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The Utah Jazz Turnover Problem

The Utah Jazz are last in the league in turnovers.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

One of the early themes this season has been turnovers. It’s not entirely unexpected, as the team has had some significant subtractions and additions. They are, of course, still trying to figure out how to play together. That said, the early results have been less-than-stellar. Utah ranks dead last in the league in turnovers per game, giving the other team the ball an average of 19.7 times. It doesn’t take an NBA data-head to know that this is problematic.

So, who is responsible for all the turnovers? Let me refer to you to a handy-dandy chart that I found on Twitter. If you look at the bottom, you’ll see who came up with it. If you’re an SLC Dunk regular you won’t have to look:

The best way to evaluate this chart is to first look at the players with the highest usage percentage. USG% is a metric that has a big, hairy formula attached, but in a nutshell it measures how often a player makes a play that ends in a turnover, shot, or trip to the free throw line.

As you can see, the Jazzmen with the highest USG% are Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Rodney Hood. I’ll give it to you straight: as that twitter rando who made that chart said, our high USG% guys are also high turnover guys.

Check out Ricky Rubio’s TOV%—out of every four plays he makes, he turns the ball over once. He has the highest total number of turnovers by far, and “leads” solidly in turnovers per game, per 36 minutes, and per 100 possessions.

Together, though, the players with the three highest USG% average 9.34 turnovers per game. A bad team like the Mavericks, whom the Jazz faced last night, average .919 points per possession. Roughly 33% of the rotation players own 47% of the turnovers.

If those three Jazz players play how they’ve been playing, they’d give the Mavericks 8.58 extra points last night. (Luckily, Utah improved last night.) Remember how the Jazz are last in TOV%? Well, they’re also last in pace. That means that they average the fewest possessions of any team in the league.

It doesn’t seem like much, but if the Jazz can get back to where they were last year—13.5 TOV/gm—they would save themselves about 6 points per game.

To be clear, I’m still firmly on Team Rubio. He needs time to adjust, and he’s clearly a gifted passer. We have no choice but to play Hood heavy minutes, because he can score, though his defensive and ball security skills leave something to be desired. Donovan Mitchell is a rookie, so he gets a bit of a pass this season. They’re not the only ones with turnover problems—just look at the chart—but they’re a big part of the problem.

Quin Snyder knows all this stuff, and I’m sure he’s working hard to ensure that ball security is a top-priority. After all, 6 points per game can mean the difference between winning and losing.