This is the sixth NBA season for Utah Jazz team captains and Derrick Favors. It's also the sixth season for bench bigman Trevor Booker. And it's the fifth season for combo guard Alec Burks. On the other side of things, it's the rookie season for , , and Tibor Pleiss. And it's only the second season for injured point guard , , , and Elijah Millsap. For some players the best is truly yet to come. For others, well, they should be in their peaks right now. And for the Utah Jazz front office, one that put this team together, they seem to be willing to crash and burn, or make the playoffs with this squad. I think that the playoffs are a better chance than not, but the play of two third year Jazzmen, and , will probably determine that more than any other factors.
If you put it all together, the team has been hampered by injuries (what else is new), and have been playing without two starters. Still, they have and 11-14 record -- which is good enough for second in the division and eighth in the Western Conference. The team plays very slowly, on purpose mind you, to maximize their defensive effectiveness and minimize any offensive disparities between our guys and more talented clubs. The downside clearly presents itself statistically. There aren't enough possessions per game to really rack up big stats. The upside, obviously, is that the team can stay in games and win them.
Wins are more important than player stats. But we rely on player stats to gauge how well they are performing. So let's look at them.
Please note that the players are listed not by any other specific rank, but how the five man units should be if everyone was healthy. What we see here is that the players who take the most shots (the 10+ FGA per game club of Hayward, Favors, Burks, Hood, and Burke) are the players who score the most points per game. That's a simple observation. An outlier exists with the hyper efficient scoring of Gobert (.560 FG%, 1.54 PPS), who somehow doesn't get the ball enough.
But outside of these core rotation players Utah doesn't get a lot of reliable scoring elsewhere. Only Booker and Neto get at least 5 ppg. That's not too hot when you factor in that both players are on the court for 17 to 22 mpg. Beyond them, everyone else is entirely forgettable. Which is a shame, because we're seeing some really efficient outside scoring from Ingles (.386 3PT%, .579 TS%), and really efficient inside scoring from Withey (.568 FG%, 1.32 PPS).
When you look at three point shooting alone you see that three players hoist up 4 or more threes a game, Hayward, Hood, and Burke. Hood is shooting the most threes a game, and shooting .297 3PT%. Burke is shooting the least in this group, but really shooting well, .386 3PT%. The biggest surprise is that Hayward, who was slumping in the first 10 games of the year, turing things around to shoot .434 3PT% now. His shooting has been really good from out there. How good? He's shooting .434 from outside, but only .437 overall. That's really strange.
After that group you have Burks, Neto, and Ingles who are all shooting between 1.8 and 2.9 threes a game, and all shooting fairly well (.361, .408, .386 respectively). Neto and Ingles are almost exclusively spot-up outside shooters right now (64% of all of Ingles' shots are threes, 42% of all of Neto's shots are threes). Burks is in a shooting slump now the last two weeks, but is still doing okay from outside, even if his numbers have dropped from the near .400 he was shooting earlier.
There are no legit bigmen auditioning for stretch big status right now. Lyles is closest at .250 3PT% right now. Charles Barkley was a career .266 from outside, as a example of what used to be what we called a stretch big back in the 80s.
So the Jazz are, overall, making their threes. They just seem to pass up so many of them to take a few dribbles inside with the clock running out. It's not smart basketball. It's not smart at all.
Utah is not so hot at getting to the line, and less so at capitalizing from their trips there. Only Hood and Hayward are shooting better than 80% from the stripe. The only bigman who is hitting at least 70% is Booker, though he gets to the line only 1.3 times a game so it doesn't really matter. The players who get to the line the most per game ware Hayward, Burks, Favors, and Gobert (in order of most to least). I think it's not out of the question to expect those values to go up if they had some respect from the refs.
Overall this team is going to score points based upon the performances of five players: Hayward, Favors, Burks, Hood, and Burke. They seem to be the only players shooting the ball with any great frequency (lowest Minutes per Shot value), and except for Burke, they all have average of above points per shot (PPS) values (1.21 and up). But at the end of the day, this team is struggling offensively. They just doing put up a lot of points on the board, a lot of that is strategy. But as a team the Jazz currently have the 10th best offense by offensive rating (105.2 points per 100.0 possessions).
