Where does the Jazz's current record sit in your expectancy for the season? They have a record of 5-12, and though no one expected a playoff contender, they are on pace to win just 24 games.
It seems that the general excitement that opened up the season has begun to wane and the criticism is beginning to fly. Burks should be traded for Randy Foye. Snyder doesn't know how to coach defense. Kanter is a bust. Favors will never reach his potential.
Here's something to keep in mind: According to basketball-reference.com, the Jazz have had a strength of schedule rating of 2.14. That is the 3rd most difficult schedule to date. Having said that, they have three very winnable games this week.
At the beginning of the season all eyes were on Gordon Hayward, after his big (don't call it a max) contract. Here's how he stacks up against the rest of the league:
Minutes played: 15th- 588 minutes
FTM: 12th- 78 (just 10 behind LeBron James)
FTA: 12th- 100
Steals: 12th- 27
Points: 18th- 327
Offensive Win Shares: 14th- 1.5
Value Over Replacement: 18th- 3.8
The kid is earning his paychecks.
Of course, the Jazz haven't had a problem scoring this season. We've discussed the brilliance of the Jazz offense, but the defense is lacking. Learning to play defense is one of the most difficult things to do in the NBA. Players get drafted all the time based on their ability to show their defensive prowess in college or training camp. Wes Matthews did it. Jimmy Butler did it. Now both of those players have developed their offensive games in relatively short time, to become more complete players.
For players to learn to be better defensively they need either coaching or veteran mentors. Most of these Jazz players have had neither. Perhaps Coach Q isn't a defensive coach. Maybe he's more D'Antoni than Thibodeau, but he deserves the time (like, I don't know... 3 years?) to prove himself.
There are signs of improvement. Are are some comparisons to last season (all data per basketball-reference.com):
- Fouls/game are down almost 10% (5th best in the league this season)
- Blocks/game up 8%
- Steals/game up 1.5%
- Opponents FTA/game down 18%
- Opponents DRB/game down 9%
If any player can make a case for more playing time to impact defense, it's Rudy. Currently he boasts (if you can use such a word) the best Defensive Rating at 105, and it's not even close (ok, Ian Clark's is 106, but he's only played 35 minutes, so it doesn't count) (also, nba.com has it at 103). Also, per nba.com, Rudy affects opposing players' FG% by -8.5%, at less than 6ft from the rim, and -6% at less than 10ft.
Rudy should probably play more.
Remember, it's still very early in the season. Take a look across the NBA landscape and there are lots of anomalies that will probably work themselves out over the next month. Case in point is the Hornets. They figured to be a playoff contender in the East, and currently sit at 4-14. But, like the Jazz, they've had a Western Conference heavy schedule, and a very tough schedule at that (SOS 1.91, just below the Jazz's).
The schedule will bring things to the mean. The question is, can the Jazz improve enough to overcome it?