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Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins is a star, but he's not winning, unlike the Utah Jazz - Downbeat #1792

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Do the Jazz need to push the pace? Can they without Rudy Gobert? You need rebounds to run . . . right?

"I don't know how you averaged 2,000 mins per season Cous." "I . . . I was a Top 5 pick."
"I don't know how you averaged 2,000 mins per season Cous." "I . . . I was a Top 5 pick."
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are without Rudy Gobert right now, and it's always tough when you have to play without one of your best players. The defense is going to have to stand fast and the team is probably going to tread water for a time without him. But it's clear that this really is a talented team, one that for whatever reason, is not taking full advantage of the advantages they seem to have. Part of this could be systematic in origin. Other teams go out of their way to make the players look good, one of them is the Sacramento Kings -- a team the Jazz will play tonight. Other teams push the pace to at least get some cheap stats. Utah is doing neither -- but what they are doing seems to be producing wins. All of this, a great fan music video, and some crazy stats to make you go crazy. (Also, I think we've been missing a few Downbeats lately, so here's an extra one today!)

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Today the Utah Jazz tip off against the Sacramento Kings! Every year we hear about how the Kings are going to be tough. Sure. A huge part of that is that they have a recognizable star player in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is a talented bigman who got to play early on in his career, and play often. He has played 2309, 1950 (lockout shortened season), 2289, 2298, and 2013 minutes per season in his first five. He has played between 30.5 mpg and 34.1 mpg in each of his seasons after his rookie year (28.5 mpg). He gets the minutes. And as a result he's on the floor to get the stats. He has career averages of 19.2 ppg and 10.6 rpg. Over the last two and a quarter seasons he has averaged 20 and 10. (more like 23 and 11, but hey...)

He was an All-Star last season. People think he's better than other bigmen because of his stats. And he has his stats because of his minutes. And he has those minutes because, even if the Kings have been nuts the last few seasons, they recognized the number one priority was to have a star on the team to build around. And they did build around him. Rudy Gay, a quassi-star on his own, is on the team and is usually a handle for defenders to deal with. Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi were foreign guns for hire who really do well when on the court with a double-team magnet like Cousins. They already had Darren Collison, but added Rajon Rondo this off-season. Rondo is a starting point guard who has played in the NBA Finals before, and even won a ring. He plays defense. He passes the ball. And he's another star to pair with Cousins.

So they have star power, player recognition, and even have some youth coming up with Ben McLemore and Willie Cauley-Stein. So, well, if they are building their team right why do they only have 7 wins in 22 tries? That's a really big question.

But the main point has to be Cousins. He gets his numbers, but I don't know if he helps his teams win games. When you compare his normal numbers against that of Derrick Favors it's clear that Cousins looks better (19.2 and 10.6 vs 11.2 and 7.2 for starters). Favors has played in 20 more games, but 1588 fewer minutes. However, he has more career Win Shares, 26.4 vs. 24.8. And his Win shares per 48 is also (duh) higher -- .130 vs. .105.

While the Jazz always have an interesting 'go' against the Kings, especially in the Favors / Cousins era, it's going to be harder tonight. Cousins really steps up against Utah. Favors is always going to be a target for him because he was selected two spots higher in 2010. I'd love for the Jazz to win this game, but it really depends on more than just those two guys.

Does that mean I'm contradicting myself? I think the Kings' fortunes are tied to Cousins, but tonight it's about more than just the two bigmen in their sixth seasons. But regardless of how this game goes, Cousins is still going to be regarded as the better player. He has always gotten the minutes, he gets the stats, and he has been an All-Star in the tough Western Conference. Can you even list the last Jazz All-Star? (You may be surprised to find out who it was.)

And while Cousins isn't helping his team get as many wins as a star should, if/when his team is ever in the playoffs, being a star makes a whole lot of difference. The Jazz are doing it backwards compared to the Kings. They are building a winning structure and then hope people notice the players are good. That worked for the Spurs -- but only AFTER establishing guys like David Robinson and Tim Duncan as stars. It's not a chicken or the egg issue. For San Antonio it was egg then chicken then egg. If the Jazz and Kings, two teams trying to rise up in the West, it's going to be interesting to see which strategy pays off.

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Trivia Time? Yes. Trivia Time. One of the worst teams in the league this season is the New Orleans Pelicans. (Are?) How bad are they? They are 5-16. But how bad is a 5-16 team? Well, our SB Nation brother site The Bird Writes explains:

Yes, his 27.7 PER is higher than that of even Anthony Davis. This is memorable because Kendrick Perkins is a guy we traded for and didn't even want. Because you may want a better Jazz angle on that trivia than "Kendrick Perkins is one of the guys we traded for and dropped" (a few others are Glen Rice, Elden Campbell, Kenny Gattison for you real trivia buffs) . . . Derrick Favors leads the Jazz with a PER of 26.4. His number is a much larger sample size than that of Perk, who has only played in three games this season.

If you don't care about sample sizes at all then the actual true PER leader of the NBA right now is . . . Steve Novak with a one total minute PER of 152.7. Maybe Dennis Lindsey isn't a wizard after all, and we should have kept these guys?

Yeah, no.

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I think Utah Jazz fans are really talented. Seth Griffin posted a track of the team that's in the vein of what a lot of NBA teams used to have back in the 90s, of course, he's done it with more modern instruments this time around though. I enjoyed so, and I think many of you will too!

There are so many great Jazz fans, those who want to write, or do photoshops, or make videos, or in this case make music! I'm really happy to be a part of this fan base.

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Man, the Jazz are very deliberate. They have to be, there's such a low margin of error with they style of play. Take a look at this chart looking at the relationship between getting a defensive board and getting a quick shot.

Yeah, the Jazz aren't doing so hot here. Derrick Favors is getting defensive boards, 6.0 per game, and so is Rudy Gobert, 7.4. You'd think that they would have at some point watched some Wes Unseld during their lives and outlet the ball a bit. I dunno, man. I think pace is important for a variety of reasons. Tactically it allows you to attack the other team when they are on their heels. Statistically it allows for the players on the floor to get more stats, which helps improve their individual standing among refs, and fans alike. Going slow can get you wins -- like those Mike Fratello mid 90s Cleveland Cavaliers teams. But you don't HAVE to go slow to get wins, and you don't have to go slow to play defense.

I am harping on this point now, and I apologize. But the 1986-1987 team was 1st IN DRTG and 3rd in Pace. The 1987-1988 Jazz team was 1st in DRTG and 6th in Pace. Both teams had this dude named Mark Eaton who got a lot of defensive boards, and they turned it up off of misses.

More please.

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Of course, to really unlock the offense we need our defense to continue being amazing. Part of that is having Rudy Gobert back. Some nice people asked me all about that and other Jazz topics. So I wrote over 2,000 words explaining some things we all know, and some things we don't all know about the Jazz for my bros at the Lottery Mafia. (Hopefully our team isn't picking in the lotto next year)

I'd say check it out. It was fun, the questions were legit, and I go on a rant about the "Wing T" a little bit.