This may be late and short. Like that one game-winner I was forced to take back in high school. Still, Utah Jazz fans, please enjoy this Sunday Syncopation! We talk about the Wild West, the Jazz offense against the league, the Jazz offense against their own history, and Soviet Cat taxes you!
The Wild Wild West:
Okay, I get it. It's November. It's still a little early to be looking at the standings. Though, as of this writing the teams in the West have played 205 of their total combined 1230 regular season games -- which comes out to 16.667% of their normative schedule. Is 17% of the season a lot, or not a lot? What it is, fundamentally, is enough of the season to see which teams are distinguishing themselves from the pack.
The Dubs and two points of the Texas Triangle are the ONLY teams in the West that are more than 3 games above a .500 record. (I'm picking greater than 3 and -3 at this point because one lucky (or bad) week isn't supposed to change a team's fortunes at this point.) On the flip side, there is a legit bottom five in the West right now (though, the theory is that Houston and Sacramento can't be horrible ALL season long, right?). Here's what the conference looks like so far:
|TM||G||W||L||%||Losses till .500|
The Jazz are in this middle group, or peloton, that really can't crow about anything yet so far. There are teams with things to prove, and things with nothing to lose in this group. OKC, MEM, and LAC all want to get home court in the first round. And the 'bottom tier' North West division teams are supposed to just be happy to be there.
There are months and months of basketball left to play before we really watch the standings. It's interesting to me that after about 17% of the season is in the books for the West, and half the teams are already in the 'winners or losers' category this season.
When we do look at this more closely it will be interesting to see which teams have had drastically changed fates. And if the Dubs ever lose a game.
Scoring woes, Part I:
Okay, the Utah Jazz are 6-6 after playing 9 of their 12 games on the road. That's amazing. The defense is the engine, coal, tracks, steam, and drink cart of this locomotive. I do think the offense is going to get better. Sardonically, yeah, it would be really unlikely for it to get worse. But let's look at the offense right now. The "normal" thing is to just look at the scoreboard. And this is what the scoreboard says right now:
The Jazz haven't scored over 100 points in 11 of the 12 games they have played in. While they are playing winning basketball on the road, and while they had one home blowout loss, I don't think you can be upset with the results -- if we prioritize winning basketball over flashy basketball. Giving up 100 points to 4 teams in 12 is really nice, and thank you Jazz defense for being so good. But the defense wouldn't have to be excellent every night i the Jazz just put some more points on the scoreboard.
The main throttle for the Jazz offense is the pace. The team plays with the 29th slowest pace this season, at only 92.1 possessions per game. The pace adjusted Offensive Rating this season is 103.2 points / 100 possessions. That looks a lot better than the 95 ppg the team is rocking right now on the scoreboard. However, it's still only 17th best in the NBA, which is below average.
Scoring Woes, Part II:
So, putting points on the board requires being able to put the ball in the basket, and being able to get enough chances at it. Pace of play is important. And just basic offensive ability is also important. Of course, we now have over four decades of Jazz ball to look at. Forget what the other teams are doing -- how are the Jazz playing? Well . . . it goes a little something like this:
N.B. Gold = NBA Finals teams, Silver = Western Conf. Finals teams, Green = Present Day
So, if you just look at pace of play, there have been some fast Jazz teams before. However, none of them made it to the Conference Finals or better. On the flip-side, there are some good offensive teams, and all of the teams that have advanced that far were among them. Nor surprisingly when you plug in all the data you do get a stronger relationship between ORTG and regular season win percentage than you do with PACE and win %. (r = 0.726 vs. r = -0.604)
There have been some "unicorn" Jazz teams that had both a high PACE and good ORTG . . . the 1981-82 Jazz had a PACE of 107.3, and an ORTG of 106.2 . . . and won only 25 games. Two seasons later the 1983-84 Jazz had a PACE of just 105.1, and an ORTG of 109.0. That team won 45 games, but that's not very great. Of course, what's good for the Jazz (or bad for the Jazz) may not be bad for every team, the Lakers of the Showtime era are a strong example.
But because we are looking at what has happened in Jazz history it's hard not to see that the overlying success seems to happen at slow speeds. I don't know if that sacred cow has to be the eternal case, though. I think Quin Snyder can win with his offense moving a little faster. The game has changed, and the types of players have changed accordingly. And the best shot timing in a 24 second countdown is no longer just limited to the last 8 seconds.
As for the current season, they do play slowly. And the offense is not so hot. So this is the inverse of the unicorn, what is that, a rhino? Tough, thick skinned, slow, and very good on defense? I think we can live with that for a bit . . . but I think we like dunks and threes as well.
Of course, it's easier to be a great team on offense with two Hall of Famers playing at the same time, like John Stockton and Karl Malone here.
This season the team has three guys just about averaging 16 ppg though in Gordon Hayward (16.3), Derrick Favors (16.2), and Alec Burks (15.8). That poses it's own specific problem, which is compounded by the fact that six total guys are a threat to get into double figures on any given night. Now, the scoring balance is even -- but still not explosive. The Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer / Mehmet Okur / Andre Kirilenko / Ronnie Brewer / Matt Harpring days had finishers all around. But I think that with time our guys will get there.
Defined by Kyrylo Fesenko, and Kyatylo Fesenko.
Once again, sorry this is late -- life gets in the way.