For me, the 2017-18 season was about as fun as any I can remember from the Utah Jazz. And while statistical success doesn’t always correlate with fun, an objective test rated this Jazz team favorably, as well.
Which test? Well, mine, of course.
At the conclusion of the regular season, I took to ESPN and Basketball Reference’s Player Season Finder to see where the 353 players who logged at least 500 minutes ranked in each of the following categories:
- Box Plus-Minus (BPM)
- Wins Over Replacement Player (WORP, the cumulative version of BPM)
- Win Shares (WS)
- Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48, the rate version of WS)
- Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
- Real Plus-Minus (RPM)
- Real Plus-Minus Wins (RPM Wins, the cumulative version of RPM)
I then averaged those seven ranks for all 353 players. For example, James Harden was first in BPM, WS, WS/48, PER and RPM Wins, and second in WORP and RPM. That gave him an average rank of 1.3 and a final rank of first overall. You can find the results of the entire exercise here.
So, how did this form of evaluation feel about the Jazz? Again, pretty good.
As you can see above, the Jazz had three top 50 players, and six top 100 players.
It should come as little surprise that Rudy Gobert led the way. The fascinating thing there is that three of the four stats in play are cumulative, so Gobert’s missed games really hurt him. Had he been healthy, there’s no question he would’ve finished in the 10-15 range, at worst.
Joe Ingles being a top 40 player may surprise some non-Jazz fans. But of course, we’re well aware of the impact he has on both ends. RPM seems to be as well. Robert Covington, Otto Porter and LeBron James are the only small forwards it had ahead of Ingles.
Next up, is Derrick Favors, who quietly worked his way back to the form he showed before his injury-plagued 2016-17. There’s no way to know what free agency will bring, but Favors was undoubtedly critical in Utah’s late season surge.
Then, there’s Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell. Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum, neither of whom had to carry near the scoring load Mitchell did, were the only rookies who finished ahead of him. With improved efficiency in Year 2, there’s little question Mitchell can push into the top 50.
And rounding out the Jazz top five was Ricky Rubio. His late-season surge was a massive part of the team turnaround, and it rocketed him up all seven leaderboards, as well.
Just for fun, here is the top 20 from the entire NBA:
And for even more fun, here is the bottom 20:
After looking at individual players, I took the average ranks of each team’s top three and top five guys, then sorted the teams that way. I also averaged the averages of every 500-plus-minute player for each team. I know, the word “average” is all over this thing, so maybe more visuals will help:
Here are all 30 teams, sorted by the averages of their top three players:
Here are all 30 teams, sorted by the averages their top five players:
Here are all 30 teams, sorted by the averages of every 500-plus-minute player:
Again, you can find everything here.
Here are some big takeaways after the look at team rankings. The Jazz finished 12th among top threes. Not bad for Ingles, Favors and just over half a season of Gobert. Their top five, which also happened to be their starters, finished sixth. And perhaps most impressive, when you look at the average of every player with at least 500 minutes, only the Toronto Raptors came in ahead of the Jazz.
And that sort of passes the eye test. Dennis Lindsey has done a great job of building a roster with serious depth. It’s been a strength of Utah’s for at least the last two seasons.
With the expected improvement of Mitchell and hopefully some health for Gobert, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the already impressive Jazz rise in 2018-19.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com or Basketball Reference.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for SLC Dunk and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Dan Favale.