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Utah Jazz 2015 2016 Preseason Player Statistics -- Predictive or Pointless?

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Which Jazzman showed up the most in the preseason? Is this important, or are preseason statistics meaningless?

Classic John Stockton set-up dribble is classic.
Classic John Stockton set-up dribble is classic.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz wrapped up their preseason with a resounding victory over the Denver Nuggets. Overall the team went 3-4 and, honestly, none of those games matter towards the actual team's chances of making the NBA Playoffs. It's easy to dismiss the win / loss record in lieu of seeing how well the team is playing with certain units. Of course, the opposite seems to be the case with how a player performs on the court. If someone is 'blowing up' in the preseason it raises the hopes of fans and agents alike. Though, it's reasonable to use our brains sometimes (sometimes guys, not all the time) and see that a sample size of play that's 150 minutes of fewer isn't a very big one. (No, this isn't a knock on the Bryce Cotton supporters who hung their hats on 150 minutes of mostly garbage time.) Our players did go out there and did produce some stats. And in our never ending hunger for Jazz basketball it would be bad of me not to go over them.

Thus, here are the per game statistics produced by our roster over the preseason period:

(N.B. The order is based upon my concept of a normal, healthy Jazz team)

Utah Jazz 2015 2016 Preseason Player Statistics

Original preseason totals data provided by RealGM.com

Okay, let's get to it, but break it up by those groups.

Starters:

These are the players listed at 1 to 5 in the table above. The first thing is that Dante Exum didn't play because of his ACL injury. That leaves four players, wings Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, and bigs Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Alec played the most, 192.2 minutes over 7 games, while Derrick played the least, only 129.5 minutes over 5 games. Everyone else was in-between, but really only G-Time and Corner Pimp played over 150 minutes. (The Bryce Cotton line) I think we needed to see the most from Alec as he was last seen at Game 27 of 2014-15. What we did see from these four players were a collection of mixed results.

Rudy Gobert effectively sleepwalked parts of the preseason and woke up for a very impressive and encouraging game against the very small Denver Nuggets. He played for less than half a game on average, and finished with a 7 and 7 line. He did still score at a high completion rate (60.0 FG%), and blocked over a shot a game. His concentration seemed to be off as he went 10 for 25 from the line, that's only 40.0 FT%. The biggest knock on Rudy was that he didn't dominate. And if that's what you're docking a guy some preseason points for then it's not that big of a deal.

Derrick Favors was frustratingly inconsistent. Since his rookie season he would tantalize everyone watching or playing the game with this talent. There were just some plays he would make where it's like he remembered he's the most talented player on the floor. Other times he just wouldn't do the amazing thing he did the night before. So was it in the preseason. He beasted the Los Angeles Lakers and on other nights just wasn't as effective. He was very impressive though overall, just not on offense where he shot only 39.3 FG%, and on average scored 11.4 PPG off of 11.2 FGA. Favors also had trouble making his shots at the line, but that's really a common complaint from all of our starters. Not just him. Defensively Derrick was dominant.

Gordon Hayward is the best player on this team, and didn't need to play the big minutes to prove it. When he's on the court things settle down a bit more. That's a mark of his leadership ability and the trust his teammates have in him. Gordon really shot well from deep, but like everyone else didn't really shoot well from the free throw line, or overall. Defensively he was active and looks like he's ready to really show that he's a two-way threat. I would confidently call him one of the best small forwards in the game right now. His preseason performance (155.0 minutes) doesn't change that.

Alec Burks had all eyes on him, and boy, did some of our eyes really miss him! Burks played the most on the team, 27.5 MPG, and performed every minute he was on the court. He led the team in APG (3.1), was third in RPG (5.1), and fourth in PPG (12.0). He also led the team in FTA (5.4), but as is the law for our starters, really shot poorly -- only 71.1 FT%. I don't think that's an acceptable rate for a shooting guard. The other thing about Alec, as a shooting guard, is that he went 1 for 6 from downtown. So he only made 16.7 3PT%, and took only 0.9 threes a game. His drive and dish game was on point, but not his spot up shooting game. Alec is a weapon, just not a very long distance weapon right now.

I was okay with how this group played collectively, but not blown away.

The Second String:

For this group, 6 to 10, I group Trey Burke, Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood, Trevor Booker, and Jeff Withey together. Burke and Hood both really played well, and both were about the 150 minute mark. Everyone else from this group played much less. Ingles had a game off, Booker got ejected from one, and Withey was held out of some stints in favor of gibing some of the other bigs some burn.

