BREAKDOWN—The Jazz have two lineups that are crazy positive

The Jazz starting lineup this year of Trey Burke, Richard Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors has been positive over 520 minutes on the floor. This is really surprising for a team that is 22-43. This lineup’s offensive rating is 107.3 and its defensive rating is 106.5.

However, two other often-used lineups for the Jazz are crazy positive. The third most-used lineup (121 minutes) by the Jazz this season is Garrett, Burks, Hayward, Evans and Kanter. This group is +8.8 per 100 possessions. Its offensive rating is 110.3 and its defensive rating is 101.4. Both of those numbers are elite. This lineup has shot the ball really well, with an EFG% of 54.5%. Defensively, they have forced a lot of turnovers—17% of possessions. The Jazz as a team is at just 12.5% for the season.

Utah’s fourth most-used lineup (117 minutes) of Burke, Burks, Hayward, Marvin and Favors has been equally as good. The offensive rating is 107.3 but the defensive rating is a great 99.8. This lineup has been good on the offensive glass and shoots 52.5% in EFG%. Defensively, they have held people to a 45.6% EFG%. They have been awesome on the defensive glass at 78.2% but have also fouled at a high rate.

These two lineups are the 27th and 32nd best of any five-man groups in the NBA that have played at least 100 minutes.

BREAKDOWN—Can Kanter and Favors play together?

With Marvin Williams’ back acting up, the Jazz will likely play Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter together more over the next few games. Marvin has an MRI Monday morning and we will know more at that point on how long he will be unavailable.

This is a good time for Favors and Kanter to play together. Five of Utah’s next seven opponents play two legitimate bigs—the Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies (twice) and Pistons.

The opening portion of the year was very tough for the Jazz when Kanter and Favors together. When Marvin finally got healthy, the Jazz inserted him into the starting lineup and have played Jeremy Evans as the backup PF since separating Favors and Kanter.

For the season, Kanter and Favors have played 503 minutes together. In those 503 minutes the Jazz have an offensive rating of 92.7 points per 100 possessions. This is by far the worst of any of Utah’s 30 most-used playing pairs, and only eight pairs are under 100 points per possession. This is a continuation of last season, when the Jazz struggled to score with both Kanter and Favors on the floor.

Last year, with Kanter and Favors on the floor, the Jazz were great defensively. That has not been the case this season. Instead, the Jazz are allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions with both of them on the floor. Only the tandems of Kanter and Burks (at 114.2) and Kanter and Marvin (at 116.5) are worse.

Most of these minutes happened early in the season when the Jazz were without Trey and Marvin and were outmatched every night.

Since November 24, when Trey entered the starting lineup, Favors and Kanter have played 200 minutes together. In those 200 minutes, Utah’s offensive rating is 98.7 (an improvement) but the defensive rating is still an abysmal 115.5. This is the second worst defensive pair (Marvin and Kanter are at 115.9) of the 60 most-used pairs since November 24.

Over those 200 minutes, opponents’ EFG% has been 53.7 (league average is 50, team average is 50.7). The Jazz have been a better offensive rebounding team, grabbing 27.7% of the offensive rebounds (team average is 24.8%). However, on the defensive glass they have grabbed 73.6%—below the team average of 74.8%. Finally, the offense has been very turnover prone, turning it over 16.9% of its possessions, higher than any tandem that doesn’t include Rudy Gobert.

So far this season the data questions whether or not Kanter and Favors can play together.  The next stretch of games is their chance to prove otherwise.

BREAKDOWN—Enes Kanter’s career comps

I took a look at Enes Kanter’s career comps today. I chose four players: Carlos Boozer, Al Jefferson, David West and David Lee. I was looking for similarly sized and similarly athletic players.

Kanter entered the league much younger than any of these comps—even Al Jefferson. Kanter is still just 21 years old. David West was 23 and David Lee was 22 during their rookie seasons. Boozer was a rookie at 21 and Al Jefferson was in his second year at 21.

It’s interesting when you look at these comps how many more minutes Kanter has played than his comparables. Also, it’s interesting that, offensively, he has performed every bit as well as theses players. Remember: West was 23 and Lee was 22.

Kanter compsKevin Pelton of ESPN has a player projection system that compares players. At the beginning of this season he had Kanter compared to Derrick Favors, Zaza Pachulia, DeJuan Blair and Amar’e Stoudemire. His system does not include players who were not in the league at their age, so Boozer, West and Lee were not compared.

