If you've been following along for more than just one day you would have heard that during the off-season Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey stressed a few points for this year. Among them were defense and discipline. Another, probably most integral, was development. Development is a loaded word in Utah Jazz fan circles because everyone has a different idea on what that word actually means. Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin knows what it means, it means getting better and/or being better. For some people development requires positive motivation, in other cases it requires a critical eye to point out flaws. For some being taught is necessary, while for others they need to figure it out for themselves. Effectively what we have here are the essential problems of learning. You don't have to be an actual educator or have a Masters in psychology (focusing on development) to know what I'm talking about. But thankfully some of our main contributors at this site are -- while many Jazz fans are not. (We're so lucky here!)
Not all learning comes from first hand experience. I will argue that a lot of it does when you are actually performing a physical activity that requires muscle memory. Even more so when you are performing a team activity. You can play guitar in your room for 6 hours a day and be good 'at guitar', but you'll never be a part of a band if you don't ever play with other musicians. Similarly so, you're not going to be a good basketball teammate if you never play with basketball players. (Effectively this is the Morris Almond paradox as he played at a small NCAA school, then in the NBA D-league, and garbage time in the NBA)
So this year development is more than just being better or getting better. It's actually about performing better together. You can tell that when Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans are on the floor together there is some chemistry there. (It's nice seeing chemistry on the floor again, like what we had with Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur; or you know, John Stockton and Karl Malone) The more you play with someone else the more familiar you get with them. This isn't just about practice. (Practice? Practice? We out here talkin' bout practice? Not a game. Not a game. But practice?) But this is real-time learning.
I will also argue that a tandem of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter isn't going to ever work unless they do it against real NBA frontcourts, and not busting up Mike Harris and Andris Biedrins in, ahem, practice.
Clearly I'm a proponent of actually playing young guys. On one hand doing so helps to develop them (no one ever learned how to crap by watching people crap and never actually getting their turn on the throne) -- I don't care if they did or did not 'earn' their playing time in a non-win-now year. This isn't Notre Dame Football back in the 1960s or whatever. Get over yourself. Guys are on rookie deals that are very finite. The clock is ticking, homeboy.
On the other hand actually playing young guys helps the team better understand what they are working with. So this is the two-fold theory of "Development" and "Discovery". If you find out one of your young players isn't going to pan out -- it's better to figure that out sooner rather than later. Right? The sooner you find out the sooner you can flip them for assets while their market value is still high. It's so very easy to understand, yet it baffles me how some individuals fail to understand the sport they claim to observe.
Anyway, let's look at the game by game minutes of our "young" guys (draft class of 2010 and later), what their minutes averages are, and their standard deviations (the effective normative 'range' of their minutes, expressed here as STDEV). Furthermore, we have a ratio (as seen in a percentage value) of how much of their MPG average is taken up by their MPG STDEV. Here are the players, ranked by highest MPG to lowest. N.B. If a player is healthy but does not play they get a 0.0 value for playing time; if they were injured they are not penalized.
|Player||OKC||PHX||HOU||BKN||BOS||CHI||TOR||DEN||NOP||SAS||GSW||GSW||NOP||DAL||OKC||CHI||PHX||PHX||HOU||Avg||STDEV||STDEV / AVG|
Yes. DEVELOPMENT! Or something. The player who is getting the big mins is still the player who played the most over the last few seasons: Gordon Hayward. His standard deviation from game to game is 2nd lowest, and his STDEV to MPG AVG is the lowest among this selected group of players. The only other player to average over 30.00 mpg is Derrick Favors. The bigman has the second most consistent minutes, and as a result, he has been a consistent performer this season. It's no secret that these guys are performing, they are both lotto picks from the 2010 Draft, and have been in the league the longest -- this is their fourth season after all.
There are three players who play more than half the game, but less than 30.00 mpg (24.00 << x << 30.00): Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and Trey Burke. Two are third year players, and one is a rookie. Trey started his career off by playing 12.0 minutes in a game, but since that time he's never gone lower than 19.6. Furthermore, his numbers seem to be on the rise as his performance continues to impress. He does exhibit the largest STDEV in the group, but I would assume that as the season continues his 12.0 mpg was a massive outlier. If you remove the first three games of his career his STDEV is actually second smallest on the team at 4.55. Kanter, on the other hand, has a massive Standard Deviation. And it's not because he started the season off playing very small minutes. His minutes are all over the place, playing nearly 40 minutes some nights, and playing less than 15 a few nights later. We know from the tale of C.J. Miles that if you don't get into a consistent groove it's hard to remain consistent. His play this year has been much lower than we expected; didn't he just finish killing it in the preseason? Speaking of inconsistent play we have to look no further than Alec Burks to see what happens when someone has an inconsistent role, place in the rotation, and requirements from day to day. Last year Alec Burks went from being the 3rd string shooting guard to being the guy closing games out at point guard. This season he has played more consistent minutes (his STDEV to MPG average is third smallest on the team, behind only Hayward and Favors); but his role has changed over the course of the first 20 (well, 19) games because of injuries. Chalk that up to his versatility, I guess. Four games ago Alec played 12.1 mpg. The last two he has played 32.3 and 31.9 minutes. Your guess is as good as mine.
When you move beyond this theoretical F5 group you are left with a very strange hodge-podge. Jeremy Evans is in his 4th season, the oldest player out of these eight, but was a second round pick. Rudy Gobert looked to be knocking on the door to the lottery back at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, but fell to the late first round. Ian Clark went undrafted but essentially played his way into the league through his stellar performance at the Vegas Summer League. Both Rudy and Ian are rookies. Today Evans is the only guy getting burn, averaging 19.03 mpg, which I am totally fine with. It's a season for development and discovery for him too, you know. Rudy is averaging only 8.09 mpg when you factor in he was healthy for all the games he missed. By the same metric Ian Clark is getting only 3.67 mpg. Poor guy couldn't even break into the rotation when the Jazz were missing both Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams on the wing.
These two rooks in particular are having a bad time getting on the floor. The ratio of the standard deviation to minutes per game average for Rudy Gay is almost 1:1. (It's at a lofty 92.72%) That's pretty much like an all or non phenomena, as he'll either play all of his minutes or none of them on any given night. What's worse is that Ian Clark's standard deviation of his minutes per game is actually LARGER than his actual minutes per game average (when you factor in all the zeroes for not playing in games when healthy).
I have all of this info plotted out in line graphs, but ain't nobody got time for that. (If you really want to see them I'll add them later) My expectation is for Burke's minutes to remain in that 26-32 mpg range for the majority of the season. I don't anticipate Gordon or Derrick's minutes being played around much either. The rest is really up for grabs. I wouldn't be surprised to see Alec get some 12 minute games in February because Corbin gotta Corb. Rudy and Ian are developmentally so behind they kind are only going to get better if they play. I would send Clark down to the D-League, but he may then be at risk of Morris Almond-ing it and being a big scorer and not learning how to play with good team mates. Gobert? Dude needs NBA minutes -- not just because it will help him get better faster, but because he does things our team actually needs. He's a beast on the defensive glass, I don't know why we're not playing him. At least we're also not playing Biedrins over him, though.
The first step of playing together is playing, period. This isn't 'small sample size' theatre either. With 19 games gone, we're pretty darn close to being 25% through this season. The time for development and discovery is now. I would argue for reducing some of Richard Jefferson's minutes to make more room in the rotation for these young guys while preserving Marvin Williams ' minutes.
The second step, of course, is playing together. More AT&G please (or whatever you want to call them)!
Crap. I forgot about Diante Garrett!