Trey, at 147.4 minutes, was more of the guy we expect. And this is part of the problem with Trey, and other guards like him. Overall, all things considered, he has talent and ability and his on court performance isn't the worst thing ever. Some nights it will be bad. Some nights it will be great. We grew up watching John Stockton, and his game-by-game numbers are more consistent than the phases of the moon. It's more than just the fact that John was a Hall of Famer, it's that he was one who was reliable through thick and think. As a direct comparison, inconsistency is harder to root for. Trey was, numerically, the most impressive player for our team. He shot 50.0 FG%, 43.5 3PT%, 87.5 FT%. No one has said it because of the abject Treyphobia that exists, but those are Steve Nash like shooting numbers. He did that while shooting 11.3 times a game. In only 5 of the 19 seasons he played did John shoot 11.0 or more FGA per game.

At the risk of sounding like a Treypologist he has to get some props for that. The almost immediate call and response here is that he shot and played well LAST preseason as well, to very humble regular season results. I get that. Which again calls into play the idea of inconsistency and sample size. Trey's defense didn't look improved, but his body is. He played better with pace and was more effective in transition when passing. He didn't kill it with his assist to turn over ratio -- but neutral observers have pointed out that his turn overs were more because of aggressive play, instead of sloppiness. Those are rookie turn overs, though. And not third year pro turn overs.

That's a lot of Trey talk, so let's go right to Rodney Hood. Hood is good. He's not great. He may not be the second best wing on the team, but at times he looks like a starter. He may very well be the starter soon enough. He was 2nd on the team in PPG, though he didn't shoot remarkably well (42.0 FG%, 29.2 3PT%, 87.5 FT%), except at the free throw line. His play making is an asset as he finish the preseason with a better assists to turn over ratio than Hayward, and with just the same number of assists per game. Rodney just doesn't do a lot on the glass, but that could really be a product of whom else is on the floor with him.

Joe was on the Gordon plan where he didn't have to do much to impress. He knows his spot on this team is secure and knows that his role is clearly defined. He played some, hit a number of threes, and somehow averaged 1.0 spg in 17.7 mpg. That's impressive.

Less impressive to me was Trevor Booker. He is in a contract year and usually plays with energy. This time around he's using that energy to be much more physical than last year -- and last year he got into it a lot with other players. I love that toughness that he brings, but I don't want him to be pushed into recklessness. He said in locker clean-out last year that he was going to spent a lot of the summer on working on his three point shot. In the preseason he shot 25.0 3PT%, but on the super small sample size of 1 for 4 shots. I don't know if his numbers are anything that will carry on to the regular season -- a regular season he will start in street clothes thanks to the one game suspension he earned for pimp slapping Roy Hibbert. Booker is essentially playing the role of the 3rd big, and auditioning for his next contract. He managed 4.0 rpg, but somehow I kinda expected more than that.

Jeff Withey is the bomb. He's a bigman who makes his free throws. He shot 85.7 FT% while getting to the line twice a game . . . AND . . . he blocks shots. He played 11.3 MPG and blocked more shots per game than Rudy did at 23.2 MPG. He also plays mostly mistake free basketball, not fouling much, being very effective at finishing plays (81.8 FG%), and ended up with the best assist to turn over ratio on the team at 4 to 1! He needs a good nickname as soon as possible if these numbers keep piling up. (The White Jeremy Evans?)

I think Burke, Hood, and Withey were impressive. Ingles didn't have to do anything, but Booker is on a season long "check me out" mode. If his individual goals go beyond the needs of the team it could be a problem. I love his intensity, it's something our team of quiet puppy dogs needs. He and Ingles really give this team some personality. I hope it rubs off on some of the other players.

The Third String:

It's unfair to call all of these guys "third string" players because of random situations, I could easily see three of them start during the regular season at times. Raul Neto could be the day one starter because Dante Exum is injured. Elijah Millsap may end up being the shooting guard starter if Quin Snyder wants more defense and hustle out there from his 5th option on offense. And Trey Lyles could start FOR REALS if there is a shake up and injuries, though we hope neither of those things will happen. (After all, 12 different players started for the Jazz last season. It's not out of the question to see strange stuff.) These three players are joined by Tibor Pleiss and Chris Johnson.

I don't know if Chris is going to make this team, though some have made a strong case for him on social media. He missed one game due to the NBA's concussion protocol, but still only played in five of the seven preseason games. He clicked in at 54.4 total minutes, which is the least on the team out of everyone who hasn't been cut yet. He is, in theory, the offensive conjugate to Millsap's defense. And Chris shot 1 for 7 from deep (14.3 3PT%), 0 for 1 from the free throw line, and 6 for 16 overall (37.5 FG%). Is 50 minutes long enough to see how good a guy is at shooting? No. Is fewer than 20 shots fair? No. Has the braintrust seen this guy during the regular season last year, in practice, in summer, in summer league, in training camp, and in preseason? Yes. So whatever way they go I am confident that it's not just based on his play in the preseason. So whatever way they go I will be fine with it. Christapher is more than just a shooter. But that's the "Three" part of the three and D that could keep him in the NBA. If he makes it he will be a fourth year vet.

