Much like the Ty Corbin era, the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season seems to be fracturing the team’s fanbase.
There are basically two camps right now.
- Camp 1: Everything’s fine. Utah did this last season. The schedule will get easier. Etc.
- Camp 2: Most of this is not fine. Expecting a miracle in back-to-back seasons is a stretch. Some of these losses can’t be chalked up to the schedule. Etc.
There’s at least one thing both factions should be able to agree on, though. Consistency is not Utah’s strong suit right now.
In their 16 losses, the Jazz are minus-13.3 points per game. Only the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns are worse in losses.
The 28.8-point difference between those two Utah numbers is the largest in the NBA:
Now, let’s do this same breakdown with Net Rating (net points per 100 possessions) instead of raw point differential.
In wins, Utah outscores its opponents by 14.7 points per 100 possessions. Again, that trails only the Bucks (plus-15.6) and Celtics (plus-15.4).
In losses, the Jazz are minus-13.3 points per 100 possessions. Only the Magic, Hawks, Spurs, Bulls, Cavs and Suns are worse when taking an L.
The difference between the two? Yep, Utah stands alone. And not in a good way:
Now, let’s do this with Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%).
Utah’s 9.9-eFG% swing between wins and losses is the biggest in the NBA:
And lest we think it’s just an offensive issue, take a look at the difference in opponents’ eFG% in Utah’s wins and losses:
Finally, let’s look at the difference between the Jazz in wins and losses using NBA Math’s FATS Calculator.
In wins, Utah’s four factors (eFG%, Free-Throw Rate, Turnover Percentage and Offensive Rebounding Percentage) mirror those of an average 62-win team:
In losses, Utah’s four factors look like those of an average 19-win team:
That’s a drastic night-to-night difference. One game, the Jazz can look like a No. 1 seed in the loaded Western Conference. The next, they can look like a frontrunner for Zion Williamson and the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
And so far, that hasn’t been a recipe for overall success. Utah is currently 14-16 and in 13th in the Western Conference. It’s been a discouraging start for Camp 2.
However, Camp 1 should probably point to the fact that FiveThirtyEight still projects the Jazz to finish at 48-34 and in fifth place in the West. It gives them an 85-percent chance to make the playoffs.
But living up to those mathematical expectations would certainly be easier if the team could relax those swings from wins to losses.
Look no further than a few of Utah’s playmakers, including the team’s leading scorer, for players who can help with that:
When your starting wings (Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles) are this all over the map, particularly in terms of efficiency, you’re going to have issues with consistency.
And for a second unit in desperate need of some punch, Dante Exum finding a way to be the winning-game version of himself more often would do wonders.
There’s no magic pill that will instantly fix all of this (the patent on that would certainly make some headlines). Utah has one of the better shot profiles in the NBA (lots of threes and shots at the rim, with a limited number of mid-rangers). Overall, they’re 11th in eFG%, and some of the variance there is bound to decrease.
As simple as it sounds, a few guys just have to be better. A lot of the onus there is on Mitchell. If he’s going to reach his superstar potential, he absolutely has to be more consistent.
A simple lineup switch might help. The starters with Derrick Favors is a solid plus-4.8 points per 100 possessions, while the starters with Jae Crowder is a stellar plus-13.7 points per 100 possessions. Role players hitting more threes would help. Utah’s Turnover Percentage is slightly better in wins, so curbing that could help too.
But ultimately, Utah relies pretty heavily on Mitchell and Ingles. They need to figure this out to prove Camp 1 right.