About half the season is over, and the Utah Jazz are a sub .500 team. That's not the end of the world. We have to look at how this Jazz team compares to previous Jazz teams, and we have to look at how this team compares to other Western Conference teams who are aiming for the playoffs (or something else entirely). It's been tough with all the injuries, but there are lots of things to be optimistic about -- so we delve into all of that. Today we also look at team building, and brotherhood. And if you are clever enough to beat my high score in a simple online quiz. Check it all out, Jazz fans!
So after 40 games, ostensibly half the season, the Utah Jazz have managed to win 18 games. This number is below .500, but moreso, below the very high expectations many of us fans had for the team back during Summer League last off-season. Back then, back in our salad days it seemed like our club was destined to be close to 50 wins (and seemingly around 25 after 40 games). Many injuries happened, and worse(!) the team seemed to drop games they should have won early on. So, the Jazz are at 18 wins on the season.
Is this upsetting? Yes.
Is this understandable? Double yes.
Is this a bad value? I had to figure that out. So looking at the last twenty seasons (from 1996-1997 till 2015-2016) I found a few answers. On the whole the Jazz seem to win about the same number of games after 40 as they do after 82. The recent trends (the last 10 seasons, the last 5 seasons) show the team wins more games after 40 than they do within the first 40. So the Jazz may start softly, but finish with a bang at the end of the regular season.
That's a good thing. The bad news is that for the entire data set the team usually goes 22-18 after 40 games, we're the inverse right now. Of course, when you just look at the last decade that drops to 20 and change - 19 and change, pretty much a .500 record. And if you look at just the last five seasons, the Jazz start 17 - 23.
What does the data say? Check it out. (Also, N.B. there were two lockout seasons, denoted with a *, for the "Actual 82" wins section it's a reflection of the team's win percentage, not the actual number of games they won.)
|After 40 Games||Jazz Wins|
|Season||W||L||%||Est 82||Actual 82||+/-|
So, is 18 wins bad? Compared to the NBA Finals teams it is. It's also bad compared to a lot of those D-Will / C-Booz / Memo / AK-47 teams. Compared to the post- Jerry Sloan era? We're on the upswing. I think that's going to be the thing we have to admit about a lot of points with this current Quin Snyder era. It's a far cry from where the team used to be, but it's better than it was a few years ago.
If we try to predict what's going to happen over the next 42 games I feel safe in saying that the team is going to get healthier. That means the team will have more talent on the floor, and be deeper as the season goes on. And the Jazz will be surging when other teams are tired -- just like last season. I don't know if the team is going to have a repeat performance of +9.3 wins over the win % estimates after 40 games. But I think it will follow the recent trend where the team is better when they finish than when they start.
I do think that the team *is* going to be better in the second half of this season. But there are a number of cool things happening with the team right now. While the team is still the slowest team ever (hyperbole), the Jazz are looking competent to average on offense and defense. The team has extremes in game to game performance where they score only 96.5 ppg (26th) while holding the other team to only 96.5 ppg (4th) . . . the Devil's in the details. Utah has the 12th best offense by the ORTG metric, 105.1 points per 100.0 possessions. Naturally you don't think a team where the point guards are Raul Neto, Trey Burke, and hope can guide a team to that level. But it's happening. Defensively the team looks worse, only 16th with a DRTG of 105.2 -- but with Rudy Gobert back I expect things to get better quickly.
As a team being middle of the road, approaching Top 10 in either of Offense or Defense is kinda where I hoped our guys would be. And they are there already.
The team isn't perfect, particularly I think they still get called for too many fouls and don't protect the defensive glass as well as they can -- and open jumpers continue to be a mystery -- but there are improvements all over the court. On defense it's not just relying upon shot blocking or shot changing, guys are forcing turn overs. In theory this means getting fast breaks on the other side of the court, but that's a serious work in progress.
December was a challenge mainly due to injuries; however, in January the team seems to be getting back on track of where they were before Thanksgiving. In December the Jazz scored 98.1 ppg and gave up 100.7 ppg. So far after nine games in January the Jazz are scoring 94.9 ppg and giving up 94.1 ppg. The margins for both months were small, but in this case the margin is positive again. Baby steps.
