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Sunday Syncopation #50

What, what are these things again?


Wow, remember these? We have our normal Downbeats, which is a musical term. We used to (before I had to wear the heavy crown of this kingdom) have Sunday Syncopations as the off-beat to the Downbeat. It mixed things up, and well, Syncopation is ALSO a musical term.You see, we tried to keep up with the Jazz = music, and music can be a theme here at SLC Dunk. (Wouldn't it have been cool if we could have had a music note as our logo instead of the NBA Jam "jump up and fall down" Dunk logo? That may be a little too "inside baseball" for you all though . . . )

Anyway, there's a lot of craziness happening at this time of the year. And it's it scary that there are only 5 more games left of the regular season? As a result it's a pretty interesting time where everyone seems to be getting in their final shots at each other online. It's a chippy period in Jazz land right now because a) we're not a threat for a title, and b) we're not a threat to improve either. Some people are just happy to have a team, and don't give two hoots about on court performance. Some others are happy, and think the on court performance is fine. Some go as far as to defend the on court and off court performance. And you can keep going on the continuum till you get to the other side where people are less than happy. With 5 games left it's a good time to take stock; however, the data set that we can use to judge the team by is still incomplete.

And honestly, we're probably going to have to give this team an incomplete grade this season. Or, at least, admit that whatever we did ended up with incomplete results.

I really wish that I had more time to write all the posts I want to, so that at the very least I would have more of my feelings on the record. Many times I'll say a few things, but not be specific enough, and people who have opposing points of views will take what I say and interpret it in a way I did not intend. A great example was my abject, sometimes blind, adoration of Kyrylo Fesenko. I wanted him to get a chance, and play, because the advanced stats and the eyeball test of his size and shot changing ability, meant he could affect the game a little bit better than Jarron Collins did. Some people thought I meant play him 26 mpg (or more). I was thinking getting him to play 10-16 mpg, but playing EVERY GAME, would have been my ideal. By not putting out in specifics people looked at the quality of my comments and were left to interpret them by that alone. So I should have learned to always also quantify my comments. (Damn you twitter and your 140 character limits!)

So without further preamble, let's get to quantifying some of my thoughts / feelings. I should have put these on the record weeks, or months ago. But hey, it's been a crazy year for me too.

Win now vs. Development:

