by Geoff Beckstrom, special to Salt City Hoops
After 22 games and essentially one-fourth of the way through the schedule, let’s take a look at total win projections—first from a pure numbers standpoint and then from a softer analytical approach:
At 10-10, before the nice wins against the Raptors and Lakers, the Jazz’ win percentage was .500, which projects to a final record of 41-41. However, we all know the Jazz have had a road-heavy schedule so far—with a road/home split of 12/8. The Jazz were 3-9 on the road and 7-1 at home. We can project a final win total from this by projecting final road and home records based on current winning percentage, which predicts final records of 10-31 Road and 36-5 Home, for a final record of 46-36.
Next we can use the Pythagorean Expectation to take point differential and project a final win percentage. After 22 games, the Jazz average 101.3 pts per game and give up 99.3 pts per game. Here’s the formula:
Plugging in those numbers gives a .569 win percentage or a predicted record at 22 games of 12.5-9.5 and over 82 games of 46.6-35.4.
So the pure numbers give us an expected win range of 41-46.
Now for the more soft approach. Here’s a complete Google Doc spreadsheet for those interested.
Looking back at the first 20 games, there is a mixture of positive and negative news, as one would expect with a 10-10 record. It is hard to point to a really good win for the Jazz. Every quality team the Jazz beat comes with a bit of an asterisk. Dallas and Denver were both playing on the end of a back-to-back travelling into SLC. Even with fun wins over the Lakers, the Jazz still have 12 wins over mostly lottery-bound teams.
On the flip side, the Jazz do not have a single quality win on the road and a couple of really bad road losses in New Orleans and Sacramento—and have been blown out in Oklahoma City, Denver and San Antonio. Finally, this team has a number of near misses in Philadelphia, Boston, Memphis, and of course the game Bavetta gift-wrapped for the Clippers.
The key that I mentioned at the beginning of the year is to get to Game 39 as close to .500 as possible—having played 9 more road games than home games. A 20-19 record at that point would be a +10 Road Win to Home Loss differential, on pace for a 50-win season.
The problem is that the next 19 games will be more difficult than the first 20, including losable home games vs.:
Also looming is a very tough road schedule including the upcoming East swing in Brooklyn, Indiana, Miami and Orlando over 6 days leading into Christmas. You could see this team at a 16-23 record and yet still be on pace for 40-44 wins and in contention for one of the final playoff seeds.
The first 20 games have been well-described by many as average—and even to a certain degree boring. Games 21 and 22 featured a team we hadn’t really seen this year, an exciting display of sharing the ball on the way to blowing out an inferior team at home and putting the foot to the throat on a struggling Laker team on the road in LA. Unless that team is here to stay, there are plenty of reasons to expect somewhere between 41 and 45 victories and a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. As a fan, I hope we’re seeing the team make the jump to a higher (and more entertaining) level of play and a realistic shot at a push towards 50 wins.