Thinking Out Loud — Here Lies Jazz Season 2015-16

April 12th, 2016 | by Clark Schmutz
Photo by Tom Pennington - Getty Images

Photo by Tom Pennington – Getty Images

The Utah Jazz season passed away peacefully last night with very little fight and in the presence of 19,911 of its closest friends. This Jazz season was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 28, 2015. Its life was highlighted by surprise wins against the Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks, and a 48 point drubbing of the hapless Lakers. The season was also plagued by countless injuries and inexcusable losses that couldn’t be overcome. This Jazz season is survived by the Houston Rockets and one of the least inspiring seasons ever by a talented NBA team, and a Portland Trailblazers team that is short on talent, but was built in a more impressive manner than the Jazz were. Funeral services will be held at the Staples Center Wednesday night at 7:30 PM Pacific Coast Time. Cost of attendance will be about $4,000.

In memoriam – October 28, 2015-April 11, 2016

I mean, what do you say about the Jazz season and the way it basically came to an end last evening? Well since this is a funeral, I think it’s appropriate to mourn some and reflect some as well. But mostly mourn.

I get it. The Jazz had tons of injuries. And I get it. The Jazz are really inexperienced. But it really doesn’t matter. The Jazz also had a real shot at making the playoffs this year. It was like an 85 or 90% chance at some point, whatever that means. Win against a crappy Clippers roster at home and you are on the home front. Brooklyn at home. The Pelicans on the road. The Magic on the road AND at home. This Jazz season wasn’t lost last night. In many ways it was lost time and time again, against really bad teams. It is what it is.

ESPN.com

ESPN.com

I hate the lack of experience argument. It is stupid. Inexperienced teams don’t win? It’s probably a fair general rule, but the Jazz are also pretty talented and they, or fans, or the media, do them a disservice when they chalk up losses to inexperience. Last night as I was watching the Dallas Mavericks thoroughly outplay the Jazz, all I could think of was when I had my heart broken the third time by the Jazz. The first two times were definitely against the Bulls in the finals. But the third time was in 2001 when the Jazz were up 2 games to nothing against none other than the Dallas Mavericks. They lost 3 games in a row and the series. That Jazz team had John Stockton (16 years), Karl Malone (15 years), John Starks (11 years), Bryon Russell (7 years), etc, etc and many years of championship experience. And the Jazz got punked by a team lead by Michael Finley (5 years), Steve Nash (4 years), and Dirk Nowitzki (2 years).

I get it. Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are all-timers. Hall of Famers. But they weren’t that season. Before they were all time greats, they were pretty good, young players who outplayed teams with tons of experience. We are doing a disservice to the Jazz players when we give them excuses.

Why Gobert Might Be Better than Hayward and Favors Soon

I don’t know what the power of belief is in an NBA player or team. But I do know that no great NBA player has ever existed without a belief in themselves or from others. In fact, most of the greatest players believed in themselves to ridiculous and unreal amounts. I never loved the way we talked about this season’s Jazz team as a fanbase, the media, and most importantly as an organization. It’s a fine line, because you don’t want to talk about winning games and reaching heights you haven’t earned yet. You don’t want to look foolish. But at the same time, it’s time for the Jazz to start thinking bigger. This Jazz team is a top 4 western team with a few small, realistic moves. Look at their injuries and their point differential. Imagine what one extra guy who’s been there would do for this team. It’s time to aim a little higher. I think it might be a year past time. I am as guilty as anyone on a player to player basis, but it’s time to start believing a little bit more in what this Jazz team should become.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

We Should Be as Mad as Hell and Not Take It Anymore

There will be time for thoughtful contemplation about this Jazz season and time for handing out kudos and orange slices. But tonight is not that time. Tonight I am mad and frustrated and let down. It’s not a time to point unfair fingers of blame that I will regret later, either. But it’s just a time to mourn this season and all the chances the Jazz squandered.

And if I am mad, I sure hope the players are livid. I hope the Jazz organization and players take a long time to let this feeling fester and drive them. I can’t do anything to help the situation. I can’t blog harder. I can’t living room GM any better. Tomorrow I will wake up, and what was it, Lebron? Oh yes. Go back to my same, silly job, and what not. But I really hope this blown chance at the playoffs sits in the Jazz player’s bodies like a summer-long sickness. I hope the players come back next season expecting much more out of themselves and their teammates.

I hope the front office gets to work. I hope this disappointing end to this season eats at them and spurs them to raise the bar a little bit and expect more and make more honest evaluations of their strengths and weaknesses. I hope the players, the coaching staff and the front office have a collective message at media day in September: “We expect to make the playoffs and be one of the better Western Conference teams. And this is how we are going to do it.”

There’s really nothing more to say. The Jazz showed promise and they showed moxie and they showed fight. But in the end, they fell short of an achievable goal. And while we should praise them for some things, we must also not make excuses for them. It’s time to be better.

 

Clark Schmutz

Clark Schmutz is a Jazz fan living in North Carolina who has been blogging about the Jazz for 8 years. Just like with religion, politics and good deals on the internet, Clark likes to talk NBA basketball to find more truth and learning. Find him on twitter @clarkpojo.

10 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    THANK YOU. I’m sick of the talk of inexperience as an excuse. That may be a reason the Jazz didn’t make the playoffs this year, but that’s the fault of management, not of random luck. There were plenty of veterans that we could have signed this offseason that would have not only brought more experience to the team, but would’ve been huge upgrades talent-wise coming off the bench.

    • Ryan says:

      You work for the Jazz front office?

