works: Clark and I look more analytically at the team, giving you an informative listen, whereas Spencer, Jimbo, and "crew" are significantly more entertaining than Clark and I, probably because they're not as big of nerds.

What I'm saying, then, is to listen to our podcasts. Especially in the post-radio-frequency-move of this offseason, and the changes and football talk that produced, if you need good Jazz talk, we've got you covered.

Episode #154 Utah Jazz Podcast 10-21-14

Looking at the Preseason - Clark and Andy Show #7

You can find both the Utah Jazz Podcast and the Clark and Andy Show on Stitcher Radio, as well as on iTunes.

Moni does this better than anyone else in the world. What do you do better than anyone else in the world?

Jazzy Photo Roundup #9