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Making sense of Collin Sexton’s latest surge

The Utah Jazz are showing out and Collin Sexton’s surge is at the heart of it. We work to make sense of the results that highlight his inherent attributes and what fuels his pursuit of excellence.

Indiana Pacers v Utah Jazz
Collin Sexton receives praise from fellow teammates John Collins and Simone Fontecchio.
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are balling.

Coincidentally, so is Collin Sexton, one of the surprise ignitions to this recent stretch that has vaulted the team to 9th in the West, logging big wins of the Lakers, Nuggets, Bucks, 76ers, Mavericks, among others.

Just two nights ago Collin logged his first 30-point game since the blockbuster deal that brought himself, Lauri Markkanen, and Ochai Agbaji to Utah. It’s a fitting cherry on top of a masterful stretch.

Collin has started the last 19 games for the Jazz, helping the team to a wild turnaround. Utah is 15-4 in those games while Sexton averaged 21.9 pts, 2.6 rbs, 4.8 ast, 1.6 tov, and 2.5 pf on 65% true shooting.

That’s a pretty great stat line in a vacuum, but let’s dig into it for additional clarity.

Trend line graph
Historical DARKO plus-minus trendline for Collin Sexton
@kmedved and @anpatt7

Collin is certainly trending up. In fact, per this DARKO impact metric, he’s recently eclipsed even the best stretches he had in Cleveland pre-ACL injury.

You’ll notice, however, even this most recent peak falls short of the dashed line depicting zero, or even (neutral) impact. DARKO adjusts plus-minus for various factors, such as schedule.

But even if you look at a raw, noise plus-minus the Jazz are only outscoring opponents by 2.8 points per 100 possessions (per PBP Stats). Only Kelly Olynyk and John Collins have a worse mark among regular rotation players during this latest 19 game stretch.

Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Sexton’s box score stats are impressive, however.

Collin’s 65% true shooting is a good 7% above league average for the season. He’s boasting a career high number of free throws per 100 possessions and free throw efficiency (just shy of 90%). His AST:TOV ratio is at 3:1. True, that’s nothing to boast about compared to staple, starting guards, it is an improvement for Collin.

Despite starting, Collin is averaging just 27 minutes per game. That’s a far cry from the workload of a traditional starter. In fact, it’s more akin to a committee, where responsibility is distributed across multiple players in a fairly even manner.

Over those 19 games, Clarkson is averaging 28.7 minutes off the bench; fellow starter Kris Dunn logged 21.9 minutes per game; and rookie Keyonte George has seen 19 minutes.

You may ask, what does workload matter?

Ultimately, extrapolating results to a higher volume is risky. Assuming Collin could sustain such production at a true starter’s workload of 34-36 minutes per game is likely fraught with error.

There’s a specific reason Hardy is dialing his workload; it’s likely to balance the competing priorities: Collin’s development, team success, rotation balance, etc.

The team is certainly clicking. There’s good indications the upcoming schedule could yield a handful more wins before the end of January. Collin Sexton is one of many players contributing to this recent success.

His performance isn’t without blemish. But that’s probably what defines his game.

Collin’s process is at once spectacular and messy, intense and over-the-top. The elegance in his game shines because of the contrast to his mistakes. But what’s showing in this latest stretch is how his work ethic and drive continues to tip the scales toward positive contributions.