Nba nerd

Were We Wrong About the Jazz?

On the opening day of the season, I said we'd be wrong a lot. It's still a bit early, but so far it looks we have at least one prime candidate: the Jazz. We thought they'd be a .500 team, but seven games in, they have yet to win a game. Again, it's early, but I'd like to examine what's going on with the Jazz, to see if we can figure out what we got so wrong.

Looking through the first 7 games, I see four factors in the Jazz' poor start relative to our projections:

  • We thought the two big men Favors and Kanter were good, and would get better. Instead, both have been pretty bad.
  • We didn't think Richard Jefferson would be exactly good, but a) we were hoping for better than this and b) we were hoping he'd play less
  • We thought Brandon Rush would play.
  • We thought the days of Jeremy Evans getting an endless string of DNPCD's would end.

The first point is important. Despite all you hear about "small ball", it's really hard to compete in the NBA when your front line underperforms. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have, so far in 2013, been awful:

  POS Min WP48 PoP48 Wins PTS DRB ORB REB AST TO BLK STL PF
Favors PF 1787 .155 1.7 5.8 19.5 9.7 4.9 14.7 2.0 3.5 3.5 1.8 6.6
Favors PF 237 .039 -1.9 0.2 17.0 9.5 4.1 13.6 2.8 4.5 2.0 1.4 5.5
Kanter C 1078 .100 0.0 2.2 22.5 7.5 6.0 13.5 1.4 4.5 1.4 1.2 5.2
Kanter C 239 .076 -0.7 0.4 23.1 4.4 6.4 10.8 1.8 3.2 0.8 0.2 4.2
Average PF PF 269 .099 0.0 0.6 20.1 8.1 3.6 11.7 2.6 2.5 1.3 1.3 4.5
Average C C 191 .099 0.0 0.4 18.0 9.0 4.3 13.3 2.3 2.7 2.3 1.2 5.0

Kanter has shot the ball well, but his rebounds, blocks, and steals are all much lower than last year. But Favors' dropoff is far more noticable. More turnovers, fewer blocks, fewer rebounds, fewer steals, and most importantly, awful shooting. It's not shown in this table, but Favors is shooting a horrific 47.3% true shooting. Much has been made of Favors' offensive limitations, but last year he converted at least at an average rate.

When your center doesn't rebound or defend well and your power forward doesn't hit any of his shots, you're not going to win a lot of games.

But if that were the extent of their problems, the Jazz would have likely eeked out a couple of wins by now. It's actually been much worse. The guard and wing play has been another sore spot for the Jazz. Gordon Hayward has played like the emerging star I thought he would be, and Mike Harris is a surprise, but beyond that, their wings have been nothing short of  awful:

  POS Min WP48 PoP48 Wins PTS DRB ORB REB AST TO BLK STL PF
Harris SF 108 .128 0.9 0.3 16.9 4.9 3.1 8.0 1.8 3.1 1.3 3.1 8.4
Burks SG 199 .030 -2.1 0.1 24.6 3.9 1.9 5.8 4.3 4.6 0.2 2.7 3.6
Lucas PG 192 -.026 -3.9 -0.1 12.2 2.8 1.2 4.0 3.8 2.0 0.0 1.0 2.5
Tinsley PG 98 -.090 -5.9 -0.2 4.4 3.9 1.0 4.9 9.8 3.9 0.0 1.0 4.9
Jefferson SG/SF 177 -.112 -6.5 -0.4 17.4 4.3 1.1 5.4 1.9 3.5 0.5 1.9 4.6
Average SG SG 124 .099 0.0 0.3 22.5 4.6 0.8 5.4 3.9 2.7 0.4 1.5 3.1
Average SF SF 122 .099 0.0 0.3 18.9 5.9 1.6 7.5 3.5 2.8 0.4 1.6 3.9
Average PG PG 110 .099 0.0 0.2 20.1 3.9 0.9 4.8 7.9 3.5 5.8 1.7 3.9

Which leads me to the obvious question: why the hell does Jefferson have so many minutes, while Brandon Rush and Jeremy Evans have so few? Wait, let me rephrase: why the hell is Richard Jefferson playing at all? I think it should be obvious to everyone that Richard Jefferson is not a part of the Jazz' long-term master plan. And he sure as hell isn't playing so much because of his 44% true shooting, his anemic assist rate, high turnover rate, or high foul rate. The fact that he gets so much burn is a complete mystery to me.

