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STATS THREAD!: Deep dive into Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale’s Performance

Utah’s depth has been crucial for the Jazz over the last couple years, and it figures to be again with role players like Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale all back.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The weekend means another Utah Jazz #STATSTHREAD! And as we get further down the roster, we’re starting to consolidate. This edition will feature Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale.

To recap, we’re taking a look at the 2018-19 Jazz roster through a statistical lens. And each week will feature a different player. So far, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell have all gotten the treatment.

So, without further ado, here’s Udoh, Sefolosha and Udoh...

  • Ekpe Udoh was 10th among centers in Real Plus-Minus in 2017-18.

Udoh was a huge reason the Jazz survived all the injuries they dealt with last season. No, this doesn’t mean Udoh is the 10th-best center in the NBA. There’s a pretty solid chance he’s the best third-string center in the league, though.

  • Among players with at least as many minutes (810), Ekpe Udoh’s 7.7 Block Percentage led the league. And the distance between Udoh and second-place Kristaps Porzingis is about the same as the distance between Porzingis and No. 11 Bismack Biyombo

Top-tier rim protection is a critical component of Utah’s dominant defense. And again, when Gobert wasn’t in the game, the Jazz always had another stellar rim protector ready to go.

  • Among those with at least 5,000 minutes, Marcus Camby is the only player in NBA history to match Ekpe Udoh’s career Steal Percentage (1.6) and Block Percentage (5.8).

It’s not just blocking shots with Udoh. He has a knack for picking up steals too. His value on defense is immense.

  • Ekpe Udoh led all players with fewer than 1,000 minutes in 2017-18 in Wins Over Replacement Player. David West, Jordan Bell, Daniel Theis and Salah Mejri rounded out the top five.

Udoh made the most of his limited role during his first season with the Jazz.

  • Thabo Sefolosha played his last game of the 2017-18 season on January 12, before the Utah Jazz turned their season around. Up to that point, Utah was being outscored by 0.8 points per 100 possessions. It was outscoring opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions when Sefolosha was on the floor.

It seems like forever ago, but the Jazz actually got off to a pretty rough start to the 2017-18 season. Sefolosha was one of the bright spots. Utah almost always played better when he was on the floor.

  • Thabo Sefolosha finished the season 13th among small forwards in Real Plus-Minus.

This is another way of encapsulating Sefolosha’s value to the Jazz when he was on the floor. For much of those early struggles, Sefolosha was the calming influence.

  • Thabo Sefolosha has not had a below-average Box Plus-Minus since 2007-08. His career Box Plus-Minus of 1.11 ranks 223rd all time.

Sefolosha is just plain steady, particularly on the defensive end. And if you limit this to just the last 10 years, Sefolosha’s 66th among players with at least 10,000 minutes.

And that rock-solid impact was evident last season. If you’d tuned into about any Jazz game before Sefolosha went down, he almost always appeared to make the right play at the right time. And he always knew where to be and when to be there.

  • Thabo Sefolosha posted career highs in both points per game (8.2) and Player Efficiency Rating (15.8) in 2017-18. His .591 True Shooting Percentage was the second highest of his career.

The impact of playing with the Jazz was explored a bit in Rubio’s stats thread. It looks like being in Utah helped Sefolosha too.

Those career highs came in an age-33 season, when most players are on the decline. And in the three years leading up to this season, Sefolosha averaged 6.4 points, had a PER of 12.5 and had a True Shooting Percentage of .538.

  • Among rookies who played at least 500 minutes in 2017-18, Royce O’Neale finished sixth in Real Plus-Minus. Only Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Jordan Bell, Donovan Mitchell and Lonzo Ball came in ahead of him.

Royce O’Neale came out of nowhere to be one of the better rookies in a great class. During 2016-17, he averaged 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals in his age-23 season in Spain.

There’s still a long way to go for O’Neale, but this already stands out as one of Dennis Lindsey’s most impressive finds.

  • Royce O’Neale was above-average in points allowed defending isolations (61st percentile), pick-and-roll ball handlers (63rd percentile), spot ups (63rd percentile) and post ups (89th percentile).

And those numbers above came as he spent much of the season defending the opposition’s primary scorers.

Quin Snyder is a sucker for hard-nosed defenders, so his fondness for O’Neale should come as no surprise. Throughout the season, he was one of Utah’s best options as an individual defender all over the floor.

  • The Utah Jazz went 15-4 in games in which Royce O’Neale shot at least a league-average percentage from three.

O’Neale had a rough, 20-game stretch that started in February and ended in April. Over those 20 games, he shot 32.1 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from three, but was still somehow plus-1.3. Shout out to his defense for that.

Without that 20-game stretch, O’Neale would’ve shot 46.5 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three. Expecting those numbers for an entire season would probably be a stretch, but if he can get closer to them, he’ll be on his way to bona fide 3-and-D status.

  • The Utah Jazz played like a 54-win team when Royce O’Neale was on the floor...

O’Neale may have been a rookie, but he often seemed to have a similar settling effect to that provided by Sefolosha. That was especially true when he played with Mitchell. When those two were on the floor together, Utah was a nightmare for opposing teams.

  • Joe Johnson was the only player who had a negative Net Rating (net points per 100 possessions while a player or lineup is on the floor) when he shared the floor with Royce O’Neale last season.

Again, depth has been critical for the Jazz the last couple years. And it’ll likely come in handy again in 2018-19, thanks in large part to players like Udoh, Sefolosha and O’Neale.

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference or ESPN.
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.