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The Downbeat #1311: D is for Development

Wherein we discuss the loss to Memphis before delving into the 2013-14 development of the Core Four

How have the Core 4 developed this season?
How have the Core 4 developed this season?
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis game. Jazz lose 91-87 despite the Jazz having a double digit lead for much of the game. TheShums has your recap right here.

In sum, this is another in a long line of typical Jazz losses. The most unusual thing is Coach Tyrone Corbin choosing to roll with a 7 man rotation in the first half and only 8 men in the second. I suppose with Burks out, Corbin trusts Diante Garrett with the 2nd string SG minutes over the likes of Brandon Rush or Ian Clark. That doesn't explain Jeremy Evans not playing for the first half or his limited playing time recently in general. In the End, despite great starts by Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, they appeared to lose energy in the 2nd half along with the rest of the lineup. It's an odd way for Corbin to go out, but I guess he feels this is what gives him the best chance to win right now.

Development, Derrick Favors. With 70 games in the bag (not counting Memphis on Wednesday night) the Jazz season is now 85% complete. It is probably fair to say that we have seen what we can expect to see from our young core. Accordingly, I feel it is a good time to check in on Dennis Lindsey's edict to Coach Tyrone Corbin to develop the players on this young team.

Specifically, let us check in on the 4 key franchise pieces (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks) which Corbin has been tasked with improving over the past 3.5 years, starting with Derrick Favors.

Favors is now in his fourth NBA season and has 4 more years of job security coming. The franchise has obviously been pleased with who he is as a player and have awarded him financially. From the eye ball test it feels like Favors has developed a lot this year, especially with new facets to his offensive game. This is of course when he decides to come play, as there have been games where he just does not seem to be engaged.

In order to compare Favors' improvement lets take a look at his per 36 minute statistics for his career:

Per 36 minute statistics:

The thing that stands out to me here is that Favors' FGA per 36 minutes has been 11 for each season he has worn a Jazz uniform. This season he is shooting 51.4% from FG which is 1 shot per 100 better than his career average of 50.2%. He's making his FT as a rate of 2 per 100 better which is still just a nominal change. Perhaps Favors' offensive development is not as drastic as it has appeared to be?

The other categories all appear to be around his career norms as well, as he is averaging 0.2 less REB, 0.1 more AST, 0.1 more STL, 0.2 less BLK, and 0.2 less TO. The one apparent big jump would appear to be his foul rate which is down to 3.8 which is far better than last years 5.0 number.

A quick summary of the traditional stats would make it seem that Favors is pretty much the same player this year as he always has been, albeit with slightly more minutes.

Now a look at his advanced statistics:

Advanced Statistics:

The first thing I checked here was his usage rate (USG) and confirmed that it is flat this season over others, despite the fact that Favors mostly played with more ball dominant players in the past. So despite losing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as a playing partner, Favors isn't getting any more looks. This is odd and disconcerting to me.

Everything else is again relatively flat with his turnover percentage (TOV%) down and his offensive rebound percentage (ORB%) also down. I'm not quite sure why his offensive rebound rate dropped so significantly, unless that was by scheme design.

The one sign of year-over-year improvement does show up in Favors' PER. As a Jazzman he has gone from 16.8 to 17.1 to 17.5 to 18.3. This would seem to show that Favors has improved ever so slightly each year, but not by a significant amount.

In sum I'd conclude that Favors has nominally improved this year but perhaps not as good as we had hoped given his #1 High School Player rating and 3rd overall draft position.

Development, Gordon Hayward. Hayward has the most unusual development curve of the 4 young guys. He went from starting 87% of the games in his 2nd NBA season to being benched for Randy Foye and only starting 37% of his games in year 3. Because of that there are a few oddities in his stats.

On the eyeball test, I think we'd all agree that Hayward has struggled when relied upon to be the team's leading scorer. Without even looking we know his shooting stats are way down this year and in many games it appears as if Hayward isn't engaged or simply lacks confidence.

Per 36 minutes statistics:

Somewhat surprisingly, Hayward's per 36 points per game are actually down 2 points this year. While his FGA are flat, he is shooting less FTA and of course missing more shots. However, to counter that Hayward's rebounding and assists are both up about 2 full notches. While we can expect the assists, given his added role as facilitator, I am pleasantly surprised about his rebounds, as I have always felt he has underperformed there, given his size.