Looking at Pelton’s comps, Kanter is behind in minutes played. His offensive production is ahead of everyone except Stoudamire, though he’s not far off.

kanter pelton comps

BREAKDOWN—Six 10-game stretches

Throughout this season, I’ve said that the best way to look at the Jazz is in 10- or 20-game stretches. Last night, the Jazz played their 60th game of the season, completing the sixth 10-game stretch. Over the last 40 games the Jazz are 17-23 and far better than they were in the opening 20 games of the season.

Here’s how the Jazz rank offensively and defensively in the NBA over the six 10-game stretches:

jazz 10 game stretches thru 60And here are Utah’s rankings in the Four Factors over the six 10-game stretches:

thru 10 games 4 facotrs

BREAKDOWN—Shooting more threes, but ….

The Jazz have increased their 3-point shooting, but (as the graph below shows) they have not increased their accuracy. However, even with this drop in shooting percentage, the Jazz are still getting the same amount of points per shot from 2s and 3s. The Jazz are receiving .99 points per shot on 3-pointers and .99 points per shot off their 49.7% 2-pointer shooting.

Jazz 3 pt usageUtah’s offense in the month of February is 15th in the NBA. In December, when they shot 39% from 3-point range but only used 22% of their possessions on threes, they were 23rd offensively.

BREAKDOWN—Are the Jazz improving defensively?

Have the Utah Jazz made defensive progress this season? One way I look at Utah’s defense is that I take the first 25 games of the season and then compare it to the last 20 games of the season. The Jazz were 6-19 after 25 games and by then Trey Burke had worked his way into the lineup comfortably.

Dean Oliver, in this brilliant book, broke the game down into four factors: defensive effective field goal % (which weighs 3-point shooting),  DFTA rate (the rate at which you send opponents to the free-throw line), DTO% (the percentage of possessions you force a turnover) and DREB% (percent of defensive rebounds you get).

Here is how the Jazz have changed over the course of the season:

First 25 games 24th 26th 24th 29th
Last 20 games 9th 16th 30th 13th

The Jazz have shown considerable growth in three of the four categories. The ninth in DEFG% over the last 20 games is really exciting. In addition, the Jazz have long been notorious for the amount they foul—and that has subsided. Finally, the Jazz have moved to above average in defensive rebounding despite playing with a stretch 4.

The only area where the Jazz have been inadequate is their lack of forcing turnovers.  Ranking 30th doesn’t tell the whole story. The current rate of forcing turnovers over the past 20 games is historically low at only 11.8% of opponents possessions.

Overall, the Jazz have improved from ranking 30th defensively in the first 25 games to 23rd, and if they can begin to force some turnovers they will be near average in a hurry.

BREAKDOWN—Favors’ presence has a major impact on Utah’s defense

Watching the Jazz against the Celtics on Monday night was a clear reminder of how important Derrick Favors is to the Jazz defense.

By excluding the 14 games to start the year—when Enes Kanter and Favors started together—and isolating the games the games Favors has started as the center without Kanter and the nine games Kanter has started as the center without Favors, the impact of Derrick becomes lucid.

Favors’ absence has been felt most vividly early in games with paint defense. In the games Favors missed, the Jazz allowed 13.8 points in the paint in the first quarter, contrasting to the games with Favors as the center at 12.4 points in the paint in the first quarter.

In addition, in the games when Favors starts as the center, the Jazz allow 60% shooting in the restricted area in the first quarter. In the nine games Favors was absent, the Jazz allowed 69.5% shooting in the restricted area in the first quarter.

Moving beyond the first quarter into the entire games gets a bit complicated statistically. In games when Favors starts, Kanter gets most of the back-up minutes. Whereas when Kanter starts, Rudy Gobert gets the back-up minutes.

According to the player-tracking data, Rudy Gobert is a very good defender at the rim.  Gobert allows only 43.2% on shots within five feet of the rim. Favors allows 51.2% and Kanter allows 53.7%. For game-long data, an argument could be made that Gobert assists the numbers when Favors doesn’t play.

With the aforementioned weakness to this data, it is still revealing in regards to the impact of Favors. In the games Favors started without Kanter, the Jazz have allowed 46.2 points in the paint. In the games Favors didn’t play, they allowed 49.8.

In the restricted area for the entire game when Favors starts without Kanter, the Jazz allow 62.7%. And in games when Favors doesn’t start, it is 64.8%—despite the impact of Rudy getting more minutes.

The biggest number of all, however, is points allowed. In games when Favors starts without Kanter, the Jazz allow 98.6 points per game. In the nine games Favors missed, the Jazz allow 105.3.

Thanks to Bloomberg Sports for this data.