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Downbeat #2023 - George Hill effect leading Utah Jazz to quality wins

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Lots and lots of Jazz goodies here folks!

NBA: Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Seriously? The last Downbeat was on November 17th? Man, this site needs to be made great again. Anyway, let’s get back to it Utah Jazz fans! Why does it matter if you are popular. What has the George Hill effect been so far on the team? What’s going on with the team’s rebounding. And . . . overall what have we seen in wins, losses — and are wins and losses just missing the big picture point entirely? Oh yeah, and something something Dante Exum something something.

King of the Hill

Since the last Downbeat the Jazz have gone 3-3. The good guys dropped games to the Chicago Bulls, @ Houston Rockets, and @ Denver Nuggets; but then went on to win the next three — vs. Denver Nuggets, vs. Atlanta Hawks, and @ Minnesota Timberwolves. What we know is that, still in the year of Our Lord 2016, Utah is better in Utah than not. Kinda. The small sample size of this season demonstrates that Utah has been out of Utah more than not. Both at home and on the road the Jazz are one victory over .500. But the 6-5 on the road is a better winning % than the 4-3 at home. But it’s not just the number of home wins or road wins that matter, it’s the quality of the wins. Beating the San Antonio Spurs on the road, and dusting the Philadelphia 76ers doesn’t really make up for getting destroyed by the Denver Nuggets and others.

And the bigger barometer seems to be point guard George Hill. With him watching the Jazz are 3-5. With him playing the team is 7-3. In the 10 games Hill has played he is averaging 21.2 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.1 spg, while shooting .543 .444 .878. He’s also hitting 2.4 threes a game as well. He is having a phenomenal season so far.

Injuries seem like they will always be an issue with this team in a post-Stockton and Malone world. And so far this season Quin Snyder has had to use 10 different starting line-ups in 18 games.

That’s not ideal. Neither is sitting George Hill.

DNP- Young Legs

Quin Snyder did, on the other hand, decide to sit Dante Exum last night. For the entire night. Yup, the baby kangaroo (technically, a “Joey”) had a DNP-CD last night.

2014 NBA Draft
You may remember him as a #5 draft pick
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Yeah, I think he sat the entire 2015-16 season and watched. I don’t know if he needs to do that now. Unless this was some sort of “secret suspension” or something. (He stayed up past 9 pm on a school night?) It’s clearly that Shelvin Mack isn’t taking full advantage of being “the #2 PG” or anything. I don’t think Jazz fans have agreed on something EVER as much as they have agreed that Shelvin isn’t playing well enough to keep Dante pinned to the pine. (The only guy on the team with a lower PER right now is Boris Diaw.)

Mack is Gordon Hayward’s homeboy from college, and Snyder’s former 3rd stringer back when Snyder as an Assistant Coach with the Atlanta Hawks. He’s also in a contract year and about as good as he’s ever going to get. If I was head coach we’d see a lot more Raul Neto and much more consistent rotations for Dante Exum before we see Shelvin Mack again. Of course, the things I’ve done in my life have led me down a path that doesn’t include being an NBA head coach. So perhaps Snyder knows more about it than I do.

I will not waive my right to complain about it though.

Wins and losses are not indicative of actually improving

Circling back to wins and losses. The positive of this season seems to be an over-all better brand of Utah Jazz basketball. The data (mined by Nicholas Sciria) seems to suggest that the team is winning games well — only two teams win “better” (the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves). But they also seem to be losing games kinda okay as well — only the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets seem to be better losers.

(Ideally you want to be in that top right quadrant)

Utah is playing well, their record be dammed. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, seems to agree.

Excerpt:

“After slow but steady improvement over the past two seasons, the Las Vegas SuperBook gave the Jazz an over/under win total of 47.5 going into this season, the fourth highest in the West. Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney called the additions of George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw “a masterwork of fit.” CBS Sports said the Jazz had the NBA’s fifth-best starting five and the best bench. The Ringer’s own Jonathan Tjarks wrote, “The Jazz are an amoeba who can adapt their rotation and their style to play any team in the NBA.”

“On the surface, Utah has failed to meet expectations: The Jazz are on the playoff bubble with a 9–8 record. But don’t be fooled by their wins and losses: Utah’s near-.500 record is a ruse. The Jazz have the NBA’s second-best defensive rating (98.7) and are anchored by Rudy Gobert, the league’s best rim protector. They have the fifth-best net rating (plus-5.3), which is a better indicator for predicting success. Over the past 10 nonlockout seasons, the 36 teams with a net rating between four and six finished with an average of 53 wins, and only three had fewer than 50. The historical chances of the Jazz failing to hit the 50-win mark are slim.”

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer, 2016

I think that the pre-season hype wasn’t wrong. Just our ability to understand how this team will do without so many rotation players at the same time. They are treading water (by their record) because of the depth. When / if ever healthy, the depth will help Utah really rise to the top. The data supports it.

No rebounds, no problem?

Because I’m a nerd, here’s some more data for you — the league info by Ed Kupfer on how well every team takes care of the glass, or attacks it.

Just focusing in on the Jazz (who are 13th here overall):

Ed Kupfer

Our guys are doing it on the defensive glass this season, not so much on the offensive glass. A huuu-uuuge part of that is no Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert on the court at the same time. (Only 127 total minutes this year, according to NBA.com) And a big factor there has to be injuries to Favors, but another one is the style shift by Snyder to play one of them -- and not both — at a time.

But another reason why the Jazz have a lower ORB value this year? I’m gonna take a wild stab and look at the fact that the team is 8th BEST IN THE NBA in FG%. The team is making shots. As a result, there are fewer misses to grab. Yes, the 3PT% has dropped a bit over the last 10 games, but even that isn’t a huge deal. Utah’s low in OREB because the team is making buckets. Before the team almost HAD to double-down on OREB in order to keep pace with other teams offensively. That’s no longer the case.

And again, thank you to George Hill for that.

NBA 2K Yay?

You may not be playing NBA 2K17. But the game is a big way in which casual fans (and reporters) get their ideas formed about players and teams. The better your team is there the more popular it may be in real life. This matters for dumb things like All-Star game fan votes and overall player motivation and support. We all know that stars get away with star calls in the playoffs -- making it easier for a team with stars to win tough games. (And harder for a team without them to prevail.) So at least on the grass roots level, having the video game people (and players) on your side is a good start.

Well, one of the ways to play the game is the MyTeam mode -- it’s basically a fantasy team you create out of players you trade for, play for, earn, unlock and so on. The better players have higher ratings and are worth more as a result. Two bigmen got rewarded with player updates last night.

Rudy Gobert

and Enes Kanter

By the numbers, it was an overall upgrade for Rudy (full comparison to the baseline level Rudy here), but most specifically an offensive boost for Enes (comparison here). For both players it was their first attribute boost of the season, and because fate is like that, it was on the same night of the season.

And, if you excuse me, I need to log-on and try and earn these players.