We are now over halfway through the season. The Utah Jazz record stands at 29-17, which is good for the 5th seed, only one game behind the Clippers. The team as a whole is meeting and exceeding nearly all expectations we had as fans. There have been some good wins, some bad losses, but overall we have been silently winning quite a lot.
How has each player been performing individually? Let’s take a look! (Stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ )
To give a more visual representation of this table, I plugged it into Excel and changed the numbers into colored dots. All dots are relative to the highs-lows in each section. This helps give a sense of who is putting up the relatively best per game numbers on the team. (I didn’t have time to analyze advanced stats today, sorry, so we’ll stick with these.)
I rated each player based on a variety of things. How well has the player met their individual expectations? What is fan perception of the player? What is the perceived perception of Quin (as far as we can tell)? How well has the player been playing and contributing to team success and growth? Without further ado, here are my Midseason Player Ratings.
Gordon Hayward - “G-Time”, “Gordon Hairward”, “H2O”, “Too Big Yo”
Take a look at that chart. Gordon is one of the top producers in almost every category in this set of stats. He’s doing so on a winning team. He is the most skilled player on our team, and one of the major engines propelling us to wins. His offense has taken another step, his defense is extremely solid, and his leadership is an overlooked quality that has proven to make him extremely valuable to this team. This is a team game, and Gordon is the type of player that makes everyone around him look better. Now we finally have some players that have been able to reciprocate that a bit, who have been highlighting some of Hayward’s strengths. Hayward is hungry for a title, and something tells me he will be on this team when Utah is celebrating their first of many NBA championships.
Rudy Gobert - “The Stifle Tower”, “The Rocky Mountain”, “The Energizer Bonet”
I don’t think I have to do much writing to justify this rating. We all know how influential Rudy has been for our team. There is a reason we are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Of course we are a defensive team, which is to say that many players are contributing to that. Yet, the guy that sets us leagues apart from other teams is a 7’1’’ giant that guards his rim as if he were a dragon guarding its thousand year old treasure trove. In my eyes, I do not know a single player that deserves the Most Improved Player of the Year award as much as Rudy does this year. He is also a serious contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
George Hill - “The Rocky Hill”, “George Lucas”, “The Chosen One”
George was this team’s missing piece. We knew it, Dennis knew it, and now we’re seeing the fruits he’s been able to bring this team. Even with all this, he’s exceeding expectations. General Managers were right to have voted the George Hill addition as the most influential under-the-radar off-season move. There is just so much he brings to this team, from his elite court vision, to his shooting, to his solid defense. Not to mention his leadership and mentoring he brings.
Rodney Hood - “Da Hood”, “Joe Johnson”, “Mr. Silk”
Rodney must have spilled some salt without throwing it over his shoulder, because he has had the worst luck of anybody this season. I guess we always need at least one unlucky player at any given time. Dante has taken a turn, Burks has taken enough turns for the entire roster, and now it is simply Rodney’s turn. I am glad we aren’t discussing an ACL tear right now.
With all that said, Rodney hasn’t performed up to expectations this season when he has been healthy. His 3pt shot is coming back, and he has improved it to 35%, yet there is still a lot lacking from his offense as a whole.
Derrick Favors - “D-Faves”, “Flavor-Faves”, “The Forgotten 3rd Pick”
Favors is a victim of poor timing. He was coming into the preseason in some of the best shape of his career, and had an injury that somewhat took all of his off-season preparations away from him. He has shown flashes of what he will likely be when he returns to form, getting a few strong dunks, and even hitting a 3pt shot. Right now his mid-range shot isn’t falling, and opponents are daring him to take it. That’s hurting us. Quin obviously recognizes that Derrick isn’t back to 100%, which explains his lower number of minutes. We really need Derrick to improve ASAP. We already knew that neither Boris Diaw or Trey Lyles are quite good enough to start at their respective points of their careers. What looked like a logjam at PF has actually been a weak spot for us.
- Da Bench:
Joe Ingles - “Jingling Joe”, “Slow-mo Joe”, “The Best 3pt Shooter in the NBA”
I don’t think any of us expected Joe to become this good. His last couple of seasons were passable for a role player, but we came into this season expecting him to be on the end of the bench next to Neto and Withey, as serviceable guys that just weren’t quite as good as the new additions. Well Ingles had a monster off-season, and proved us all wrong. He is one of the most versatile players on our team. He allows us to play somewhat position-less basketball. We can play him alongside Hayward and Burks in the 3-wing lineup, and still be able to switch from 1-3. Ingles often guards the other teams best offensive player. He is basically our own Danny Green, which is super awesome. We found him in such a Spurs-esque way that even the Spurs are probably jealous of our Aussie.