    • That’s what happens when GORDON Hayward is the #1 option, when he’s really just an average starter. He’s below average per minutes in literally Everything but assists, and even that is just barely, by 0.6 per 36. Look up the average SF stats. I realize he scores 19.8 PPG. That means NOTHING. What matters is that he scores them by getting below league average points PER SHOT, so he hurts the Jazz by scoring them since he uses up so many possessions to do it. His rebounds are 1.0 below SF average per 36. He gives up 105 points per 100 possessions when league average is 102.8,and when Favors and Gobert arent out there to save him, he gives up 113!! His steals/blocks are 25% below the 2.0 league SF average per 36. He turns it over 0.3x more than average for his point/assist total(NBA average is 1 per 12 points+1 assist). SOOO, the fact is, he’s actually slightly BELOW just the average NBA player,yet he gets credit for being some kind of star. It’s ridiculous. He’s not even close to a #1 option and they need to start focusing their offense on the efficient Favors and the improving, potential-star offensive threats Hood and Lyles, if they ever want to improve from mediocrity. And they need to do that by Taking Away a bunch of Hayward’s 43% shooting, to replace it with that much better shooting.

      • TCB says:

        Thank you!
        I have been wondering forever who decided that Gordon was this stud player
        Nice player? yup
        Stud? not on either side of the ball.
        Favors needs more shots. The only guy in the league that can stop him is Quin game planning away from him or making adjustments at half time when he is in beast mode to make sure Gordon gets his shots.
        Not that Quin

      • Erik says:

        I think calling Hayward an average starter is overstating it quite a bit. I don’t think he’s a good #1 option and his shooting percentages, especially from deep are disappointing but advanced stats say he’s very effective. He may not do any one thing at an elite level but he’s strong across the board.

        Look at plus/minus numbers, which measure how a team does with a player on the court vs. off the court. Outscoring the other team is about as basic and important as it gets. ESPN’s “real plus minus” numbers say he’s the 31st best in the NBA this year, and has contributed to the 20th most wins. Both highest on the Jazz.

        basketball-reference.com has him as the 18th best player in the league this year for offensive win shares. His ability to get to the line makes up a bit for his mediocre shooting (78th in adjusted field goal percentage)–he was 24th in the NBA in points per shot.

        ESPN’s nbarank panel put him 32nd in the league coming into the year, I doubt he’ll move much from that next year and he’ll stay somewhere in the 30s at a guess.

        Hayward was an ironman for us this year, playing easily the most minutes on the Jazz and 2nd most in the league, because we needed him too. He played too many minutes; he’d be more effective playing the minutes Hood and Favors did but we didn’t have much behind him so he stayed out there.

        He’s not a great #1 option, and the decline in his shooting percentages from his first year in the league has been disappointing. I think as a #2 option, no longer defended by the other team’s best perimeter defender he’d shoot quite a bit better. But he’s far better than an average starter.

  2. Steve says:

    I don’t buy the Inexperience for Hayward or Favors. Both have been in the league long enough. Also Ingles, Burks, and Booker have had enough experience. We are young in Age but quite a few of our Guys have 3+ years in league. I have always felt like 3+ years was when you could stop blaming issues on inexperience.

    The biggest bummer for me this season is how atrociously bad the Jazz were in crunch time. The Jazz were were the just only above PHI, PHX, and LAL winning 34% of close games. The worst part of the Jazz’s struggles in close game was the struggle was on the defensive end. Defense Efficiency in clutch situation was 120.6. Again, bad enough to rank as the 4th worst. The Jazz main calling card was what disappeared in close games.

    That is one of the few disturbing trends from this year.

    All that being said, I still think this year was a success. My projections were much higher but injuries hurt the Jazz in what should have been a easier stretch of the season. The main core guys improved and we found some answers on who should stick with the bench or should be out.

  3. LKA says:

    With four players (starters plus sixth man) missing anywhere from 25% to 100% of the season they did ok. Yes the oldest saying “wait until next year.” But the team said from the start improvement and playoffs would have been nice but not the final say. And for those who would like to put in a resume for the coach or GM to Mr Miller go for it.

  4. Brent says:

    The Jazz roster is the 2nd youngest in the league. That is a fact. Young teams have to learn hard lessons. As Steve said the Jazz won only 34% of close games. Late game execution takes time. The 2001 Jazz with Malone and Stockton choking to a young Mavs team is just that. A choke job. It happens, they learned from it. This team will too.

  5. Tony says:

    I know everyone is annoyed because we all thought playoffs were achievable, and they were – particularly when teams pegged for high seed playoff action were less than stellar. The door was open.

    But the injuries happened and exposed our lack of depth. (And yeah, the late game choking certainly didn’t help all year long).

    There were silver linings though. Trey Lyles. Hood’s continued emergence. Shelvin and Withey were good pickups for the bench. And as Clark points out, a stinging end to the season which I also hope (and think it will) eats away at the players the whole offseason.

    I doubt Sacramento will pull off a miracle tonight so I’m already trying to look forward to next season. Exum back will be huge for our defense – we got torched too many times this year by point guards having big nights. Hopefully we will get something good out of a Burke trade and all those picks (and probably CJ and Booker could be shifted too). Everyone will be better for another year of experience – including Quin.

    I know we have all told ourselves this before. It does seem like a broken record. But I agree with Clark: next year this team needs to aim high as its time has come.

  6. To heal exhaustion and injuries, each player should average 30 minutes per game. Through Free Agency, we must add 1. Kevin Durant for $30 M (then Hayward and Hood can heal their plantar exhaustion) 2. Hassan Whiteside (then Rudy and Favs can avoid injury exhaustion) 3. and Three pointers and rebounding from Ryan Anderson (Withey’s buddy) and we solve shooting and injury tiredness.

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