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Utah Jazz will be patient with the point guards, fans should be as well -- The Downbeat #1791

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Point guard is not a long-term problem. Historically almost everything else has been though . . .

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For two and a quarter seasons now people have been talking about the Utah Jazz and their point guard problems. In a franchise that has been historically represented by John Stockton, Rickey Green, Deron Williams, and Jim McElroy I think it's fair to say that the current play is a little off of where it used to be. Yet, I believe we will be fine in the long term. Today we also look at some trivia, how the Jazz shoot the ball, historically insignificant NBA starters, and the bottom line of expectation vs. reality. The Jazz are likely to make the playoffs this season, but are they likely enough to win enough games to satisfy their rabid fan base?

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The Utah Jazz are going to be fine in the big picture. They right now have Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Raul Neto on the roster, and they still hold the draft rights to Olivier Hanlan and have assumed first dibs on Phil Pressey. (Pressey re-joined the Idaho Stampede, after he was cut from the 76ers.)

Of course, how good is a guy who gets cut by Philly? I don't really know. But while we may spend the entire season griping about point guard play, the big picture shows that we're going to be fine. I think Dante Exum is going to be our fourth best player when all is said and done, and by that, he still has that Andrei Kirilenko ability to be our "fourth best player" that is actually "our second best player for stretches of the season." I do believe in him. He's young. He's very smart. And very few rookies come out of the gate playing defense and hitting threes. He did both.

Trey could very well end up being the best back-up point guard in franchise history, providing we don't count John Stockton as a back-up. Raul Neto is a fantastic passer and scrappy defender who is only going to improve as he gets more adjusted to both the team and the NBA in general. Let's not overlook that all three of these guys are super young still. It's going to get better.

Also, if it doesn't get better then, well, John Stockon is the gift that keeps on giving. Two of his boys are pro ballers, and if we really need to dig deep and find someone to hustle and make good passes, two of his girls are at least both better than John Lucas III.

Thanks to @OhioHadley with the tweet of this pic of Laura Stockton vs. Lindsay Stockton!

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Trivia time? Yes, Trivia time. Are you familiar with Los Angeles Clippers play-by-play man Ralph Lawler, and his law? Well, if you don't know it's just the adage that "First team to 100 points wins." Apparently one team doesn't really care about that, and that's your Utah Jazz. Behold:

Yeah, I guess part of that is a) defense, and b) we don't play our best players to start the game.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that, yeah, come from behind wins are nice, but what's better is a wire-to-wire win. Our offense needs to step it up, regardless of pace. Sure, the Jazz are currently 13th in the NBA in ORTG (and we're down to 11th in DRTG, btw) . . . but I think Quin Snyder's Xs and Os should be much more effective than it is. I think the main culprit remains to be missing those dang open shots.

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Speaking of open shots . . . the Jazz offense can work, but I don't know if our team is currently taking the best possible shots available. An example of this would be my favorite player on this team, Alec Burks, passing up a three to drive into the paint. He's not the only guy who makes life harder on himself and his team at times, but this is the most obvious example -- especially for a guy like him who is shooting really well from deep this year. For the team totals the Jazz are shooting 647 for 1469. That's 44.0 FG%, and when you factor in their 133 for 367 three point shooting (36.2%) they are rounding out around 48.6 eFG% so far. That's really not good enough.

When you break down their shots, 679 of the attempts are within 10 feet of the basket, 403 of them are pull-up attempts, and 379 are catch and shoot shots. Of course, they aren't all great at each type of attempt.

  • Close shots -- .5243 FG%, 37.72 attempts per game
  • Pull-ups -- .3648 FG%, 22.39 attempts per game
  • Catch and shoot -- .3720 FG%, 21.06 attempts per game
  • Total -- .4404 FG%, 81.61 attempts per game

So yeah, we're taking a lot of pull-up shots. I know that those are shots that are available, but they aren't maximizing the odds, get close shots near the rim, then draw the defense to you, then pass the ball out for open shots from three. That's pretty much how the modern game is played by the best teams. I'm not crazy about the isolation, one-on-one midrange shooting game against a static defense that is in position to get the rebound after. When guys are Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks are making these shots it looks okay. But when we have Trey Burke and Rodney Hood missing so many of theses, well, it's not as okay.

As a direct comparison, the Orlando Magic -- a team that has swept the Jazz this season -- only takes 18.6 pull-up jumpers, but 28.1 catch and shoot jumpers a game. No one is honestly saying that the Magic have a better offense than the Jazz (though, they do score 101.6 ppg), but they at least take more of the 'right' shots.

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Sorry for the stats part. That's kind of boring. In order to make up for that here are some highlight videos:

Blue Edwards:

David Benoit:

Which one of them was the better player? I guess just a simple highlight video isn't enough info to go by.

  • Total Games: Blue 704 vs. David 492
  • Total Minutes: 18,409 vs. 9,314
  • MPG: 26.1 vs. 18.9
  • PPG: 10.8 vs. 7.0
  • RPG: 3.4 vs. 4.0
  • APG: 2.0 vs. 0.6
  • SPG: 1.0 vs. 0.4
  • BPG: 0.4 vs. 0.5
  • ORTG: 103 vs. 104
  • DRTG: 109 vs. 106
  • PER: 12.8 vs. 12.0
  • WS: 24.2 vs. 16.9
  • Box +/-: -0.8 vs. -1.8
  • VORP: 5.7 vs. 0.6

Probably one of the most important numbers here is that David Benoit started 179 games for the Jazz (+29 more in the playoffs), and Blue Edwards started 186 (+16 more in the playoffs). All together, that's one of these two guys starting 400 games for the team. No wonder it took so long for the Jazz to break into contender status, John Stockton and Karl Malone really didn't have a lot of help in the starting line-up.

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Beyond all the problems old (not putting together a competitive team every year) and new (taking the wrong shots), the 2015-2016 Jazz are ready to do some damage this year. According to numberFire 's NBA projections they are on track for about 42 wins (up +4 from last season), and have a 72% chance of making the playoffs. They also have an 11% chance of winning the division (against the Oklahoma City Thunder, one would presume).

I felt like the target this season should have been 45 wins. Going .500 for the season would be an improvement, but I think most of us feel as though the Jazz were on a higher trajectory than that. The Jazz have finished the season between .451 and .550 winning percentage 13 times before. They've finished between 40 and 45 wins eight different times.

So it seems like the Jazz are headed towards a mediocre (compared to the other few decades of overt success) season. But I think that doesn't factor in the fact that we're only a number of months divorced from a 25 win season. We're trending upwards. But I'm honest enough to admit that winning 41 or 42 games isn't really going to make me jump for joy.