Hollinger’s numbers start to tell good things about the Jazz

January 19th, 2012 | by Spencer Hall

Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

After roundly (and well-deservedly) lambasting the Jazz early in the season for terrible play, ESPN’s John Hollinger takes a deeper look into his statistical crystal ball and reveals some good trends for Utah this season. The entire story is only available to Insider subscribers, but here are a few points:

Hollinger points out that Paul Millsap is playing like he’s from another planet. His production levels and PER are putting him in MVP territory. But even the most optimistic fan has to expect that will even out a bit as the season moves on. But I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Here’s Hollinger:

…Even with a fairly substantial regression from Millsap and an injury rate somewhere above zero, the Jazz look like legitimate playoff contenders. We don’t know yet whether they’ll make it, partly because we don’t know how high the bar will be — it’s plausible that it will require 36 or 37 wins just to grab the No. 8 seed, and if that’s the case Utah could play quite well and still fall short.

But the Jazz will be around, for a couple of reasons. For starters, their depth is an underrated advantage, one that will pay dividends if, and when, injuries do hit. Eleven players have seen more than a hundred minutes, and of those only one — shooting guard Raja Bell — has a single-digit PER. Conversely, Al Jefferson is the only player averaging more than 30 minutes a game, which means the schedule shouldn’t grind the Jazz down the way it will some other teams.

Hollinger goes on to talk about depth and non-fluky play being good indicators that the Jazz are for real. Then there’s this:

The only major concern for Utah is on the defensive end. The Jazz are 10th in Efficiency, but they’re emulating the Sloan era tactic of fouling the bejeezus out of everybody. Utah is 28th in opponent free throw attempts per field goal attempt, which has been the team’s Achilles’ heel for the past decade [...]

Of course, all this somewhat misses the point. The biggest reason to be excited about Utah’s start isn’t because of what it portends for this season, but because of what it means for their future. With quality young players like Hayward, Kanter, Favors and Alec Burks already making contributions, and two frontcourt linchpins — both of whom are just hitting their prime as players — Utah is set up to be a force for years to come. They may also be getting a lottery pick form Golden State to augment the roster next year; it’s top-seven-protected and the Warriors own the league’s ninth-worst record at the moment.

Overall, I like what I’m seeing from the Jazz. The most difficult trick in front-officery is to remain competitive while rebuilding and the Jazz are doing exactly that. The team might struggle a bit in the later stages of the season when the schedule reverses that the road beckons, but there’s no denying the mental advantage for a young team to get some wins early and build an identity.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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3 Comments

  1. jacksonTheAggie says:

    I think that amount of wins required to make the playoffs will change because Jazz are changing the dynamic of the West. They are beating teams they are not supposed to beat and transforming the West. BooYa Jazz

  2. Bloodshy says:

    jacksonTheAggie,

    Well, so far they’re 2-4 against teams that were “supposed” to beat them and they’re perfect against teams they were supposed to beat. And one of their “unexpected” wins came against a Clips team that was missing CP3. I’m not selling the Jazz short. I’m just being a realist. It’s clear that the Jazz are in the top half of the NBA, but it’s not yet certain where they fit into that picture. They could be top 5 or a 10-15 team at this point. We’ll know more at the end of February (a much more difficult schedule than January).

  3. John says:

    Of course..we also may not have a first round pick at all this year….so that could be a killer for a team that isn’t going to get any help from free agency.

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