Utah has taken it on the chin against the West, 10-17. But out East they are 8-5, and the next four games are against some East teams our guys can compete against. I'm still confident that this is going to be a worthwhile season.
With this guy on the floor, big things are going to happen.
You're a smart fan. After all, you are a Utah Jazz fan. So let's test your Basketball IQ. The good folks over at Clickhole.com have a simple 10 question quiz to help determine how smart you are. Try to see if you have a higher BBALL IQ than me! I got 130!
Pictured: Pretty much how I look, except only in terms of laptop enthusiasm
Yes, a 130 BBALL IQ is pretty high, and surely higher than my actual IQ, but I have no doubt many of you will get a higher score than me.
The Detroit Pistons honored Ben Wallace by retiring his #3 up to the rafters of the Palace of Auburn Hills last night at halftime of their defeat of the Golden State Warriors. I'm happy for Ben. His trophy chest begs us to question if he is HOF worthy with his ring, 4x DPOY, and multiple All-Star and All-NBA Defensive team honors. I think it's cool that so many of his boys showed up for this -- including Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Lindsey Hunter, and our Mehmet Okur.
I love how this 2004 Pistons team came together and won a title by sharing the ball, playing defense, and not being intimidated. A team like that sticks together and has one another's back. Prince is even on another team (not DET and not GSW -- but he plays for the T-Wolves right now) but he was in Detroit for this event. I want to see a Jazz team show that kind of brotherhood.
That Pistons team was greater than the sum of its' collective parts. I think the Jazz may have a chance of building something like that as well.
There are some teams having rougher seasons than the Jazz.
Memphis Grizzlies (23-19)
While the Jazz were supposed to be a low playoff seed this year (and are), the Grizz were not supposed to be 4.0 games ahead of 8th in the West. Memphis is winning now (won 7 of their last 10), but they give up more points than they score. It's been a long time since the Grizz defense looked vulnerable, and this season their lack of offensive punch (and injuries) are making life hard for them. They have the 17th best defense -- middle of the road -- but 27th on offense. Unless something crazy happens I think we can start pointing out that the Grizz window is closing, and the best they managed in this defense first system with few offensive stars was one WCF appearance.
Houston Rockets (21-20)
This team WENT to the WCF last season, and had very high hopes. Instead almost immediately after stumbling out of the gate they fired their HOF head coach Kevin McHale and have slouched and whined their way to 21 wins. They have big name players like James Harden and Dwight Howard. They have a ton of solid role players like Ty Lawson, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, and Patrick Beverley. And they have 3 more wins than a Utah team that has been starting Trey Lyles and Chris Johnson at times.
Also, try reading the scouting report sometime so you don't look so confused out there on the court.
Sacramento Kings (17-23)
Every year Kings fans shoot for the stars, and this year their front office seems to have brought a few into Sactown. George Karl is having them play at a super pace of play, and DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and company are getting a lot of stats. They are behind the Jazz in the standings. Utah has an excuse for injuries, Sacramento does not. Their best players have played almost off of their games, while we have played the majority of the season with at LEAST two starters out of action.
New Orleans Pelicans (13-26)
Speaking of injuries . . . the Pelicans. That's almost the entire punchline. The Pelicans are bad on defense, and have had a lot of injuries. They are 28th in attendance, which is kinda like part of the reason why the Jazz moved from New Orleans to Utah in the first place. I don't know what the solution is for them this time around, but I don't think the #801 is a large enough media market to have two teams. It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Western Conference Playoff Team from last season. But thems the breaks.
Phoenix Suns (13-29)
Basically the team logo at this point pic.twitter.com/Ndoq0UmyGA— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 17, 2016
I . . . I can't.
Los Angeles Lakers (9-33)
And then there's these guys. I guess beating the Lakers doesn't do much for your team on paper, but it's a huge morale boost. After the Jazz went 1-2 instead of 3-0 during an easy part of the season I still feel good because the team beat LA.
Pictured: Me and my soul mate.
Utah hasn't had their best start in history, but all things considered, they aren't doing as poorly as some of their peers.