SC7: Bold Second Half Predictions, Mitchell’s Hype Train, Hot Rod & More

January 12th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

While Rubio gazes at the orange ball, we stare into the crystal one. (Rob Carr via


Halfway to what?

The Jazz have reached the midway point of 2017-18, but once again, a lack of health and continuity has robbed them of a clear sense of where their season is headed. At 17-24, they’re as close to the bottom of the Western Conference as they are to seventh-place Denver.

Today we dig into what Utah’s second half could look like. We’ll also talk about the rookie’s rise, a new set of stats, and much more in this weekly recap of all things Jazz.

Here we go…


A quick(ish) exploration of a prominent theme from the week or the current state of Utah Jazz basketball.

So what lies ahead for the 17-24 Jazz? Who knows?!

The Jazz are still devoid of an identity after 41 games, which one could posit is their identity. But there are some things we can still reasonably infer about the remaining part of the season, with varying levels of boldness.

Here are 16 prediction for Utah’s second half, starting with some tamer ones and working our way bolder as the list goes on.

  • Utah will perform better than their first-half record of 17-24. The schedule’s lightening up, Rudy Gobert will play more than 18 games in the second half, but mostly this prediction is based on the fact the the Jazz are not a <35-win team.
  • Utah will shatter the single-season franchise record for three-pointers made. The record, set last season, is 791. This year’s Jazz have already canned 453 threes. Joe Ingles will lead the way with around 200 triples.
  • The Jazz will not have a 2018 All-Star. As discussed last week, Donovan Mitchell’s chances are slim, and Rudy Gobert hasn’t played enough.
  • Gobert will be more offensively impactful in the second half than he was in his first 18 games. He’s currently sitting at 11.6 points, with the worst Offensive Box Plus-Minus since his rookie year. By season’s end, he’ll be back close to last year’s 14.0 scoring average.
  • Utah will finish above .500 against the East. They’re 8-10 right now, but they’re largely done with the East’s upper echelon. They still have to host the Magic, Knicks, Celtics and they still have to visit the Raptors. They have two games remaining against the Pistons, Hornets, Hawks and Pacers.
  • Mitchell will finish the season with at least 30 games of 20 points or more. Right now he has 16. I also predict he’ll have a 20-ppg average for at least one month of the season.
  • The Jazz will have at least one more win streak of five or more games. They won six straight from November 22 through December 4.
  • Mitchell will seriously challenge Ben Simmons for ROY, but not win. His scoring will help his candidacy pick up steam, but Simmons’ overall game and importance to a playoff-bound Sixers team will help him edge Mitchell. Boston’s Jayson Tatum will come in third. No other Jazz player or coach will finish in the top three for a major individual award.
  • Ricky Rubio will finish the season over 40 percent from the field. He’s at .398 right now, and since the Jazz seem committed to minimizing the minutes where he, Gobert and Derrick Favors all share the court, it will likely firm up the tiniest bit over the second half.
  • A Jazz assistant — most likely Igor Kokoskov — will be mentioned in a coaching search either during or just after the regular season. 
  • The Jazz defense will be in the top quarter of the league at year’s end. They’re tenth right now, but only a bucket or so per 100 possessions out of fourth place, with an All-Defensive first team center prepping for a comeback.
  • Utah will get back to .500. I don’t know if they’ll finish there, but at some point, Utah’s record will even off.
  • Dante Exum will play this year. This isn’t an exclusive, sourced report or even a rumor. It’s a guess. The Jazz need more info on Exum as they head toward his free agency this summer, and primarily they need a better sense of how he fits with the new core piece: Mitchell. The two young guards were beginning to build a fun chemistry in Summer League and then in training camp. But Utah will want to see if that holds up when it matters, so if Exum gets physically ready, they won’t hold him out.
  • Trade or no trade, Royce O’Neale will play more minutes than Alec Burks over the Jazz’s final 41. Quin Snyder already appears to be having something of a mental tug-of-war here. In several recent games, O’Neale has replaced Burks in the rotation after halftime, and then when the next game starts, Burks jumps up again to sub in for Joe Ingles. O’Neale is pushing the issue, though, and Burks looks tired.
  • At least two of Favors, Burks, Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood will be traded. This is among my bolder predictions, since it takes two to tango and all.
  • Someone not currently on the Jazz roster will start 15+ Jazz games this season. I don’t know if the Nikola Mirotic rumor will come to fruition or not — it probably depends on whether the Bulls hold firm on their demand for a first-rounder. But whether it’s this deal or another, I believe the Jazz will find a deal that produces a significant change in the rotation.