Jeremy Evans, on the other hand, should  be a part of their long-term plans. He's currently listed as day-to-day with a sprained shoulder but frankly I am not certain he will play much even when he's healthy. The Jazz' historical treatment of Evans is a bit of a mystery to me.

In limited minutes, he's played like a superstar. Now, that doesn't mean he is a superstar, of course, but it does mean that he should be probably given an opportunity to play more minutes. Instead, Ty Corbin has spent years pretending that Evans isn't even on his bench. But the big mystery to me wasn't that Corbin never played Evans (I think this is adequately explained by Hanlon's Razor). No, the real mystery is: if the Jazz have so little regard for Evans that they don't think he's worth an 8th man role, then why did they re-sign him?

I realize, by the way, that Evans is not a great outside shooter. But he looks like he is really great at everything else. Basketball is a game of roles. We're talking about 10-15 minutes a game. No one is suggesting he should start. (Editor Dre: But he's on my winscore league fantasy team!).

No one but Dre is suggesting he should start.

And then we have Brandon Rush. He was healthy enough to log 10 minutes in a recent game. Where has he been since? Utah is shooting 23.7% from beyond the arc so far (for reference, the worst season of all time was about 29%). It seems like a team shooting this poorly from beyond the arc should find 20+ minutes a game for a guy with a career 41.6% 3PFG%. Maybe he's not in great game shape. But neither is Richard Jefferson.

Despite it all, I am still optimistic about the over (25 wins) this season; it's very unlikely that Favors will continue to stink it up this badly, it's nigh impossible that the Jazz will continue to shoot this poorly from beyond the arc (I have 30 years of history telling me they'll shoot at least 30%), and there is every possibilty that Ty Corbin will be gone soon, perhaps to be replaced by a coach who prefers to give playing time to guys who aren't 85 years old and on expiring contracts. The 42 wins we were looking at, though? I'll take the under.

What say you Jazz fans? What else have we missed?

I had them 37 wins so I wasn't "as high" as the preview. FREE EVANS!!!
Riggin for Wiggins
I think it is likely that the lack of an NBA-quality point guard is hurting Kanter and Favors. These are guys who need a decent PG to allow them to be effective on the offensive end.
I'm going to point here:
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865590169/Utah-Jazz-Good-news-on-injury-front-as-Brandon-Rush-Marvin-Williams-to-return.html
and say,so far, the Jazz have the inherited the injury conch from Minnesota
Selecting a random year (2002-2003), Denver was on the bottom of the league at 28% three point shooting.
I agree with Al_S in that the lack of a decent point guard has hurt both Favors and Kanter. If you watch a game, you'll notice that they never get the ball deep in the paint. This isn't only because Favors and Kanter can't get position, but it's also because there isn't a player who can help them out with a good entry pass.
Brandon Rush didn't work out in practice until after the season started. He's not in shape, but also, you never know how a knee is going to react to hard minutes after surgery. They're just being cautious. I see know indication that they're limiting his minutes because they don't think he's good enough to play.
Kevin,

Yeah, I goofed that one up -- for some reason I remember lots of articles on the Truehoop network last year on the topic of the Timberwolves flirting with "all-time worst" status.

Although, if you filter for >= 500 attempts, the worst all time is 27.2%. And in the modern game, every team does this (1994 was the last time a team shot fewer than 500 in a season).

So I still like the odds that Utah's shooting from downtown will go up.
I have a meta question here: what are, in WP48, the best and worst stretches for players over, say, an 8 game period (10% of a season). For example, did Beasley have an 8 game stretch last year that was at > .100 WP48, and did LeBron have an 8 game stretch at ~.100?

Is it possible to run numbers like that? It would put things like Favors' struggles into perspective.

When the old site with WP splits was up (Nerdnumbers?), I remember looking and Telfair had a stretch for the Suns, in a negative WP48 season, of > .150, so I know it is possible. But I have no feel for what is likely fluctuation, and what is regression/improvement.
When they brought back Jamal Tinsley, I just knew they were in trouble. At PG and SF, as well as the entire bench, they do not have NBA quality players. Maybe at one time they were (Jefferson, Tinsley) or in the future they might be (Gobert, Burks). But in the here and now this is a D-League roster. Rush was a throw in to match salaries, so I doubt he's going to bump Burks from the rotation even though he's light years better. The real improvement will have to come from Marvin Williams bumping Jefferson out of the starting lineup. They just don't have enough player who are positive contributors.

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