What does it take for the Jazz to win?

January 26th, 2011 | by K.Malphurs

I don’t want to write about last night’s game against the Lakers. The lazy turnovers, the poor defense and the missed shots all contributed to one of the more depressing losses in recent Jazz history. It wasn’t that the loss was unexpected (the Jazz always seem to lose to the Lakers, which is another story), but the way the Jazz lost made me wonder if this team was going to ever win again.

They have to win again. I mean they have still won 60% of their games and have exactly the same record as last year’s Jazz team did after 45 games, so they have to be a better team than what they have shown over the past five games. So what does it take for the Jazz to win? To answer that questions I looked at the team game log for this year as well as Hollinger’s overall team stats. From the game log I tried to see what stats made the most difference in the Jazz winning or losing a game. For the overall team stats I looked at the past nine years to see if there was any relationship between the stats and each season’s total win total for the Jazz. 

The most important statistic in predicting total team wins is effective field goal percentage. There is a 76% *correlation between how the Jazz shoot and how many wins the team can expect in a year. They won 54 games in the 07-08 season, which not coincidentally enough was the season they shot the best with an eFG% of 52.8%. This year they are have an eFG% of 50%, which is good for 14th in the league and is the Jazz worst mark since the 2005-2006 season.

*Just a quick note explaining correlation. Correlation in my example looks at the mutual relationship between two sets of data. The higher the correlation % the more in line the two sets of data (wins and eFG% for example) move together.

Below is the correlation chart between Hollinger’s team stats and overall Jazz wins:

Considering that eFG% is the most important stat for winning then it would help the Jazz win more if players like Kirilenko and Jefferson made a little bit more than their 47.9% eFG%. Kirilenko seems to settle for too many mid-range jump shots and not surprisingly his jump shot eFG% comes in at only 41%. Every time he shoots one of those mid-range shots he is decreasing the chance the Jazz will win. Unfortunately it seems like he is relying more and more on his jump shot. As a percentage of total shots his % of jump shots has gone up from 54% to 55% to 61% the past three years. Both Kirilenko and Jefferson need to stop settling for jump shots and take the ball to the basket more.

One thing that has been mentioned by Hollinger and on Monday in an excellent article by Zach Lowe is how the Jazz defense has been a problem. His main points are the Jazz aren’t good defenders and don’t do a good job of grabbing defensive rebounds. For the Jazz both stats have been less important in predicting total wins. Over the past nine seasons defensive rebounding has only had a 25% correlation to wins and defensive efficiency only has had a 31% correlation to wins. In other words both stats are important in predicting wins for the Jazz (the better the Jazz are = more wins), but they seem to be less important for the Jazz than for other NBA teams.

Now to switch courses a little bit, let’s look at the game logs to see how the Jazz do under different parameters. I wanted to answer the question of what stats predict the probability of the Jazz winning. I went through the game log and ran a few scenarios to see how the Jazz have done over the past 45 games. Start each point below with “When the Jazz…”

  • Shoot better than their opponent in field goal % they have won 88% (22 out of 25) of their games.
  • Have a better than their average (1.74) assist to turnover rate they have won 87% (20 out of 23) of their games.
  • Shoot better than their average 46.3% they have won 83% (19 out of 23 games) of their games.
  • Shoot better than their average (78.4%) on free throws they have won 81% (17 out of 21) of their games.
  • Shoot better than their average (35.8%) on three pointers they have won 70% (14 out of 20) of their games.
  • Have a better than average (71%) defensive rebounding rate they have won 63% (10 out of 16) of their games.
  • Shoot worse than their average of 46.3% they have won 36% (8 out of 14 games) of their games.
  • Shoot worse than their opponent they have won only 25% (5 out of 15 games) of their games.
  • Have a worse assist to turnover rate than their opponent they have won only 19% (3 out of 16) of their games.

Therefore it isn’t much of a surprise how the Jazz lost to the Lakers last night. They need to shoot better and turn the ball over less. Basically they just need to play better basketball. I am probably pointing out the obvious with this analysis, but considering I didn’t want to write about the game last night this was a worthwhile distraction.


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  1. Bobby says:

    It very obvious and rational that if a team wants to win they have to outscore their opponents and most often that gets done by shooting better than they do.

    The media and coaches (I’m a retired coach) talk constantly about defense. No matter how good a team’s defense is they still have to score more points than their opponent to win, so I would expect the correlation between TS% and wins to be high.

    It’s often hard to talk with fans. Because they’ve watched a few games, and listened to the media make comments that are often devoid of logic, they think they know a lot about the game. Fans see what they want to see.

    Jeremy Evans is a good example. He’s scored a few dunks by surprising the defense. The surprise factor is what makes him successful, not necessarily his jumping ability, but the fans go nuts for the show. So now some fans are wanting Sloan to start Evans. Evans seems like a nice kid, but he’s very limited in his basketball skills. Not only are his skills limited, he doesn’t have the body mass to be effective on the inside in the NBA when he not longer has surprise working for him and he has defense on him.

    Inside players will move him out of position effortlessly. He has not outside shoot. He’s not a good ball handler and a so, so passer. At Western Kentucky, which is in the Sunbelt Conference, a minor conference, he only average 10 pts in his senior year and that was his best year.

    Hayward is too thin also, but is tough mentally so he gets physical. His main issue now is he still thinks like a college player and not like an NBA player. His days as a point guard are both an asset and a liability. He can drive, but he’s looking to get an assist before a shot. He avoids contact like most college players do rather than going into the defender hard and a drawing the foul. He’s still thinking college rules instead of NBA rules and NBA refs. He’s a very reluctant shooter who is often shoots out of control because he hears footsteps. College players are usually slower so he had more time in college and he felt sure of himself so he got into position faster and shot with more confidence. He may or may not be able to break the reluctance to shoot psychology. If he does, his line will be 12 pts, 4 asts, 5 rbs, 1 steal or block a night with 1 to 3 turnovers. Evans won’t have a balanced line like that.

    Stat analysis is very important. Thanks for posting this. I wish more fans understood that the stats are on the mark, but their opinions are often not factual.

  2. The Jazz have slipped quite a bit in the past month. I am very worried D-Will is going to bounce out of here once his contract is up. Utah has to start picking up their game (management included) if they want to keep arguably the best point guard in the league, on their team.

    For now, here in Utah, at least we have Jimmer Fredette. It is time for the entire nation to catch the Jimmer Fever.


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