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Utah Jazz 2016-2017 Regular Season quick review

What went right? What didn’t? And what does it all mean?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

So with the NBA Playoffs still before us it’s a good time to check in on what the Utah Jazz did in 2016-2017. I feel like the whole point of this season was “Operation: Keep Gordon Hayward” - and in order to do that the team had a few things to focus on.

Many of them were successes this season:

  • Win the Northwest Division [X]
  • Win 50+ games [X]
  • Gordon Hayward = All-Star [X]
  • Win 3 to 6 Playoff games [ TBD ]
  • Gordon Hayward = All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd [ TBD ]

Winning games, making it to the playoffs, and being a contender shows Gordon that the team is trying to be in ‘win now’ mode and no longer developing. Having Hayward attain individual recognition helps his star shine on the national (global) scale. If the Jazz can tell Gordon that he can win here and be a star here . . . being able to pay him the most money should also put the Jazz in good standing to keep him.

I think there’s another factor here, outside of the normal ones (is his family happy here? does he like the guys on the team? does he get along well with the head coach?) - it’s all about Rudy Gobert.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Few bigmen are as impressive and young as he is. Yes, Anthony Davis gets a lot of stats on a bad team. So does his co-worker DeMarcus Cousins. And Karl-Anthony Towns is super young and super talented. But Rudy Gobert is a killer. And he’s closer to Gordon’s age.

I feel like it can be entirely unnecessary to play AGAINST Rudy as an NBA Player. And you do that by signing with the team he plays for. But this is all conjecture on my part. If this season was about keeping Gordon the team is a few playoff wins away from being the leader of his future Free Agency decision.

But that’s just the Gordon Hayward element.

The non-Hayward goals dovetails with some of the Hayward goals. This is a playoff team that fought all year for home court in the first round. And they did that even with a billion injuries.

Quin Snyder used 23 different starting line-ups this year. And it wasn’t because guys were fighting for spots in practice. This team was fighting to keep guys healthy. The assumed starters, from preseason, finished 11-2 as starters, and 12-2 overall when all five were healthy enough to play. The Jazz .846 win percentage is great with George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. The next best starting group is Hill / Hood / Hayward / Boris Diaw / Gobert who went 6-1, which is an even more impressive .857 win percentage but a much smaller sample size. Another impressive starting line-up was Dante Exum / Hood / Hayward / Diaw / Gobert; this group went 8-3 (.727).

The common denominator here appears to be Hood / Hayward / Gobert. These three guys started in 47 of 82 games, and the Jazz went 33-14 (.702) over that span. That’s not bad, guys. That’s not bad at all. However, the eye-ball test is telling me that it may not really matter who starts just as long as everyone is effective in the time they have.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, Joe Ingles - a more consistent shooter, playmaker, and defender - appears to be the superior “win now” player than Hood. When Ingles starts the Jazz are just 15-11 (.577); but a huge part of that falls under “If Ingles is starting, there’s probably a lot more guys injured than just Hood.”

In fact, when when you add it all up, here are the games missed this year (not including DNP-CDs, Inactives, or assignments to the NBA-DL):

  • PG: Hill (33), Exum (7), Neto (7), Mack (10)
  • SG: Hood (23), Ingles (0), Burks (35)
  • SF: Hayward (9), Johnson (3)
  • PF: Favors (32), Diaw (9), Lyles (0), Bolomboy (0)
  • C: Gobert (1), Withey (0)

As you can tell, the Jazz has the most injures to PG and SG, again. Thankfully Gobert was a beast all year long. But 98 man-games were lost for the Starters, and 152 games for the Top 10 rotation guys. That’s an average of missing 2.06 players a game.

Utah played 33 of 82 games this year missing three or more rotation players. That’s 40% of the season going into the game missing (usually) two starters and one rotation bench guy. And cross referencing that against who was missing - it’s mostly usually missing Hill, Favors, and Burks.

Utah still went 17-16 in these cases, which blows my mind.

In the games where the Jazz had only 2 or fewer rotation guys injured the Jazz went 34-15. (a .694 win percentage for .598 percentage of the season)

Against the West the Jazz went 31-21. But everyone wants to talk about how poorly they did against the best of the West. Yeah. Sure. The Jazz played 26 games against the other West playoff teams. And they went 10-16. That’s under .500, so obviously it’s horrible, right?

Well, during those 26 games the Jazz were without 37 games for their starters, and 51 for their Top 10 players. So that’s missing about 2 of their top players (starters + rotation) each time out. Who where the guys who missed out (not DNP-CD, or Inactives, or NBA-DL) because of injures:

  • PG: Hill (10), Exum (0), Neto (4), Mack (4)
  • SG: Hood (7), Ingles (0), Burks (11)
  • SF: Hayward (6), Johnson (0)
  • PF: Favors (13), Diaw (3), Lyles (0), Bolomboy (0)
  • C: Gobert (1), Withey (0)

What does that look like when you convert the games missed to a percentage of games missed against the West playoff teams? Boom:

  • PG: Hill (38%), Exum (0), Neto (15%), Mack (15%)
  • SG: Hood (27%), Ingles (0), Burks (42%)
  • SF: Hayward (23%), Johnson (0)
  • PF: Favors (50%), Diaw (12%), Lyles (0), Bolomboy (0
  • C: Gobert (4%), Withey (0)

So, go up against the best of the west without your starting PF / back-up C (Favors) for half the games — that’s not good. But also in that same game likely to be without one of your point guards and/or guy who should have been effective this year off the bench, but wasn’t (Alec Burks).