  • How do you know if this season is a success or not? I think being a success is different than predicting what our W/L record will be. And I was on the record for predicting our W/L record a few times already (July 2012 Prediction: 45-37; Month-by-Month Prediction: 43-39). We can still finish with a winning record this year, as we're 40-37 right now. But I really think the W/L record is nice, but what matters more is if you succeeded in reaching your goals. Having a direction is super important. Trying to win every game you play is a goal. It's not the only goal.
  • If the Jazz were going into WIN NOW mode then seeing an increase in the quality of our play, and an increase (even a small one) in the raw numbers would be something to crow about. If we are winning now, if we're not just competitive to make the playoffs, but truly competitive IN the playoffs, then we'd see these quantitative increases. And this is the easy thing to grade.
  • This season we're winning 51.9% of our games (5 games left), winning 74.4% of our home games, and 28.9% of our road games
  • LAST season we won 54.5% of our games, 75.8% at home, and 33.3% on the road.
  • By those W/L numbers for the splits for our entire season, home games, and road games -- we're inferior this year.
  • This will change (hopefully in favor of progress) after the last 5 games of this season are finished.
  • This season we're scoring 98.5 ppg, while giving up 98.7 ppg. That's a margin of -0.2 ppg.
  • This season our ORTG is 107.1, while our DRTG is 107.2. That's a margin of -0.1 points per 100 poss.
  • LAST season we scored 99.7 ppg, while giving up 99.0 ppg. That was a margin of +0.7 ppg.
  • LAST season our ORTG was 106.8, while our DRTG was 106.1, for a margin of +0.7 points per 100 poss.
  • Our pace went down from last year to this year.
  • So in a game of fewer total possessions, we're scoring a little bit more (107.1 - 106.8 = +0.3), and giving up a heck of a lot more points (107.2 - 106.1 = +1.1). By the numbers of what we do on the scoreboard it looks like we've ALSO taken a step back in terms of on court production.
  • I will say that we have a three point attack this year that we did not have last year.
  • This year we are 23rd in three pointers made, 28th in three pointers taken, and 10th in three point %
  • Last season we were 28th, 29th, and 27th. So we're not taking more, we ARE making more though.
  • This is an improvement from season to season for sure in terms of the quality of our product. It hasn't result in better offensive/defensive margins; and it hasn't result in a better W/L record either.
  • Ultimately, and this is me going on the record, I felt like if we were going for the playoffs we had to win between 1-2 games this year. If we can do that, well, that remains to be seen. I will call the season a success on the "Win now" front if we win 2 playoff games this year. I'm interested in seeing improvement (which the numbers show we haven't), and ability. If we are ABLE to get wins in the playoffs then we deserve to keep aiming for the playoffs with this core. Last season was a singular season, so there was no scope to gauge improvement, but we did not display ANY ability to get wins in the playoffs. This year will be the litmus test for sure.
  • If we were a higher seed (6 or higher) then my boundary would be 2 playoff wins to prove we belong.
  • Since we are still a very low seed then perhaps I should hope for 1 playoff win? Or would that be disingenuous in that I'm lowering the standard for maintaining a course of action? I think the threshold for being 'a real deal playoff team' shouldn't be less than 2 wins in a playoff sojourn. However, there were some years during our Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer core where we only won one game (or less) in a particular series. So this is it -- win 1 playoff game and we can then see improvement.
  • If that happens then I think you can argue for this season being a "win now" success; though a very marginal one at that. In fact, because the regular season W/L numbers and the actual offense/defense numbers are down, maybe it SHOULD be a 2 wins in the playoffs threshold to make up the difference? Harsh? Maybe. But real teams that belong in the playoffs actually win games in them.
  • On the other hand, if your idea of success was player development, then I think the game changes. My desires / numbers would have been, baring injury, 2,000 minutes this season for Derrick Favors (2010 NBA Draft Pick #3), Gordon Hayward (2010 NBA Draft Pick #9), Enes Kanter (2011 NBA Draft Pick #3), and Alec Burks (2011 NBA Draft Pick #12). I would have also wanted to see Jeremy Evans (2010 NBA Draft Pick #55) get 10-15 mpg in every game. (Essentially Fesenko minutes)
