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Utah Jazz are winning games with defense, but will offense be a problem going forward? -- The Downbeat #1876

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More than five stories to tell today!

"No Gordon, invisible balls aren't real."
"No Gordon, invisible balls aren't real."
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz have an interesting relationship with non-Utah Jazz fans. We look into a specific account where we're deemed to be "un-fun." While popularity is one thing, because good is another -- and by the numbers our team is really freakin' good even if the W/L record doesn't project Utah ending with 50 wins this year. A big part of that could end up being offensive struggles, and sadly, either our players are good on offense and timid, or cavalier in their approach and less accurate. Rarely do we have both this season. There are a number of NBA news stories to get too, and a quick poll about a pretty important game today. But before any of that, I guess, a State of the Union Address from me. (We have not yet selected who will make the official, opposition response just of yet.)

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Hey everyone. I wanted to yet you all know that as this season is rounding third heading into home that I really do appreciate having the chance to write about this team and have so many people here in this community read, participate, comment, lurk, write their own fanposts, make memes, and generally make this an all-in-one place to hang out during the work day. (Er, 24 hours a day) Activity has gone down on my part, and on the part of our staff (all of which aren't young grasshoppers anymore). Similarly, this season hasn't been that much fun -- we've seen injury plagued years before. Most of us are tired of the prelude and want to get to see "the show" by now. We want to see Rudy Gobert getting blocks, Derrick Favors getting the rebound, head-manning the ball to one of our guards that results in a wing player scoring on the other end. We're seeing bits and pieces of what this team can do and want more, more, more!

Similarly, I can tell from the tone of the comments section that you all want more, more, more too! You all will have to be content with the content we have right now -- unless we expand our staff. So this is your chance to tell us what "more, more, more" do you want to see at this site. And also, if you want to raise your hand up an audition to be someone who makes "more, more, more" then don't be a stranger. Drop me a line -- I'm easy to find.

I do know that there have been MANY people who have offered to help back when things were running much more smoothly. We were not accepting new people then. We are now. And I hope that your enthusiasm back then for producing online content is the same today.

I want to do "more, more, more" for this site. And a big part of that is something I've been avoiding -- asking for help. I'm asking for it now.

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There has been some crazy NBA news the last few days. Where to begin? Oh, how about the San Antonio Spurs losing to the Charlotte Bobcats, er, Charlotte Hornets?

It's nice that the Utah Jazz are somewhat still historically in the news now and then. Karl Malone was bought up thanks to Dirk Nowitzki 's big night (where sadly, the Mavericks did okay).

Former Jazzman point guard Deron Williams also gets a mention for that same game.

Last night was the last time we'll see (if you watched) Kobe Bryant go up against Vince Carter. The Los Angeles Lakers somehow won.

Speaking of LA, that's where the 2018 All-Star Game is going to be. How many years now has it been since it was in the Bee-Hive state?

Sacramento Kings bigman / big headache DeMarcus Cousins was being his surly self after this game against the New York Knicks . . . how is this even allowed? Not by NBA rules, but human decency?

And worst news is that longtime reporter / in-studio / sideline God, TNT's Craig Sager, does not appear to be long for this terrible, terrible world.

As far as news goes, this one is a punch right into our collective guts. Cancer sucks. We all know that. Instead let's focus on some good news. And we've seen this before but not enough press is surrounding Utah Jazz back bencher Smitty and this great news story:

This stuff like this that makes you realize that beyond barriers and even the limitations of language, there is still a purity in sport that brings us together and gives us something to be happy about. Thank you! It's refreshing and almost new to feel good after all the bad that we're exposed to.

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You know what *isn't* new at all? People making fun of the Utah Jazz for the dumbest of things. I found this article online and had to read it because it deals with my team. I'm going to tell you all right now that there's no point in reading it.

It documents a New Orleans Pelicans season ticket holder and his experience sitting behind the opposing team's bench. In this installment he talks about how un-fun the Utah Jazz are. I guess that makes sense -- because they chose to ignore his antics. But like all great comedians (this dude calls himself one) he blames his audience for his inability to get any laughs. The only real insight given to the reader is that head coach Quin Snyder is intense and very focused in time outs. That's a great change for this franchise that used to rely on their then injured starting point guard (Mo Williams) to even call time outs and make offense / defense substitutions.

If you don't have enough things to do today you can check out the article -- it's not that long. And hey, it's been a while since people have made fun of the team we love. (Btw, how's the season going, New Orleans? As good as ever this year, huh? A crappy team in the doldrums.)

