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Utah Jazz are headed in the right direction, but still fall in shadow of great NBA Finals teams - The Downbeat #1634

The 42 year history of the Utah Jazz, and excellence. ESPN's Kevin Pelton talks draft. ALEC BURKS IS BACK. Gordon Hayward had a minor outpatient foot surgery. Best Jazz starters Poll.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It appears as though the Golden State Warriors (somehow already advancing after going up 2-0) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-0, both games on the road) are destined for a date in the NBA Finals. Getting to the Finals is an accomplishment, even if you do not win the title. Of course, we are a "win or go home" infatuated society, but I think that grossly overlooks excellence. As a Utah Jazz fan I of course have to think this way because we've had a number of excellent teams over the years, and our high point was going to the Finals (twice in a row!) but falling to a superior team. The smart people over at broke down the "Complete History of the NBA". Of course, they did it by looking at over 60,000 ratings for each team for each season after every single game (regular season and playoffs inclusive). Personally, I love this data even if it tracks only one 'value', ELO.

While the Chicago Bulls rank first, in terms of highest peak, an ELO rating of 1853, there have been many impressive teams over the more than half century of the game we love. Reuben Fischer-Baum and Nate Silver add some words and analysis to the data, and I recommend you reading it / viewing it all here. As a Jazz fan myself I had to go check out what our team looks like.

1. The Complete Jazz Experience:

1634 - Jazz ELO FULL

So this is what 42 years looks like. Very humble beginnings in New Orleans, and then a huge jump when they came to Utah to become average. When Frank Layden stepped down, and Jerry Sloan took over the team really took off. This was a good team under Frank, but a great one under Jerry. Even the bad Jerry Sloan teams weren't as bad as the worst of other coaches. At the end of this chart we see Tyrone Corbin and Quin Snyder try their hands at steering this ship.

2. The Jazz Peak:

     1634 - Jazz ELO Zoom

The Jazz were at this top when they were going to the NBA Finals, with their highest point coming during the NBA Finals in '98, 1766. The previous season they got as high as 1764, during the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets. And for much of the John Stockton / Karl Malone / Jeff Hornacek years the team was vastly above league average (1500).

3. A post- Jerry Sloan world:

1634 - Jazz Corbin Snyder Zoom

I annotated this little thing a big to help see some interesting points in the Post-Jerry World. These Tyrone Corbin years were very divisive for the fans who cared about the wins or losses, cared about the eyeball test, cared about stats, or cared about the big picture. I'm not at all surprised that running with a bunch of over the hill veterans, while keeping the younger guys bolted to the bench, didn't result in a championship. I'm even less surprised that the team tread water but was barely a positive on the court -- after all, no Jazz teams have ever had as GREAT a bench as the Corbin years with all of the C4 there. (Remember that term?) Anyway, things appear to be in the right direction now, and the Jazz surge was actually earlier than the All-Star break this past season. It's just easier as a reference point to suggest that it was a post-All-Star break surge.Either way, at the end of Quin Synder's season one, the team is playing about as well on the court, if not better, than the best Tyrone Corbin seasons (1557 vs. 1567).

At the end of the day, ELO isn't the only thing that matters. Rings do. And for a franchise that has none, it's nice to find other ways beyond pure wins and losses with which to evaluate excellency by. And as a franchise, the Jazz have been quite excellent at times.



ESPN's Kevin Pelton had a chat back at their site, where he was talking about the players and the projections for this upcoming NBA Draft. You can read it all here, but there were a few tidbits that may be of interest to you.

Jack (Toronto): Why is Delon Wright ranked so low on so many draft boards? What do you think is leading people to believe that he's only an end-of-the-first-round talent?

Kevin Pelton (12:31 PM): He's a tough fit because he needs the ball in his hands to be a good offensive player. That limits his options. For a team like Houston that ordinarily would probably be interested in a player with such strong advanced stats, the notion of playing Wright with James Harden is pretty much a non-starter. And I suspect there's some skepticism of how quiet he was offensively against elite competition, like in the NCAA tournament this year.


John (Hanalei, HI): Miles Turner, WCS, Porzingas, Portis, Kaminski... Who is best Stretch Big? Best Career?

