So far this Utah Jazz season there are 16 games in the books, which is 1/5th of the season. And for 1/5th of the season our starters have started off the games slowly. Which sucks. Now don't get me wrong, I understand there is a lot of variety here:
- The guys who start are not the same guys every game
- sometimes there are changes due to injuries
- sometimes there are changes due to trying different lineups
- both of the following issues affect the other team as well.
As a result, we're not starting the same guys each game, and we may or may not be playing our best guys. Same with the other team. What has remained constant is that over the last 16 games our starting lineup (whatever lineup it is that night -- and again, it's not the same dudes each night) has failed to impress in the first half. We start off slow, and have to fight our way in games. This is an awful habit to have. It's not just limited to our starters though, if you take one player out of our starting lineup (so, 4 of the 5 guys who started that night on at the same time) the same bad trends persist.
My immediate thoughts on this were:
- For whatever reason, the sum of the parts are less than the whole, when it comes to the lineups to start
- Maybe the other teams have better starters
- Maybe the bench guys look better in comparison because they are playing worse dudes (in theory)?
Well, I looked at every game this year while some people were busy fighting each other on twitter. (If you're a Jazz blogger -- write something about the Jazz. It's easy. I do it 5 times a day, and I love it.) And I looked at who was on the floor of every minute of each game and collected all the data. What did I find? I found out that the starters (who, again, they change from game to game) aren't getting it done in the first half -- but that's not a secret. Anyone who watches the games sees this.
For the season, the starting units are a -36 in +/- in the first quarter. They are a +1 in the second. They are a +24 in the third. And a +4 in the fourth. Add it all up and they are a net -7 for the entire game for how many stints they play together. How about four of the five starters? With four of the five starters on the floor together the Jazz are +10 in the first quarter, -29 in the second, +9 in the third, and -5 in the fourth. Adding that all up that's a net -15.
If you combine it all then with either 5 of 5 starters in or 4 of 5 starters in, the Jazz are:
- -26 in the first quarter
- -28 in the second
- +33 in the third
- and -1 in the fourth
That's still a -22 for the entire game, but there's a HUGE difference between the first half (net -54 +/-) and the second (+32). And the big difference here is the great third quarter by our starters, which angers and confuses me because these are the same people who in the same game, are down -26 and -28 in the first and second quarters. These are good people and they are starting for a reason. (It's not like Tyrone Corbin is putting out bad lineups, or bad players!) It's even more absurd that a lineup that will work off the bench, or during some stretch of the game will then somehow stink it up when they are starting.
I bet that is frustrating for the coaches and players alike too!
Data (Click to make big!):
4 of 5 Starters --
Soo. . . . . ?
Well, it doesn't make me a bad fan to look at the actual in-game data in order to support and validate my opinions and claims. It makes me an educated fan who isn't afraid of a little excel work. So my position that 'our starters aren't playing well enough in the first half' does not come out of 'hater-land' nor is it from that unbeatable position of complicit ignorance either. Looking at what we've actually done shows that our starters aren't doing it in the first half, but doing it in the second. This isn't a calculation, or extrapolation -- rather an enumeration on what they've actually done and not done.
And if they can do it in the third, why not in the first half? We'd be a much better team record-wise if we did. Ah, but perhaps we're just not a better team, and I'm expecting too much?
I think a number of fans wouldn't mind seeing the one lineup that we so far haven't seen much of: Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson, and Derrick Favors. We've tried a lot of other lineups, why not that one? That may help us get that early start because of a good balance of offense and defense while allowing our second unit to really obliterate other teams -- Earl Watson, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter would straight up wreck other teams as Millsap will be allowed to be the man and play PF, and they would be a defensive monster even without Favors.
It's not a secret that our starters have started off slowly. But I bet you didn't know that the problem was this consistent and pervasive.
Now you do. (Is the solution to the problem to look at each starting lineup and try to find patterns or habits there? Are we falling down in net points because of offensive problems or defensive ones? Are there significant culprits who routinely start, or is this a floating problem? What do you think, Jazz fans???)