All that said, after looking into it it's true that the Jazz are unpopular, I just don't see why you want to make fun of them for that. Online Utah isn't much of a draw -- ranking 30th out of all NBA teams for number of official account Facebook likes and 30th in Twitter follows. This unpopularity translates onto the floor where they draw just 17,400 people to their road games (Though, that's good enough for 23rd and better than the Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, and Toronto Raptors.)

But it's kind of tired at this point. It seems like it's the same three or four jokes about the "Utah" Jazz that are parroted around, the fact that there's no "Jazz" in Utah, the demographics of Utah, how players don't want to play there, and how generally uncool they are. (Thanks in part to their broadcast team, now in the NBA League Pass era.)

I understand that playing slowly and with a focus on defense you're not going to get the same number of fans of teams where they play quickly enough that triple doubles are falling from the sky. But unless the fundamental rules of the game have changed (and maybe they have thanks to Stephen Curry) you're still going to win more games than not by focusing on the fundamentals. Better to look a loser on the court than to be one in the standings.

How you doin', New Orleans? If you look at the data, the Pelicans aren't looking that good.

Utah plays defense and wins games, even if their offensive efficiency isn't so hot. This graphic is almost a week old now, but the Jazz keep rolling. They are now Top 10 in DRTG (104.6 points given up in 100.0 possessions). And they are 14th in ORTG (106.0 / 100.0). If you add it up it's a positive margin. You don't get a positive margin when you look at the Pelicans -- 105.7 ORTG and 109.1 DRTG.

I'm not going to beat up on New Orleans much more, injuries already have done that. They tried to with the Jazz this year -- playing the entire season without their starting point guard Dante Exum, missing most of the season without Alec Burks, and 2/3rds of the season without both their starting bigmen . . . but Utah will prevail and make the playoffs.

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You know who's shooting well this season? It is Steph Curry. He's such an outlier that statistically we shouldn't even include him anymore.

DB 1875 - Utah Jazz Shooting

If you just look at the Utah Jazz this chat shows only seven players: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Raul Neto, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, and Chris Johnson. And between the two axis of USG% and TS% the eye-ball test really tells the tale that the numbers confirm.

  • Above Average USG% + Above Average TS%: Gordon, Derrick
  • Above Average USG% + Below Average TS%: Trey
  • Below Average USG% + Above Average TS%: Rudy, Joe, Raul
  • Below Average USG% + Below Average TS%: Christapher

Using my own investigative skills (and knowing that the approx averages are 19 and change USG% and around 53 TS%), we can categorize the rest of the team -- even if they don't meet the minimum requirements for this season.

  • Above Average USG% + Above Average TS%: Shelvin Mack (.230 / .530), Rodney Hood (.217 / .542)
  • Above Average USG% + Below Average TS%: Alec Burks (.264 / .518),
  • Below Average USG% + Above Average TS%: Jeff Withey (.152 / .573)
  • Below Average USG% + Below Average TS%: Tibor Pleiss (.190 / .464), Trey Lyles (.165 / .512), Trevor Booker (.144 / .517)

For me the biggest surprise has to be Shelvin's absolute domination in shooting the ball since coming to the Jazz. If you look at threes, with our squad he's making .458, where as earlier this season it was only .148 with the Hawks. For his career he clocks in a .331, and his time with Utah is a huge outlier compared to his other NBA stops (Philly .000, Washington .291, Atlanta .322). He has a career TS% of .501, and is shooting at .530 over these last 16 games. And I guess that's really it, what's the deal with this sample size? 16 games. 481 minutes. He has played in over 250 games for his NBA career, and over 4000 minutes.

If he is somehow amazing at shooting now in his 5th year in the league I accept it. If he continues to shoot us into the playoffs, I accept that too. It's going to be a fun ride while it lasts -- even if he never makes people forget about Steph Curry.

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Oh, I almost forgot. There's a pretty big game tonight between the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets. It's not for all of the marbles, but it's for a lot between these two teams that are 0.5 games apart in the Western Conference standings. A Jazz win gives them the 0.5 lead with about 10 games to go, and it gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker. Houston played last night (and got a four point loss for their efforts thanks to the Oklahoma City Thunder), while playing their big name players a lot:

Those are four guys who played about three entire quarters of action last night -- or more. I don't know if Jason Terry, Michael Beasley, Clint Capela, Corey Brewer, and Donatas Motiejunas are going to kill us tonight. But I'd rather Houston be tired on the second night of a back to back than be ready for us. They stole a game in Utah earlier this season because they got away with some non-calls. Tonight the Jazz have to steal a game back.

I think they will. Do you?