Advanced statistics:

Hayward's advanced stats paint a bleaker picture. His Defensive rating has pretty much been a fairly poor 110 his whole career, but his offensive rating fell all the way from 113 the last 2 seasons, to 103 this year.

Hayward's true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage have both fallen by about a half point, which confirms what our eyes have seen, but surprisingly Hayward's usage rate is only up a tick from last year. While I know Gordon had more opportunities with the ball with the bench unit last year, I would not think he had even close to the same role this year.

Lastly, Hayward's PER has dropped this season, which is likely to be attributed to his poor shooting numbers even after you add his better assists and rebounds. Overall, I think this shows that Hayward has improved some parts of his game this year, but the all important scoring numbers are down meaningfully and we can only hope he returns to form once surrounded by higher quality scoring options.

Development, Enes Kanter. Kanter has had a rollercoaster of an NBA campaign, going from starter and heavy minutes to bench player and minutes in the teens, to being named a starter again with Marvin Williams' recent struggles. Kanter has played very well offensively in many games this year, very poorly in others and mostly absent on defense in all games. It is hard to pin down exactly what factors influence the good and bad performances but it would be easiest to conclude that his overall basketball inexperience is a big part of it.

Per 36 minutes statistics:

The two standard stat measures that are interesting in regards to Kanter is his FGA and his RPG. Over his 3 seasons he has had a dramatic increase in his offensive role under Corbin, while at the same time his allegedly elite draft skill (rebounding) has gotten worse each year. Other than a meaningful 5% decrease in FG% the majority of Kanter's stats are relatively flat. That said, his turnovers did go down by 1 a game, which is somewhat surprising to me.

Advanced statistics:

The advanced stats are not as kind to Kanter. Particularly, his PER which dropped 2 full points and his offensive and defensive ratings which are both at career lows and have dropped meaningfully.

Another interesting thing to notice is that Kanter's defensive rebounding rate is relatively the same, while his offensive rebounding rate has dropped significantly, just as Derrick Favors did. Considering the Jazz as a whole are seemingly missing far more shots, this is surprising and would suggest to me that the team has focused on getting players back on defense as opposed to fighting for second chance opportunities. If so, this doesn't bode well for our overall defense which has devolved from last year into one of the NBA's worst squads.

Based on the eyeball test and the stats test, it is pretty clear that Kanter's game has mostly devolved this season. While he still is young enough to get better, this is a pretty discouraging trend..

Development, Alec Burks. Of all the 4 young guys, Alec Burks has seemingly taken the biggest leap this year. His ability to finish at the rim had seemed to diminish last year after a strong rookie campaign, and is back and better than ever. Burks has had a much larger scoring load this season and has seemed to flourish. Is this just our eyes deceiving us though, considering the previous 2 seasons had Burks only playing 16/17 MPG?

Per 36 minutes statistics:

The answer to the question above appears to be "no," based on these numbers. Burks has seen his points go up by 3.6 per game due to a big jump in free throw attempts and an increase in his 2 point FG%. Even with the ball in his hand more, Burks has shot less 3's this year, although his percentage remains close to league average. The other jump is in assists, where Burks has increased that number, while his turnovers have remained flat. That concludes all 4 young guys having reduced their turnovers this year, which is a good sign.

Advanced statistics:

The advanced stats are also kind to Burks who has seen his PER go up to 15.8, which is a very healthy 4 point (37%) increase over last season. Burks has also seen his TS% and EFG% go up each year which suggests he has improved his efficiency at the rim.

Surprisingly, Burks has seen his usage rate go up to 24.3 which is the highest mark on the team and suggests that had he been given as many minutes as Gordon Hayward, he might be the teams number one offensive option. That said, this number is mostly inflated due to the fact that the 2nd unit on which Burks mostly plays, is devoid of any good scoring options (other than Kanter).

Lastly, Burks has seen his offensive rating go up 5 points, but his defensive rating following the team trend and dropping significantly. Overall, I think it is fair to argue that Burks has shown the most development this season in becoming a far more efficient and effective player in the role he was given.

Conclusion. If I was required to come to a conclusion today, I'd say that Burks has shown drastic improvement this year while Kanter has gotten worse. Favors surprisingly is pretty much who we thought he was and Hayward has improved on some things and gotten worse on others. Overall, I'd say I am disappointed in the player improvements this season and was hoping to see our young guys take bigger steps forward.