Everyone would be happier if they picked up the pace from their 30th place. That means a lot of Gordon's 17 point games become 20+ point games. It means guys like Favors and Gobert score more too. Ultimately, points matter the most, especially for building a star rep in this league. It helps the team in the short and long run by putting more points up on the board. Right now if two of the five players that can score on this team are hurt or struggling, then this team is that much easier to beat.
Rebounding, Passing, and Defense:
Should Gordon be rebounding more? I don't know. I think he should. But that's what I think. I know it's hard to get rebounds when Gobert it out there getting them all. Favors would be a 20-10 guy if the team had more possessions per game. But outside of Gobert, Favors, Booker, and Hayward -- not many rebounds are had by the rest of the team. Lyles does some work on the glass, but that's a big part of him starting right now. Burks does get some key boards in the fourth quarters of close games due to his athleticism, but I think he should be getting at least four a game -- he's playing enough time to get that.
The biggest surprise for me has been Burke's assist to turn over ratio. For most of his career it was close to 3 : 1, and this season it's below 2 : 1. In fact, there's only one guy who has a 2 : 1 assist to turn over ratio -- Millsap. Everyone else has been coughing up the ball all season long. This needs to change. Especially when each offensive possession matters so much. As a team, the Jazz have accumulated the 3rd most total turn overs this season. That's awful. Especially since this team averages the fewest total number of offensive possessions per game.
The box score defensive values for Favors and Gobert are great. Withey does his job and does it well, as well. I'm a little surprised that a 6'8 SG and 6'8 SF don't get more blocked shots than Hood and Hayward do, but that's fine. They get steals and try their best. One guy who has been a very positive surprise has been Booker. His energy play is a bonus, even if he is a limited player who isn't able to give the team what it needs the most -- a stretch big. Sometimes Trevor is just in the right place at the right time to make big plays. That's something that rarely shows up in the box score. And every team needs a guy like him.
Raul is just a pest on defense, no one wants to be checked by someone like him. While he doesn't have the length and athleticism of Exum, he makes up for it with his BBALL IQ and his tenacity. If he played 36 minutes a game you'd see a lot more steals out there on the floor. That four steal game in the preseason wasn't a fluke. He's just been so effective in the short stints he has received as the spot starter.
If you add it all up with PRASB (or BARPS, the same thing), our best players this season have been Favors, Hayward, Gobert, Burks, Hood, and Burke in that order. Also, if your seventh best player is Booker your team isn't going to get homecourt in the first round of the playoffs.
This is where things get a little crazy. Favors is CLEARLY ahead of everyone on the team here. Gobert is really missed. And man, the Burkecourt is not so hot on defense. At all. This is really where the rubber hits the road in the Alec vs. Rodney debate. The better player is basically the one that comes out ahead in the specific stats you like better -- there's no real consensus here.
Outside of the main players (Hayward, Favors, Gobert, Hood, Burks, Burke, Booker, Neto, Ingles), the bench is so forgettable here. Maybe things are better NEXT year with another year of development and the addition of Exum? If you watch the Golden State team you see that their end of bench guys come in the game and do good things. That's not really what we see with our squad right now. Oh well.
Here's where I become that really bad guy. Two seasons ago Hayward was a 16/5/5/1 player. Last season he was a 19/5/4/1 guy. This season he's a 19/5/3/1 guy. I was hoping that this season he would be a 20/5/5/1 guy. Instead his assists are going down, and I'm really rounding up for his rebounds right now. Man,was a 20/5/6/1 guy as a rookie. Maybe this is a pace thing, but for whatever reason Hayward isn't turning into the star the team needs him to be when you compare him to other Tier I wing players in the NBA.
We know that Favors has a minutes limitation because of his plantar fasciitis. And we know that Gobert is currently out. You want the role players to step up, but they have to follow the leader here. If John Stockton is out you bet that Karl Malone is dropping 30 to 40 points that night. I just have doubts about Hayward's "take over" ability. We've seen it. We know it exists. But he takes over much less frequently that other Tier I wingplayers do. And these stats support that theory.
Maybe that's just the way Quin Snyder is running this club? Maybe that's just not the strategy the team wants to use? But there's something better at predicting wins than playing at a slow pace if you are a defensive team. It's having a star lead you to wins. And this Jazz team does not seem to have one, again, for the sixth straight season.