  • At this stage of the season, Gordon Hayward has played 1945 minutes. He was injured for a bit, but still played in 67/77 games this year so far (87%). In the next 5 games he'll have to play 55 total minutes to make that milestone. I think that's very do-able.
  • Favors? He's played in 1646 total minutes, and played in 72 of 77 games this year (94%). So while playing in more games he has played way less minutes. There's no way for Favors to play 400 minutes in 5 games. So he's not going to make it.
  • Alec Burks has played in 1084 total minutes. And he has played in 61/77 games (79%). The vast majority of his missed games are to DNP-CDs, not injuries. He's injured right now and going to miss tonight's game for his ankle. He got half the number of minutes he should have gotten (according to me) if we were going to develop our guys. I don't think he's going to make that 2,000 minute plateau this year.
  • Kanter? The gingerbread man? He has played in even fewer minutes, only 1078. He's been a bull all season long, playing in 70/77 games (91%) -- but he is going to miss the rest of the season with his shoulder injury. He has played the least out of these four guys, and there's no way he'll play another minute this season.
  • If you add up the minutes we're at 5753 / 8000 minutes. And only 1 of the 4 guys looks to be able to make that development threshold. So in regards to those four guys, it's not happening this year.
  • What about Jeremy Evans? The happy jumping jack who signed a long term deal with the team who not only gets fans out of their seats, but plays highly efficient basketball? He has not been injured this year and played in only 35 games (46%). He has only played in 210 minutes this year. That's only 6.0 mpg. He played 7.5 mpg the year before, and 9.4 mpg as a rookie. So his total minutes / season has gone down every year he's been in the league from 463 to 217 to 210. If Evans can managed to get 7 or more minutes in the next 5 games then it's a net improvement. But it's an otherwise dismal trend. He is way behind the curve for being a rotation player in this league because he has so few actual on-court minutes.
  • It's like the whole conundrum of getting a job. You're not going to get a job unless you have job experience. But no one will give you a job, because you have no experience. That's where these five guys are (save for Hayward, who at least gets to start every time Tyrone Corbin remembers his job security).
  • Is much going to change in the next 5 games? No. So in terms of development, I think we get a fail this year; based upon my on the books numbers for how much time they should have gotten. One can argue that minutes don't matter for development. And that because the players are better now than they were at the beginning of the season that means they've developed. If minutes don't matter, why does Hayward look like the only one with the comfort level and respect from the refs out there on the court? And if we're looking at month to month development, what's not to say that these guys are improving on their own just from not being 19 or 20 years old anymore? The guys are getting better, but getting better and actively being developed are different things. It was revealed this year that no one even helps Favors on how to stay out of foul trouble, or that no one was telling Burks to get shooting training from Jeff Hornacek.
  • All season long we've been told that we're going to do both this year. We're going to play for win now and the playoffs, while also developing our guys. Our success in those two fields by MY own quantities thus relies upon winning playoff games (because the regular season performance is less), and somehow getting Favors 400 minutes between now and the end of the season. (Expect overtime games)
  • By the numbers of my definitions for success in "Win now" and "Development" mode -- it's going to be hard to give our team a passing grade in both. We may get a passing grade in "win now" mode, but it will be contingent on what we do in the next 5 games. If we miss the playoffs altogether, which is a possibility, then we get a full fail this season. We wouldn't have "won now", and we didn't "develop" our guys. Of course, these are just MY points of view on the subject.
  • I would love to hear your quantitative numbers of what success means for winning now, and what success means for development.