Injures were a huge deal this year. But you know what? EVEN WITH ALL THE INJURIES THE JAZZ WON 51 GAMES!

Oh yeah, and they are healthy for the NBA Playoffs.

So about those Playoffs . . .

The Jazz will play the Clippers. These two teams finished with identical 51-31 records. They also had identical 31-21 records against the West. And identical 29-12 records at home, and 22-19 records on the road. The difference is that LAC beat UTA 3-1 in the head to head series. So they have home court. That’s great. LAC has home court and as a result has the pressure to win.

If the Jazz can steal a game there that puts a whole lot of pressure on the old has-beens. Utah is playing with the house’s money right now. They have their Division title. They have their 50+ win season. They have their playoffs for the first time in a very long time. Their window of opportunity is wide open.

This is the 6th year of Chris Paul / Blake Griffin and they’ve barely made it out of the first round regularly. And they’ve never made it to the Western Conference Finals. Heck, even Deron Williams made it to the WCF with the Jazz. Hilarious.

The Clippers have the Jazz’ number of late. It would be that much more hilarious to see them stumble as a result.

The other thing that was resolved after 82 games was the non-lotto standings for the NBA Draft. The Jazz have four picks, #24, #30, #42, and #55. I’m not crazy about selecting two guys in the first round (who have guaranteed contracts) on a team that needs the money for Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Joe Ingles this off-season.

If you are interested to see what you can get with these picks, I did the research for y’all:

Blazers V Magic
  • Pick #24: Terry Porter, Sam Cassell, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Lowry, Derek Fisher, Latrell Sprewell, Serge Ibaka, Mike Newlin, Arvydas Sabonis, Jon McGlocklin, Larry Smith, Rick Fox, Steve Hawes, Jay Vincent, Delonte West, Brian Shaw, Nenad Krstic, Reggie Jackson, Cornell Warner, Luther Head, Rudy Fernandez, Monty Williams, Tim Hardaway Jr., Brian Cook, Raul Lopez, Shabazz Napier, and Timothe Luwawu
Gilbert Arenas shoots Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
  • Pick #30: David Lee, Spencer Haywood, Gilbert Arenas, Nate McMillan, Jimmy Butler, Anderson Varejao, Mark West, Ollie Johnson, Othella Harrington, Howard Eisley, Gheorghe Muresan, Roger Mason (How U), Marko Jaric (HOF WAG), Carl Herrera, and Kenny Natt, not a lot to wow about.
2008 ESPY Awards - Arrivals Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
  • Pick #42: Zaza Pachulia, Stephen Jackson, Matt Geiger, Harvey Catchings, Patrick Beverley, Daniel Gibson, Paul Mokeski, Shellie McMillon, Marcus Liberty, Bob Elliott, Randy Livingston, Davis Bertans, Olumide Oyedeji, Derrick Byars, Pierre Jackson, and Olivier Hanlan.
NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
  • Pick #55: Luis Scola, Patrick Mills, Kenny Gattison, Ryan Bowen, Jeremy Evans, Marc Iavaroni, E’Twaun Moore, Alfred McGuire, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jerry Eaves, man, and Larry Brown (yes, the coach). Also Marcus Paige.

Yeah, so yes. It’s possible that you can get a HOFer from these four picks, but that’s the outlier. It’s possible to find a rotation player at all four picks too, but again, it’s rare. But we’ll get into the Draft more after the NBA Playoffs.

The 51 win season isn’t just “what the team needed to convince Hayward to stay”. By the win percentage this 2016-2017 season is the 14th (tied with two other Jazz teams, ‘07 and ‘89) best Jazz season OF ALL TIME! Utah finished with the best defense (by O.PPG) and the third best defense (by DRTG). They were also 12th best on offense (by ORTG).

Utah was 9th in the NBA in 3PT% and 17th in 3PTA/G. Which is ridiculous when you look at the pace of play (30th). The ratio of 3PTA/FGA has to be one of the highest in franchise history. The Jazz offense worked the ball around for the open shot, but they also got to the line, 12th best in the NBA for FT/FGA.

Defensively the Jazz are #3, #4, and #9 in three of the four defensive factors (eFG%, DRB%, and FT/FGA). The one thing Utah didn’t do a lot of is force turn overs, only 25th out of 30. But you don’t really need to force turn overs when you fan funnel players into this guy:

NBA: Washington Wizards at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gobert finished the season with a monster year, just missing out on 1000+ points / 1000+ rebounds / 200+ blocks / 100+ assists by three assists. For the record he almost missed out on 50+ steals, finishing with only 49. If we round up 1000 / 1000 / 200 / 100 / 50 is insane.

Gobert should be Defensive Player of the Year, and All-NBA 1st or 2nd team this year. And again, why the hell would you want to play AGAINST the 24 year old? You hear me Gordon?

As for Gordon, he improved his PPG for the sixth straight year. He also finished with a career best 5.4 rpg, while shooting nearly 40% from downtown. He was tremendous.

But a huge part of this team were the off-season additions of George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw. With all the injuries to the guys the team drafted (Hood, Favors, Burks, etc) these guys were so important.

Dennis Lindsey helped make a deep team that could compete no matter who was out. And that’s exactly what we saw this year.

51 wins. And at least one playoff round more to watch.