BoxScore Geeks' 2014 Utah Jazz Preview

The Numbers

  •  Average Seed
  • 📉 Pessimist
    21.5 wins
  •  Realist
    29.3 wins
  • 📈 Optimist
    37.0 wins
 First Seed
⋆ Division
 Top 4
👍 Over (25.5)
ğŸ‘Ž Under (25.5)
ğŸŽ€ Playoffs

The Brief

Last year, I was pretty high on the Jazz. That turned out to be a mistake. Across the board, their young players failed to make any big leaps from the prior year, while the veterans started the year shooting at historically horrific rates from beyond the arc. The offseason was not particularly promising for the Jazz, and I expect another season of disappointment ahead. Furthermore, the Jazz's financial decisions make it hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

The Story

Last year's story was pretty simple: the Jazz had a core of 4 young players that needed to improve: Kanter, Hayward, Favors, and Burks. None of them did. In fact, in a rather amazing parlay, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter all had worse seasons than 2012-2013. Compounding this, Trey Burke was a disappointing rookie, and Burke's backups were J.J. Barea's competitors for the dubious honor of "worst point guard in the league." 

Last Year

  •  Actual Wins: 25
  •  Expected Wins: 22.3
  • ⚅ Lucky Wins: 1.2
Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Gordon Hayward 2,800 24 0.117 6.8
Trey Burke 2,262 21 -0.016 -0.8
Richard Jefferson  2,213 34 0.050 2.3
Derrick Favors 2,201 23 0.121 5.5
Alec Burks 2,193 23 0.069 3.2
Enes Kanter 2,138 22 -0.006 -0.3
Marvin Williams  1,674 28 0.072 2.5
Jeremy Evans 1,209 26 0.167 4.2
Diante Garrett  1,048 25 -0.017 -0.4
John Lucas III 591 31 -0.137 -1.7
Rudy Gobert 434 22 0.138 1.2
Brandon Rush  418 29 -0.033 -0.3
Mike Harris 225 31 0.138 0.6
Ian Clark 172 23 -0.087 -0.3
Jamaal Tinsley 110 36 -0.127 -0.3
Malcolm Thomas 48 25 -0.094 -.01
Andris Biedrins 45 28 0.019 0

 Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.

  • 22.3 total Wins Produced
  •  4 players leaving
    (5,353 minutes, 4.2 wins)

Players tend to improve until they peak at around the age of 26. This trend is neither linear nor entirely predictable, but to have a collection of four players between 21 and 24 where none of them improves and three get worse...well, that's just bad luck. Trey Burke was a promising NCAA prospect but disappointed with his very inefficient shooting and subpar defensive stats (one steal per 48 minutes is very low for a point guard). Still, Burke has potential to improve -- his assist to turnover ratio was very promising for a rookie, and his low foul rate was also impressive (something that rookies traditionally have problems with).

Jeremy Evans finally cracked the 1000 minute barrier. Unsurprisingly he was still really good at the things he did in limited minutes the prior three years: rebounding, blocking shots, and converting under the basket. He remains one of the best bargains in the league.

The teams veterans offered no real surprises; none of them figured into the Jazz' long term plans anyway.

This Year

  •  Projected Wins: 29.3
  •  Conference Rank: 15
  • % Playoffs: 2.9
Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Gordon Hayward 3.0 2,245.9 25 0.096 4.5
Trey Burke 1.0 2,134.3 22 0.035 1.5
Derrick Favors 4.0 2,047.6 24 0.114 4.9
Alec Burks 2.0 2,018.4 24 0.078 3.3
Enes Kanter 5.0 1,939.5 23 0.010 0.4
Trevor Booker  4.0 1,542.9 27 0.140 4.5
Dante Exum  1.0 1,440.9 0 0.072 2.2
Rodney Hood  3.0 1,244.2 0 -0.023 -0.6
Rudy Gobert 5.0 1,179.5 23 0.074 1.8
Ian Clark 2.0 1,093.6 24 0.088 2.0
Steve Novak  3.5 888.8 32 0.053 1.0
Jeremy Evans 3.5 829.4 27 0.119 2.1
Toure' Murry  2.0 553.9 25 0.017 0.2
Carrick Felix  2.5 521.2 24 0.110 1.2

 Indicates that the player is new to the team.

  • 📅 23.5 WP last year
    by these players
  • 🔀 4.5 WP (roster changes)
  • ⏲ 2.4 WP (age/experience)

We look for improvement from young players, but after about three to four years, players generally are who they are. It is always possible that one of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, or Alec Burks makes a giant leap this year. However, it isn't an outcome I would bet money on, and thus, the over doesn't look like a great deal for this team (NOTE: the over moved up to 26.5 after our numbers were crunched).

Things aren't completely bleak. Dante Exum looks pretty good in the limited minutes we've seen, and we have him rated as an above-average rookie (average WP48 for rookies is .050). Trey Burke will very likely improve this year, and it's very hard to guess production leaps in players that young. And, as always, Utah has one of the biggest home court advantages in sports, always good for a few surprise wins.

What would worry me as a Jazz fan are the team's financial decisions. The max contract for Gordon Hayward is scary; Hayward is good, not great, and isn't even the team's best player. The rumors that Alec Burks and Enes Kanter will get extensions are even scarier. These players are exactly the type of players that rebuilding teams should just cut loose and move on from. They didn't blossom into stars, and their production is easily replaceable. Three marginal wins per player just aren't worth paying for when you are a 25-30 win team. It would be wiser for them to use roster spots on other players and have salary cap flexibility.

Jazz fans like to play the "small market" card and claim that it is hard to find free agents, so the Jazz must pay a premium. Even if that's true, these are not the types of players management should be targetting and paying. They are little more than warm bodies, and after four years, players are more or less who you think they are. One of them *might* make a surprising big leap, but it just isn't likely.

The Wrap

The Jazz look primed to muddle their way to 25-30 wins once again. . Because of their very strong homecourt advantage, it's hard to envision outcomes worse than that. If Exum is a surprise rookie of the year candidate us and Burke makes a huge leap, then they may make some noise, but that's a best-case scenario.

The management's long-term financial decision have the potential to doom the franchise to mediocrity for a few years. Jazz fans should cross their fingers and hope that management finds a way to deal Burks or Kanter, or at least just let them go after the year is up.