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What 538’s RAPTOR teaches us about Utah’s Starting 5

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Good things to come, starting tomorrow!

I used FiveThirtyEight’s new predictive tool to look at the West as a whole last week. Now I’d like to see what it says about Utah’s starting 5 and what we might expect moving forward. Hint: really good things! We’ll start off with our new addition of Mountain Mike

Mike Conley, PG

A lot of people were understandably concerned about Mike Conley’s health after his severe injury a couple years ago. Then last year happened. He’s right back to being one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players in the league. If you were worried about the 2 years left on his contract, don’t be. Sure it’s a lot of money, about 66 million, but he’ll be worth most of that. Trading for him was a fantastic move and boosts the Jazz contention odds significantly for this 2 year window.

With that said, 538 actually expects a fairly big drop off from last season. I think the model went a little too far and believe he will play at an extremely high level again this year with much more help than the Grizzlies had to offer.

That’s some big time names on that list, all of which were making significant contributions despite their age. I can’t wait to watch Conley work the pick and roll with Rudy like a master and open up Donovan’s game like no one has before.

Donovan Mitchell, SG

Third year leap. That’s what the Jazz are going to need from Donovan for this team to reach their ceiling. The RAPTOR anticipates a good jump from last season, but not a crazy huge one. I have no idea what to truly expect from Donovan this season. His usage should go down significantly, but will his numbers remain similar due to higher efficiency? I sure hope so. I also think Mitchell is going to earn a reputation as a defensive stopper this year now that he doesn’t have such a ridiculous offensive burden.

There are definitely some names you want yourself tied to on that list. Dwyane Wade being the easy and obvious one. Being deemed a future All-Star is certainly note worthy. Just how close is that future? We’re about to find out.

Bojan Bogdanovic, SF

Advanced metrics aren’t really in love with Bogdanovic. Last year was the best of his career, but he was seen as good not great. In fact, they’ve classified him as a measly rotation player. That seems unnecessarily harsh in my opinion. The fact that Bojan is the 4th best player on this Jazz team is just insane.

Bojan has struggled with decision making in the preseason. Hopefully another week of 3-hour practices will get him up to speed a little more. I think he’ll take the most time to adjust to his new team and role. But once he gets it going, watch out. He shot over 42% from 3 last season and will likely get a LOT of open looks in this offense.

I kind of love seeing money man Mehmet Okur on this list. I feel like the model just doesn’t really know what to do with Bojan, so let’s just let real basketball do the talking on this one. Starting tomorrow night!

Royce O’Neale, PF

You know what they say about assumptions. (Make them as much as possible as a fan and never admit when they were wrong... wait, I don’t think that’s what they say). I’m just guessing that Royce is the starter given how the final 2 preseason games went. FiveThirtyEight is pretty conservative with what they expect from Royce this year. That’s fine, he was undrafted after all. But I think O’Neale is about to make a ton of money this season.

It was a tale of two seasons last year, as his shooting went from bad to great like the flip of a coin. Consistency in that department will be a deciding factor in how big his role gets on this team. I think the other important piece is rebounding. The Jazz are a fairly small team this year, as we found out with the new measurements yesterday, so Royce may have to get creative in coming down with those crucial defensive boards.

Is the model trolling us right now? It feels like some twisted joke that Tyrone Corbin found his way onto this list. Corbin.... *shudders*. There’s a Blue Edwards sighting here as well, which is fun. Ultimately, I think Royce provides more value than any of these comparisons did in their respective seasons. I’m pretty bullish on his game coming into the year.

Rudy Gobert, C

All Star. You’re dang right he is. Our All-NBA center and Defensive Player of the Year somehow didn’t make an All-Star team. Ridiculous. But this is his year. The West is more open and the Jazz aren’t going to start off as slow as they have in the past. Right? RIGHT!? I think that’s the key to him being an All-Star. If the Jazz find themselves in the top 4 come All-Star break then he’s in.

Over $210 million over the next 5 years? His supermax extension would be 5 years, $247 million. Those are pretty close. Maybe put some big incentives on there and if he earns them, then the supermax was worth it. Honestly I just refuse to believe that Rudy will ever play for a different team than the Utah Jazz. I don’t really care what the cost is. And based on this model, his game should remain at a very high level for several years to come.

Looking through this list I was like, yeah this make sense. Yep. Ok that’s fine. Eh Rudy’s a lot better than that guy. Hm interesting. Wait, Shawn Kemp!? Other than that, there’s not much to see here honestly. As you can see from the similarity scores, they had a hard time matching Gobert up with previous players. He really is in a class of his own.

What other things jumped out at you from our starting 5? Any interesting trends? Anything particularly excite you? Anything concern you?

Well, as fun as this is, enough about projections and predictions already! Let’s just get to some actual basketball, shall we?