Thursday, December 16, 2010

Utah Jazz Off to Strong 18-8 Start

Utah started the 2010-11 NBA season by stumbling out of the gates.  They lost three of their first five games.  Then the Jazz beat the Clippers in overtime and tore through the Southeast Division, beating the Heat, Magic, Hawks and Bobcats on the road.  Since then they've been mostly steady, although they've lost at home four times in that stretch of 16 games.

What do the stats tell us about the Jazz in the first 26 games?  Let's take a look.

But before we do, I projected that the Jazz would finish the season with a 49-33 record.

Photo source: Argyleist

Team Stats

Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions): 110.1 (7th in the NBA) [110.7 in 2009]
Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 105.7 (12th) [105.0 in 2009]
Rating Differential: 4.4 [5.7 in 2009]
Points Scored per Game: 101.3 (10th) [104.2 in 2009]
Points Allowed per Game: 97.3 (13th) [98.9 in 2009]
Pace (possessions per game): 90.9 (22nd) [93.8 in 2009]

Player Stats
(in order of minutes played)

Deron Williams
Offensive Rating: 120 (116 in 2009)
Defensive Rating: 108 (107)
PER: 24.9 (20.6)

Al Jefferson
Offensive Rating: 108 (106)
Defensive Rating: 104 (108)
PER: 17.3 (19.0)

Paul Millsap
Offensive Rating: 120 (113)
Defensive Rating: 103 (103)
PER: 21.4 (16.7)

Andrei Kirilenko
Offensive Rating: 110 (117)
Defensive Rating: 106 (103)
PER: 15.1 (18.2)

Raja Bell
Offensive Rating: 107 (116)
Defensive Rating: 109 (107)
PER: 9.1 (13.8)

C.J. Miles
Offensive Rating: 103 (100)
Defensive Rating: 106 (107)
PER: 15.5 (10.8)

Earl Watson
Offensive Rating: 100 (100)
Defensive Rating: 106 (108)
PER: 10.6 (10.9)

Ronnie Price
Offensive Rating: 90 (98)
Defensive Rating: 106 (106)
PER: 7.6 (10.3)

Francisco Elson
Offensive Rating: 109 (90)
Defensive Rating: 105 (107)
PER: 11.1 (5.5)

Gordon Hayward
Offensive Rating: 80 (Rookie)
Defensive Rating: 110
PER: 2.5

Kyrylo Fesenko
Offensive Rating: 94 (100)
Defensive Rating: 106 (105)
PER: 6.4 (9.7)

The most interesting thing about the team statistics for the Jazz is the difference in their pace.  They are averaging nearly three fewer possessions per game so far this season when compared to 2009-10.  As a team they shot spectacularly last year - 49.0%, tied for first in the NBA.  They've dropped some in 2010 to 46.9% but that's still good for sixth in the NBA.  Much of that drop off can be attributed to three-point shooting where they are at 34.4%, down from 36.5% last season.  Another area where Utah is lagging from last season is defensive rebounds.  In 2009-10 the Jazz pulled down 75.1% of all the rebounds available to them when they were on defense.  Through the first 26 games of this season they are only grabbing 69.9% of those boards, 26th in the NBA.  On the positive side - they are second in both assists per game and turnovers per game.

There's no doubt that Williams is Utah's leader.  He's having the most effective season of his career and currently ranks fifth in the NBA in PER.  He's scoring more per 36 minutes (21.7) than he ever has while also posting the highest True Shooting Percentage of his career.

Jefferson is still adjusting to Utah after coming over in a trade from Minnesota.  His PER is down 1.7 points and he's shooting a career worst 46.9%.  He's also averaging a career worst 8.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.  Positively, he's averaging a career best 1.2 turnovers per 36 minutes.

He's always been a productive player, but Millsap has been even more effective this season, posting a career high 21.4 PER.  He's shooting better than he ever has from the field (55.0%) and free throw line (72.5%).  Like Jefferson though, he is averaging a career low in rebounds per 36 minutes (8.2).

After an outstanding 2009-10 (he finished third in my NBA Small Forward Rankings), Kirilenko has fallen off through the first 26 games.  His PER is down 3.1 points to 15.1.  He's shooting a career high 40.0% from behind the arc but a career low 43.7% overall.  He's averaging career lows in steals (1.2) and blocks (1.3) per 36 minutes and a near career low in rebounds (5.6).

Utah liked Bell for his defense and three-point shooting.  But after a career high PER in 2009-10 he's putting up his lowest PER in eight years.  Impressively, coming into this season Bell had shot better than 40% from behind the arc in seven of the last eight seasons.  He's shooting just 36.2% through 26 games. 

The story with Miles is nearly the opposite of Bell's.  He's bounced back from a bad 2009-10 and improved his PER by 4.7 points to 15.5.  He still has a negative rating differential but has contributed in all areas of statistically.

Beyond Miles the Jazz have been playing a lot of guys off the bench.  The reason so many guys are getting time is probably because none of them has been very effective.  With a PER of 11.1, Elson has been the most productive.  He's shooting a career best 53.2% from the field.  Watson is giving Utah nearly exactly what they should have expected as most of his numbers are right around his career averages.  Price has a career low 7.6 PER.  His assist rate is way down but his steal rate is up.  Fesenko has been their best rebounder.  Hayward is struggling to find his NBA game. 

The Jazz currently have a 69.2 winning percentage, which if maintainted will be their best in more than 10 seasons.  They have been very successful in the first quarter of the season without Mehmet Okur touching the floor.  His return should help improve Utah's ability to hit the three but it won't give a big boost to their rebounding.  Those are the two areas the Jazz need to reinforce in order to make a strong playoff run.  They would also be helped a great deal by Kirilenko returning to his highly productive form of last season.

What are your thoughts on the Jazz through 26 games?  Post a comment below and let's discuss.

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