Going straight to the source for insights on the Jazz.
Today’s Salt City Hoops analysis comes straight from the Jazz themselves.
Well, sort of.
For a change, we’re going to take the players’ word for things and analyze a couple relevant topics through the lens of some of Jazz Nation’s favorite youngsters. We’ll hear what they have to say and react with some analysis.
Derrick Favors on his defense
Yessir! (When asked if he’s still on the top of the Jazz’s proprietary defensive ranking system.) I take my defense very personal… If my guy score on me 2 or 3 times, I tell coach, ‘Don’t switch me off of him, let me guard him. He ain’t gonna score no more.’
This whole interview was interesting to me because it displayed a level of personality and confidence you don’t get out of Derrick in every interview. It makes me think there’s a chance we have gotten the seemingly stoic Favors terribly wrong. But this quote in particular was interesting because another topic that’s been coming up a lot lately is “what’s wrong with Derrick’s defense?”
The answer, according to both Favors and the Jazz rating system? Not much.
Quick note on the Jazz’s system. It is largely behavior-based and not outcome-based. If you do the right things on the play but guys still score on you, you can still grade out pretty well. But I don’t think that’s what is happening.
The other difference between the Jazz’s own defense grade-outs and, say, Synergy, is that the person assigning Favors a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the play knows what his assignment looked like within the Jazz’s scheme. Synergy has to make a sometimes arbitrary decision on how to classify the play type as well as which defender the stop or score belongs to.
But since we don’t have access to the Jazz’s rating, let’s evaluate the question through the lens of Synergy. Honestly, his overall Synergy rating1 is based on some pretty wonky samples. He only has a large enough sample to have a category ranking in four play types, and he only has 435 assigned plays total. I think we all can agree that Favors has a role in more than 7 defensive plays per game. That the number is so low alone indicates that he’s not getting credit for all the of plays that he impacts — only those where Synergy’s rules, which are completely agnostic to the Jazz defensive system, say he responsible for the outcome.
He rates as very good to elite in three of the four categories he ranks in, and rates slightly above average in the other (post-up, his most frequent defensive play category), and yet is a below average defender overall per their definition.
Again: wonky. SportVu cameras tell us that Favors defends more than 8 attempts per game just at the rim, to say nothing of everywhere else on the floor, so Synergy probably shouldn’t be trusted for evaluated him based on a selective memory of 7 total defensive plays per game. And since nbawowy.com gives us some other ways to articulate his defensive value, it’s also worth mentioning that with Favors on the floor, the defense is 1.5 points stingier per 100 possessions.
In short, we probably shouldn’t freak out over Synergy numbers. If the system created by people who know what Derrick’s supposed to do in every situation says he’s our best defender, and the team is better defensively with him out there… I trust that.
Because hey, he said it.
Richard Jefferson on Gordon Hayward’s Funk
You can’t put pressure on yourself. I try to tell him, ‘Look, when you got drafted or when you were in your last year at Butler, if someone told you you were going to get $10 million to play basketball, you would blow your mind… I don’t know what his number is, [but] all of a sudden, if you’re getting $11 instead of $13, you’re in a bad mood. No, that can’t be your mentality. And you can’t worry about what teams have money, what teams don’t…
…At the end of the day, we’re all very blessed, and there’s no difference between having $40 million in the bank and having $48.
There’s no other way to put it at this point: Hayward’s struggling. He hasn’t been the same since the injury2, and his pre and post All-star splits definitely paint a picture of lower engagement.
We could have used Hayward’s own words here, too. He did his own sit-down with David Locke where he admitted that this is the first time he hasn’t had fun playing basketball. “Yeah, probably. It’s been a job sometimes this year.”
But the Jefferson quote was even more telling because he goes ahead and hypothesizes3 that the Hayward funk has to do with his contractual situation. Keep in mind, Locke didn’t ask a question about money; he asked a question about Jefferson’s friend/mentor relationship with Hayward, and Jefferson answered with a treatise on playing the game for love and not worrying about money. That feels like it’s pretty telling about what’s in Gordon’s thought patterns (and certainly his conversations, at least with Richard).
On a certain level, this is non-news. Which one of us wouldn’t have a rough time going the extra mile at work when our big raise was just put on hold pending further performance review? I used to study workplace engagement a lot, and I can attest that human nature makes it hard to maintain high performance.
That said, I’ve never been negotiating a raise that would put me at an 8-figure annual salary, so my frame of reference here is severely lacking. Jefferson has, though, and he just told us that Hayward is allowing his financial outlook affect him on the court.
I mean, hey… he said it.
Alec Burks on significant basketball
It’s very, very different (referring to contrast between this season and last). Games last year counted — counted a lot. We had a lot more veterans in there that took leadership roles. But right now we’re just learning, just learning through everything. We’re gonna get better.
Thanks to the tireless Aaron Falk at the Tribune for sharing this one.
The 2012-13 Jazz fell short, but not before they played 81 meaningful games. You could argue that this year’s Jazz — mathematically eliminated just last week from playoff contention — haven’t played a game with playoff implications since the 1-14 start in November.
This reminds me of when Devin Harris came to Utah and talked about how excited he was to be playing for a team that was relevant after a few missed-by-a-mile seasons in New Jersey. Interestingly, Harris wouldn’t make the playoffs that year either, but the fact that he was on a team that could have made it added to the experience.
Like Harris, I believe playing relevant basketball matters greatly, especially in terms of player growth. We talk a lot about the magical development effect of minutes, and I argue on principle quite a bit because I don’t think all minutes are created equal. You have Game 7 crunch time, you have crucial late-season battle for playoff seeding, you have a drama-free game in the dog days of January, you have garbage time in blowouts, you have pre-season, you have summer league… there’s a whole spectrum of importance. I think that being a secondary contributor in honest-to-goodness battles has more development value than being a main cog in glorified exhibition games — which is essentially what the Jazz have in front of them.
Of course, reps matter, too, so I don’t want to minimize the importance of what is happening right now in terms of player growth. When Burks and his peers are faced later with some more meaningful situations, the hope is that their muscle memories will kick in because of the reps they’re getting now. But when Burks — who averaged 19 minutes last March compared to 29 now — shrugs the importance of this stretch run away and tells us that this basketball is different, we should believe him.
After all, he said it.