Joe Johnson - “Iso Joe”, “Jolo”, “Jollo with Carrots”
Joe has performed up to expectations. I thought he would have had a couple more 20 point games, but he simply doesn’t have to do that on this team. He is an efficient scorer off the bench, who is strong and quick enough to play good defense while our starters are out of the game. Joe gives us a unique post-up and iso option in our offense. He is also simply good at simply out-smarting the defense with his veteran savvy. He fits in with Utah like Jell-o with Carrots.
Dante Exum - “The X Factor”, “Aussie Pup”
I give Dante a lot of criticism, because he has a long way to go before he’ll be considered an All-star, or even a starter. But that said, he has come along well so far this season. Dante is progressing like we thought he would. He is beginning to be a net positive off the bench, and that’s exciting. I’ve done enough criticizing of him, so I’ll point to his strengths. I went to the OKC game last night, and Dante is probably one of the quickest players on the court. Just that one fact gives his game a ridiculous amount of potential. Thankfully that potential is actually turning into production now. (But please keep working on your 3pt shot, Dante!)
Shelvin Mack - “Sholo”, “Mack Daddy”, “Mack & Cheese”
Shelvin has basically done everything we have expected from him. He held down the fort when Hill was injured, and Dante was still just getting back into the swing of things. I respect what he has been able to do, but he has admittedly not been the best player on the team. It’s nice to have such depth that we as fans have major arguments about who our 2nd string point guard should be. Going forward, I think Mack and Neto are both solid options at the third string. I would be happy with either choice.
Raul Neto - “The Brazilian One-Man Boy Band”
My only concern with Neto is that he doesn’t seem to have improved much since last season. He is a confident player, but he has some big weaknesses. If we want Exum to become the team’s starter, and Neto to become the 2nd string, Neto still has a lot of work. Neto is still very valuable to the team, though. He seems to fit in well with the personnel, and he makes players around him better, without getting in the way too much.
Trey Lyles - “The Maple Mamba”, “Maple Donut”
Lyles has been a little bit underwhelming this season. It is hard to see all of his improvements, but they exist. I feel his decision-making has been smarter, and much more confident. I think once he gets the fundamentals down, and starts adding moves to his repertoire, he’ll be a fine player in the end. But as of now, he needs to work on consistency. He has good games, but needs to become a consistent spark off the bench.
Boris Diaw - “Bobo”
He may not be the quickest man on the block, but his strength is underrated. He has a good ability to box out and/or force his man out of good rebounding position. He brings a lot to the table, but I think his biggest strength is being a tremendous teammate. At the OKC game, I saw him bantering with every single player on the bench before the game started. It’s players like him that make your team feel more like a family. On the opposite side of the court, at the end of one of the quarters I noticed that all of the OKC starters and players currently on the bench gave high fives to all their players coming off the court, except for a benched Westbrook was sulking in the corner as if he were above high fives and team chemistry. This is why I don’t think Westbrook will ever make any meaningful noise in the playoffs, everything is about him. With Diaw, it is the exact opposite, he gets everybody involved and feeling included. We have a few guys like this on our team, and our chemistry is through the roof. I think this has shown up in the win total too.
Jeff Withey - “Cheerleader”, “So and So”, “Whats her face”, “The Ugly One!”
Jeff simply hasn’t played very much so it’s hard to give him a rating. He has handled the situation well though. When he does play he hustles and plays hard. There simply isn’t much room in the rotation for him to play, especially when Favors returns to form. It’s good to have Withey as an insurance policy, should anybody go down with injury.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Where’s that Alex guy?” I assure you I did not forget about him. I just wanted to save the best for last. :)
Alec Burks - “Alex Borques”, “Houdini”, “That Player who was a Ball-Boy in 2016”
Last night was where it really clicked for me. He is coming off of injury, and has needed some time to get back into shape. He still isn’t up to 100%, but he showed me some things last night that I don’t know if I have ever seen from him. His defense was solid enough. His offensive skills give our team a whole extra set of options in our plays. When he plays like he did last night, not forcing the issue and allowing the offense to generate him looks, he looks really good. He wasn’t going iso every other play, driving into traffic for circus shots quite as often. And the circus shots he did take looked like they were more efficient. Of course, he needs to regain his stroke from outside, but I’m excited with what he brings this team. I just hope he can learn to set up the perimeter players more often. He has enough vision to hit a rolling big, but he is definitely more of a scorer than a playmaker. That is not a bad thing, it’s just who Alec is.
Well there you have it. We have ourselves an extremely deep team. A lot of players are stepping up to get us wins. There have been some surprises, and it has been a fun season to be a Jazz fan. Here’s to reaching the playoffs and making some noise in the Spring!