While this could be Chris' fourth year in the NBA, it's going to be Eli Millsap's second. Millsap is the oldest player on the team, but has an above average NBA skill in his on-ball defense. The preseason stats I have don't really track any of that. But he did average 1.0 spg, while looking more improved in other areas of his game. Three point shooting isn't one of them as he shot 14.3% from downtown, the same value as Chris Johnson. If two guys are missing just as badly as one another you go with the guy who is the better defender, I'd think. In this case Sap >Johnson. Millsap was also a more active passer, rebounder, and was a beast by getting to the FT line 3.4 times a game in 16.5 mpg. He shot 79.2% from there too. Good on ya, Sap!

Trey Lyles is a confusing player and the 19 year old deserves his own post. He played everything from small forward to center for Quin Snyder and I think it's going to be a while until we figure out what he's supposed to do on the court. I was impressed with his finishing ability (either on cuts to the basket, or on this pick and pops that Enes Kanter was so good at). He doesn't have much of a back-to-the-basket game right now, but again, he's 19. There's a lot of Carlos Boozer potential with him, but for him to really get there he's going to have to learn how to finish with his left hand, yell a lot more, and really work on his rebounding. Lyles played 15.4 mpg and finished with 1.0 rpg. I think Moni averaged at least 1.7 rpg this preseason and she didn't even have to suit up. Trey will be fine, but he's very inconsistent right now, but has a lot of nice tools.

Tibor is much the same way, but nearly a decade older. Both are rookies this year. It's going to be a fun year. Tibor has size that is ridiculous. In one game he plucked rebounds like they were fruit. Other times he just didn't look like he made any effort to go after the ball -- the opposite of hustle team all-star Jack Cooley. Tibor also made his free throws, but is clearly the 6th big in this rotation that will probably be four deep.

And that brings us to Raul Neto. I can't express how much I love, love, love this kid. I may also be "in love" with him. He was impressive during certain stints on offense and on defense. He naturally plays the game we grew up watching, and seeing his fluid style is familiar and comforting to us. He has traditional point guard instincts and plays more like the players from the 80s and 90s than today's era. There are reasons for that, though. He's not a great scorer but he's a great distributor. He had a 3.6 to 1.0 assist to turn over ratio, and in 17.0 mpg managed to dish out 2.6 apg. He shot 41.7 3PT%, while taking 1.7 threes a game -- but he really wasn't effective enough on offense. He averaged 4.6 ppg off of 5.0 fga. That's negative efficiency despite the great three point shooting and 75.0 FT% efficiency.

Neto could start, and I'd be fine with that. But he wont star. Which is fine with me. I don't need more competition for his affections. If he gets too popular he'll have the time for us at this blog.

The people who got cut:

This is everyone else. And there's not much to say. Bryce Cotton was cut, he shot 21.1 FG%, and 0 3PT%. He did shoot a lot, the most frequently on the entire team. He shot 9.5 times a game, on that 21.1 FG%, and scored 6.5 PPG. He shot the ball once every 1.79 minutes on the floor, or once every 107.7 seconds he was in the game. For a point of direct comparison, one of the biggest gunners in the game is Adrian Dantley. For his career he took one shot every 2.26 minutes played. Bryce, again, shot it once every 1.79 minutes. Bryce. What R U Doin? Bryce. Staph!

He also finished with 0.5 apg, which looks really bad when you shoot it 9.5 times a game and shoot only 21.2 FG%.

Treveon Graham played 18.2 minutes. Jack Cooley played 6.5 minutes. J.J. O'Brien played 1.6 minutes. Grant Jerrett was injured and could not play. And E.J. Singler was signed and cut before he could even be on the active roster. The only one we're going to cry about is Cooley. We've seen him a lot and like him. The Utah Jazz have seen him more though, having worked him out twice predraft, and then having him over for a free agent mini-camp, and then having him in training camp twice, and then having him play for the Idaho Stampede, and then having him play in the regular season. There are things to like about Cooley but at this stage he is a very well known product.

He is a great rebounder and very strong. He works very hard and can get to the line. He's also a 6'9 power forward built for 1980s basketball playing in the 2010s and he's just too short to be a banger and too immobile to chase stretch bigs as a four. Thus he played center. And thus he was even more undersized.

And as much as we love him, I know I do, he just can't make this version of the Jazz. His tenacity and hunger will be sorely missed, especially if we see more of 'observer mode' Tibor in games.

I think most of us expected these guys to be cut. I thought Bryce would have made the team, but the front office did not think like I think.

The roster is now down to 15 guys, and overall the preseason was a mixed bag. How much of it do you bring with you to the regular season, and how much do you just chuck out? I can't really say. For each player it's in their best interest to remember what they did well while being mindful of what needs to improve. None of our players played perfectly.

But if I was going to nominate a Top 5 of the preseason it would easily be (in no order):

  • Derrick Favors
  • Trey Burke
  • Rodney Hood
  • Alec Burks
  • and Gordon Hayward

And depending on what some other teams do during the regular season, you might just see that as a line-up for a 4 minute stint.