Feel free to add your bold (or not-so-bold) predictions in the comments.


Words from a Jazz player or coach about a relevant or timely topic.

The zeitgeist around rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell continues to grow, as the Jazz guard made a stop on SportsCenter this week to speak to anchor Scott Van Pelt. The four-minute conversation touched on Mitchell’s emergence, the parade of stars wanting to impart advice to the youngster, and of course his aspirations to participate in the dunk contest.

Here’s what Mitchell had to say about the moment when he knew he could hang with NBA stars.

“Once that game happened (the 41-point outburst vs. New Orleans), I took a [step] back and said, wow, I’m really doing this. You know, maybe I am as good as people say. No so much as getting cocky, more like a, ‘Wow, I’m really here, I can make my presence felt if I continue to work.'”

– Mitchell


A look at the Jazz’s postseason probabilities

The Jazz’s playoff odds are at a low point after going 4-13 over the last month and change. FiveThirtyEight has them at 37 percent to make it, while BPI has them at 24 percent and B-Ref at 26 percent.


Utah’s not yet out of it, though. Remember, those calculations are blind to the fact that Gobert is preparing to return, just in time for Utah to enter the far easier half of their schedule. The next seven games are huge, though: between now and January 24, the Jazz face seven straight teams with records below or right around .500. Detroit (22-18) is the best team they’ll face in that stretch. Utah needs to wake up on January 25 especially because they then end the month with the Raptors and Warriors, two of the league’s best, and then start February with a 4-game trip. Eesh.


Stats and figures that help tell prominent stories from the week.

Nylon Calculus is one of the smartest basketball analytics sites around, and when they introduce something new, erudite fans should take notice. This week, hoop-loving quant Jacob Goldstein unveiled his new Player Impact Plus-Minus, a new tool not too dissimilar from RPM or BPM. It attempts to both measure and predict an individual player’s impact by looking at his counting stats and on-off numbers.

The entire database is a Google Doc that you can mess around with. Here are some Jazz-related observations as of game 41:

  • The most impactful Jazz player on a per-possession basis might surprise you. Thabo Sefolosha makes the offense slightly better, but his impact on the defense makes him extremely valuable. PIPM estimates that he makes the Jazz 1.6 points better per 100 possessions.
  • Donovan Mitchell has played 50% more minutes than Thabo, so even though his per-possession number is lower, he has had the biggest impact on Utah’s win total, per PIPM Wins Added. The metric would suggest he is responsible for 2.68 Jazz wins. It’s remarkable that a rookie is leading the Jazz in overall impact. Jayson Tatum is the only NBA rookie with more total value added.
  • Derrick Favors is a close second at 2.44, and Joe Ingles rounds out the top four in wins added despite a slightly negative PIPM.
  • Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood both have negative impacts overall, per PIPM. For Rubio, it’s largely on the offensive end (-1.79), while Hood makes the Jazz defense 1.57 points looser per 100 possessions. Hood earned the title of “LVP” given to the player with the requisite minutes and games who had added the fewest wins.
  • Not surprisingly, Rudy Gobert has an elite impact on the defense. His offensive PIPM confirms what we saw in Gobert’s 18 games: that he’s still figuring out how to be as forceful on offense with Utah’s new personnel.
  • Goldstein also released a trade tool, where you can use PIPM to estimate the impact of a player swap. For example, according to his calculations, the rumored Favors-for-Nikola Mirotic trade Jazz fans have been discussing all week would lop a game off of Utah’s win total over the course of a whole season.