Playing the young guys = tanking:

  • This is the other issue I have stuck in my craw. Sometimes teams that are forced to play their youth are bad teams, run by bad people, who get bad results. However, there's no magic spell that assures that outcome.
  • Second, it's not taking to play the young guys if they are actually BETTER than the old guys. This isn't the argument that our young guys >>>> our old guys, but it's just looking at it from a logical point of view. Especially because if you were a team to get a high draft pick, that means you were probably a bad team last year. And that if you get a high draft pick, they should be able to help you play better, And if you play better by playing a young guy, it may be that you were a bad team previously. And bad teams play bad players. If you can churn out my meaning from all those syllogisms then you are a bright person.
  • After all, the Milwaukee Bucks weren't TANKING by playing rookie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) 3534 minutes as a rookie (43.1 mpg). No, not at all. They went from winning 28 games before Kareem to winning 56 games, and losing in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Same coach and core both seasons)
  • Of course, if you want to make this about the 2012-2013 Utah Jazz then we can do that.
  • We don't have a Kareem on our team out of our younger guys. But it's not like our current group of veterans are killing it. Our best player and first option would be a 2nd or 3rd option in the 80s. Our starting backcourt right now were both rotation bench players for the Clippers that they didn't want back. (Yes, Clippers cast-aways). And then there's Paul Millsap, who seems to be in a funk all season long (2nd worst rebounds per 36 minutes of his career, worst fg% of his career, etc).
  • You can argue that the team, if playing the same way, wouldn't be any better if you went Burks / Hayward / Favors / Kanter vs Williams / Foye / Millsap / Jefferson. However, a counter argument would be that the younger group would have elicited a different playing style (hopefully) than the one that works (as in: 9th place in the Western conference = working) for the older guys.
  • We're probably play faster, and try to get more transition buckets
  • We're also be worse in the half court, this is true.
  • However, we're probably give up less points per game as well.
  • Until they all start to foul out.
  • But it's not like other teams who went young early after clearing the deck were finished products in year one of having the deck cleared. All teams go through growing pains.
  • Well, except the Jazz, because we've decided NOT to grow, and not to go through the pains -- and attempted to win now. (Again, as in 9th place in the Western Conference = winning)
  • If the Jazz front office put in a situation where it was clear to everyone (including the coaching staff) that our younger guys were our best players overall, then playing them more minutes wouldn't be tanking. It would be playing to win every game possible.
  • I guess this is the last card that OKC played by clearing the deck. They were always trying to win as many games as possible, and no one said that playing Kevin Durant or Jeff Green over Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis is tanking. Maybe people would argue that they were tanking if KD was taking the last shot over Rashard.
  • The other side of the coin is that some teams play young guys and a) they don't ever start to win, and b) the young guys don't seem to improve / have the motivation to improve.
  • That's true, but I believe in our scouting department, and I believe that we do the rest tests to get the right players here. Hayward comes from a family of two professionals, is level headed, good with his money, and has always been under-estimated. He's all about winning, if it's tennis, or video games, or basketball.
  • Favors has unparalleled athleticism for his size, is quiet, doesn't attract attention to himself (he's not a Karl Malone extrovert), and is defense first in a league where you NEED that from your rim protectors.
  • Burks will hit a big shot and not even show emotion. He doesn't pop his jersey after doing something good (Mo Williams does). He's smooth, and quiet, like an assassin. Maybe he's "too cool for school", but by the same token, he hasn't been kicking up a fuss. He's not like DeMarre Carroll who gets his agent to pressure Ty into playing him more.
  • Enes? He is super smart, and so quick on the uptake. His dad is a physician, and he has crazy discipline. When people got on him for his conditioning he came back looking like a Greek God. He is an extrovert, but he's still so young he can be trained properly on that.
  • The Jazz not only drafted guys who had good potential, but also had good temperaments. No Ron Artests. No head cases. All these guys behave differently, but you can tell that they want to prove people wrong. Hayward continues to be under-estimated and guys challenge him one on one, and he's our best ISO defender by the numbers. Favors wants to prove he was worthy of a #3 pick. Burks wants to fight against the appearance of disrespect for his low lottery number. Kanter already showed his determination to 'stick it to people' by working his butt summer long so that no one could ever question his conditioning.
  • The teams that play young guys lots of minutes who NEVER get better seem to draft bad guys, or bad fits. I don't believe we drafted bad guys / bad fits.