Kevin Pelton (12:52 PM): I wouldn't include Cauley-Stein in that group. I think Porzingis has the best outlook, followed by Tuner, Kaminsky and Portis a bit behind all of the others.


BDP (NJ): The 76ers could likely have 4 first rounders and Saric coming in 2016. That seems like too much for one draft. Would any GMs have the patience and job security to trade a top 10 pick this year to the 76ers for the Lakers pick and maybe something additional (Thunder pick or multiple 2nd rounders). Say a team from the 8-10 range wants a specific player and he's off the board, would something like that even fit in the any chance possibilty? I think the 76ers should try to get a 2nd pick in the first round this year using their abundance of assets. Just a thought.

Kevin Pelton (1:01 PM): Denver is the only team that really strikes me as being in that kind of long-term asset-collection mode outside the Sixers themselves. Maybe Utah on the premise that the 12th pick is unlikely to help them much but a top-five pick next year could be game changing?

Kevin Pelton (1:01 PM): For the most part, though, the teams in this year's lottery seem pretty determined not to be back next year -- possibly to their long-term detriment.

Kevin Pelton (1:02 PM): Add Oklahoma City to that list, by the way. Could totally see the Thunder making a trade like that, but the 14th pick is obviously not worth the Lakers one.


Murphy (SLC): You're Dennis Lindsey picking #12 for the Jazz and you're selecting between Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and Kaminsky. Who do you take?

Kevin Pelton (1:12 PM): Of those guys? Kaminsky.


Jon (Seattle, WA): As a Badger alumn, I love Kaminsky and was very impressed with how he handled the Arizona, Kentucky and Duke frontlines and frankly how he played all season. The neutral fan in me is a bit worried about his age, wingspan and wether he's able to put on any more weight to his frame. What's his ceiling in the NBA and assuming he goes in the lottery, which teams present the best fit/help him reach his potential?

Kevin Pelton (1:15 PM): I like the fit with Utah quite a bit. The Jazz have been searching for a stretch big since Dennis Lindsey's arrival, and I like a Favors-Kaminsky combo that would cover some of Kaminsky's defensive limitations.


Matt (NY): Who is a realistic veteran player Utah should think about trading its pick for? Channing Frye is the name I like best

Kevin Pelton (1:20 PM): Frye is a good fit for what the Jazz need/want, but at this point I think taking him off Orlando's hands might be doing the Magic a favor. I wouldn't give up a lottery pick for him.


Jack (Toronto): A squeaky clean Robert Upshaw ranks how high in this draft?

Kevin Pelton (1:33 PM): Late teens or early 20s? As I've said in previous chats, there are questions about how well his rim protection will translate to the NBA when he's not allowed to sit in the middle of the paint in a zone, and he's not yet a skilled pick-and-roll player. His offensive contributions will probably be limited to lobs and putbacks.

Interesting. I have my own opinions on this stuff, but I'll save it for my own player analysis. And also, thank you to cousin David J. Smith for this find. Give him a follow on Twitter! And lastly, check out that chat, it's more than just player stuff, or "is X better than Y", he talks about draft reform, the drafts in other sports, and the issue of tanking as well.



So much math and words to start off the DB. Beat #3 is recess of sorts. But that doesn't mean people aren't still ready for more work. Guess who's back? Alec Burks. Here he is on the court working out in Kansas City.

Glad to have you back, Alec! Looking strong.



Besides having a kid, and picking up blogging, Gordon Hayward had surgery too. So under the radar, that guy! As per the Utah Jazz:

Sooo, what could this be? In my "expert" medical opinion, this just seems like a heel spur. It can be a product of repetitive stress, and for a guy who makes a living running, changing directions, and jumping, this could really be it. Conferring with a foot specialist, he also agrees that this is the likely injury that was corrected. The surgical option for repair seems to indicate that it's something that doesn't go away because a) rest (82 game season), and b) lifestyle change (this is his job) are not normal options. During the season it is likely that this was managed with NSAIDs.

Of course, don't take this to the bank because this is all conjecture. Whatever it is, Gordon is going to be fine.



Which was the best starting lineup to start a Jazz season in recent history?