Utah’s PIPM stats at 17-24. (Source)


A quick dissection of an awesome bit of Jazz offense from the week.

I couldn’t decide between these two nice plays from Wednesday night, so you get a bonus 2-for-1 playbook section.

First, this nice set piece that the Jazz used to open the second half against the Wiz.

Jonas Jerebko atypically did most of his damage in Washington going toward the basket, diving into empty space.  On this one, the Jazz show horns, but then Jerebko instead flares to the perimeter. So far nothing uncommon, you literally see that action a dozen or so times in every Jazz game. But then the original handler, Rubio, cuts in on the left side, and the Wiz aren’t really sure what’s coming. John Wall appears as though he’s more concerned about Rubio using Jerebko as a down-screener, so he never really notices when instead the former screens for the latter.

The best part of this play is Joe Ingles, parked in the right corner and blatantly using the opportunity to rest. He has his hands on his knees, just hanging out, and as soon as he sees Jerebko round the corner on the Rubio screen, he starts running back. Hilarious.

Then there was this one, the Jazz’s go-ahead bucket off a faked P&R:

The Jazz fake the pick-and-roll a lot, and here it looks like Jingles is going to screen for a right-handed drive by Mitchell. But he never actually sets the pick.

What makes the play work, though, is something heady that Mitchell does. Instead of continuing to go right around the non-existent pick, he veers left, into Joe’s defender. This forces Kelly Oubre to help for a half second, and that gives Jingles the daylight he needs to get the shot off and bury the eventual game-winner.


Doling out credit for Jazz wins, one imaginary Spalding at a time.

The Jazz are 1-1 since we last met, so let’s dole out some recognition in the form of a shiny game ball.

Jazz 107, Wizards 104: Ekpe Udoh

If this were purely given out based on who was a particular game’s MVP, Ricky Rubio (21 points, three triples, 53 percent shooting) might have just edged Udoh. But narrative points have to be weighed in, and Udoh’s heroism mattered on a night when he was the only true big man available, thanks to Gobert’s and Favors’ injuries. The center has had better defensive nights (114 DRtg, 6-for-10 rim defense), but gave the Jazz what they needed to sneak one from the Wiz. His 16-and-9 line basically filled the Favors void, and his five offensive boards and four steals are a big part of the reason Utah took 14 more shots than Washington He also blocked both John Wall and Bradley Beal. Royce O’Neale was another candidate here, with 4-for-4 shooting and game-shifting defense.


Because, at the end of the day, this should be fun.

Hot Rod Hundley’s was the voice that brought basketball to life in the Beehive State.

He had more personality than could seemingly fit in his 6’4″ frame, and it came bubbling out every time he played or called a game, or even sauntered down the Delta Center halls.

That’s why I can’t wait for the coming documentary about his unique style, unrivaled personality and tumultuous life. Outside of my dad, brother and a pair of Hall of Famers, I can’t think of anybody who influenced my own love of basketball as much as Hundley. It was my privilege later on to sit around the media dining table to hear his stories, or to work in a press room that bears his name.

Not a ton is known about the movie yet, other than that it was apparently produced by West Virginia University announcer Tony Caridi and that it will be out this spring. Caridi also apparently screened the movie for legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan last fall.

Take my money now.

Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton


  1. Pingback: SC7: A 38-Game Season, Trade Season Looms, Mitchell for ROY & More | Salt City Hoops

  2. Pingback: Weekly Q&A: Hood Rumors, Kemba Talk & More As Jazz Approach Deadline | Salt City Hoops

  3. Pingback: SC7: The Still-Somehow-Criminally-Underestimated Joe Ingles + Six Other Jazz Topics | Salt City Hoops

  4. Pingback: Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive | Salt City Hoops

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *