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Ways to improve the 2014-15 Utah Jazz: #1 Defense

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For the past decade, about two lotto teams suddenly make an improvement of 15 or more wins. Sometimes it's a leap all the way to the playoffs (like the Blazers last year). Sometimes it falls short (2014 Suns). I believe the 2015 Jazz are a candidate to be one of these teams. Not the most likely candidate, but a dark horse if you will. This is my first investigation into what it will take to actually get there.

More of this, please!
More of this, please!
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the struggles of last year, the putrid defense surprised me the most. I didn't expect a miraculous jump to mimicking the Pacers or Grizzlies ... but on paper it looked like the team's D should improve. And it didn't. Instead, it was a dumpster-heap.

So, with this in mind, I began a little thought experiment:

What if the 2014 Jazz had the exact same offensive problems, but an average defense?

Not even a good defense. Just average. And no change in their crummy, but not horrific offense.

Well, last year an average DRtg was 106.7. I know you all are thinking "Hey! This is Moab's Community Radio", but in this case that number means something different: 106.7 means than in 100 possessions, a team would give up 106.7 points on average. This is nearly 5 points better than the Jazz actual DRtg last year (111.3).

The Jazz would still be a losing team, had they achieved this average defense. Their offense had an ORtg of 103.5 (The Arrow). So the Jazz were still giving up more points than they scored, on average.

The difference between the ORtg and an average DRtg is -3.2 ... after 100 possessions they will be down an average of 3 points.

* * *

So the question is, what is the typical record of a team that has a -3.2 differential in offensive and defense? And the answer is pretty interesting. I went back to 2003, and there is usually 1-2 teams that have a differential in this general range. I went back to 2001, but went two straight years with no teams in the range, and I got tired of doing it. But still, the results since 2003 are interesting:

Year

Team

Differential

Wins

2014

Pelicans

-2.9

33

2014

Kings

-3.1

33

2014

Cavs

-3.4

32

2013

Blazers

-3.4

33

2011

Clippers

-3.4

34

2010

Pacers

-3.1

32

2009

Raptors

-3

33

2008

Bulls

-3.3

33

2007

Knicks

-3.1

33

2006

Hornets

-3.1

38

2006

Jazz

-2.9

41

2005

Bucks

-3.2

30

2004

Cavs

-2.9

35

2004

Raptors

-3.4

33

2003

Grizzlies

-3.4

28

Average

-3.2

33.4

Median

-3.1

33.0

The results are pretty consistent: a team with this differential will win about 33 games.

That means that for the Jazz, if they can improve their defense to simply average, it is worth about 8 more wins.

And the good news, is that this does happen. Here's a list of teams, since 2000, that have their DRtg jump from bad (mid-20's or worse) to average or better the next year:

  • 2001 Hawks
  • 2002 Nets (actually jumped from 23rd to 1st)
  • 2013 Nets
  • 2014 Bobcats (30th to 5th!)
  • 2001 Mavs
  • 2003 Mavs
  • 2005 Mavs (they bounced around a LOT during the early 2000's)
  • 2003 Nuggets
  • 2004 Warriors
  • 2013 Warriors
  • 2003 Rockets
  • 2005 Clippers
  • 2006 Lakers
  • 2008 Lakers
  • 2004 Grizzlies
  • 2009 Heat
  • 2009 Bucks
  • 2013 Wolves
  • 2012 Knicks
  • 2007 Magic
  • 2011 Sixers
  • 2014 Blazers
  • 2004 Raptors
  • 2007 Raptors
  • 2012 Raptors
  • 2013 Wizards

That's about 2 per year that make a big jump. So while it doesn't happen all the time, and it certainly doesn't happen to every crappy defensive team ... it happens enough for us to hope.

* * *

Personally, I believe that the team's defensive performance is the most important way Quin Snyder can help the team jump from crappy to respectable. Nothing will have a greater effect. And considering some of our team's players, this should be something a competent coach can put together—a respectable defense.

The challenge is yours, Coach Snyder and the 2014-15 Jazz.