The Draft:

  • The Jazz will draft BPA, no matter what.
  • I do worry about their late 1st round scouting
  • I have no worries about their lotto scouting, or their 2nd round / ability to find hidden gems scouting at the end of the draft
  • That's kind of why I would want our Jazz to get picks that are either lotto picks, or 2nd rounders. The no-mans-land of the late 1st round has proven (by our draft record) to be a bigger question mark than the second round has.
  • Invariably a 14th pick should be better than a 16th pick. (82games charts it out as a 14th pick over a 20 year period to be a star 25% of the time, while a 16th pick a star 5% of the time)
  • Of course, if you miss the playoffs you get in the lotto, even if you are the 14th pick. That means that you have a 1.8% chance of getting a top 3 pick, at #14. Is 1.8% that big? Not at all. But is it bigger than winning the playoffs this year? How many times out of 1000 do you think we win the NBA title this year? More or less than 18 times? By the numbers of probability going for the playoffs before you are ready to contend in them is a bit premature. You're hurting your future, by the numbers.

  • That guy jumping out of the ship without the rocket boots? That guy is the 'too eager to make the playoffs' guy. He gets there, and is the first to plummet to his painful death.
  • Fighting for the 8th seed when you don't have the horses to win playoff games is silly. We don't have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, or Pau Gasol on our team, let alone all four of them. We're not built to succeed this year. That's just my opinion. You are free to disagree, and I am sure many of you will.
  • Of course, there are OTHER numbers, the owners of our team will NOT have to pay our players for their playoff work (they will still get a per diem), but we don't have to pay extra salary. So if you are into that kind of thing, that's a plus.
  • You also get revenue from the TV deal, the playoff winner's pool, and things like parking and concessions if you own your arena (which the Jazz do). So that's good. Is it good enough to justify saying goodbye to that 1/4 chance you draft a star at #14 (or higher if you draft higher)? That's something people will have to figure out on their own.
  • As for this draft, right now we are holding onto our 1st round pick (which will be anywhere from #14-16), the Golden State Warriors 1st round pick (which will ALSO be a mid to late 1st rounder), and a 2nd round pick. I'm not worried about our 2nd round pick, but it's still a middle of the second round pick -- so it could be worthless. I am worried about having two "no-mans-land" 1st round picks.
  • It's not just that these are some of the worst 1st round picks to have, but we're also bad at picking at these spots. Here is a short list of those guys that we HAVE picked in the bottom 15 of the First round:
  • Pick #20, 2009 NBA Draft: Eric Maynor, instead of Darren Collison (#21), Omri Casspi (#23), Rodrigue Beaubois (#25), Taj Gibson (#26), Toney Douglas (#29)
  • Pick #23, 2008 NBA Draft: Kosta Koufos, instead of Serge Ibaka (#24), Nicolas Batum (#25), George Hill (#26), Nikola Pekovic (#31), Mario Chalmers (#34), DeAndre Jordan (#35), Omer Asik (#36)
  • Pick #25, 2007 NBA Draft: Morris Almond (my pick for that draft, so coming clean, I was wrong), instead of Aaron Brooks (#26), Arron Afflalo (#27), Tiago Splitter (#28), Carl Landry (#31), Glen Davis (#35)
  • Pick #16, 2004 NBA Draft: Kirk Snyder instead of Josh Smith (#17), J.R. Smith (#18), Jameer Nelson (#20)
  • Pick #21, 2004 NBA Draft: Pavel Podkilzin instead of Viktor Khryapa (#22), Sergei Monia (#23), Delonte West (#24), Tony Allen (#25), Kevin Martin (#26), Sasha Vujacic (#27), Beno Udrih (#28), Anderson Varejao (#30).
  • Pick #19, 2003 NBA Draft: Sasha Pavlovic, instead of Boris Dias (#21), Travis Outlaw (#23), Kendrick Perkins (#27), Leandro Barboasa (#28), Josh Howard (#29), Jason Kapono (#31)
  • Pick #19, 2002 NBA Draft: Ryan Humphrey, instead of Kareem Rush (#20), Tayshaun Prince (#23), Nenad Krstic (#24), John Salmons (#26), Roger Mason (#30)
  • The NBA Draft is inherently a crapshoot.
  • All teams miss players.
  • We're good in the lotto, and good in the 2nd round.
  • We're not so good in the mid to late 1st round
  • We're probably *worse* than we should be
  • Every team has a list of guys who would have been great to have, guys they have missed.
  • It could be a fallacy to look at the list of guys we passed up and blame our team for it,
  • However, it's the JOB of the people who helped to pick the wrong guy those times to know who to pick and who not to pick.
  • Furthermore, the evaluation methods that has Kosta Koufos as the Best Player Available (BPA) makes me question the validity, accuracy, or ability of those same methods.
  • If we're going to get draft picks, obviously, you'd want them to be higher rather than lower. Two 'no-mans-land' first round picks are hard to turn into gold (by trade, package, or straight up drafting two great guys there).
  • If we're not moving our picks, and standing still, I'd go with BPA at our highest pick, and go Myck Kabongo at our lower one. Some guys will call it a 'reach'. But we were expecting Trey Burke to fly under the radar, but as he's playing in the NCAA title game that's not going to happen. Kabongo did fly under the radar all year long. I'd rather take a chance on him with the #16 or whatever pick than picking the next Jiri Welsch or whomever is the BPA. (Remember, we picked Snyder at #16 and look at the guys who ended up being better than him)

Over all, these last 5 games will help us identify:

  • What our ending W/L record is
  • If we are a playoff team
  • If we are, then that series will help us understand if we're capable or fit for the playoffs
  • We'll also figure out our draft position
  • At some stage we'll find out if Marvin Williams is going to terminate his contract early or not
  • And we'll have a final tally of what parts we have that we can use to move up or down in this draft, as our front office sees fit.
  • We'll know if we succeeded in winning now
  • We'll know if we succeeded in developing guys
  • And we'll then start planning for next year : )