INSIDER – Who are they playing against

A hot debate in the Jazz fan community right now is how to equate the minutes the starters are playings (and most often being outscored) and those the bench are playing (and most often outscoring the opponents).

One theory is that if you flipped the groups around you would end up with the same exact outcome. Our Jazz team is currently constructed of a group of non all-stars that are very equal 1-13 so when they play a Hall of Fame or All-star laden starting line-up they struggle but the bench is very deep so it has success.

The other is the bench players would do much better than our current starters.

At the Sports Nation site SLC Dunk Amar did terrific work this week delving into what percentage of minutes each player is playing against the other team’s starters contrasting to the other team’s bench players.

The results were our starters are playing about 76% of their minutes against other teams starters. Gordon Hayward is playing about 50/50% in 25 minutes, Favors and Burks have been playing about 40% v. Starters in their 20 minutes and Kanter is at 33% v. Starters in his 15 minutes.

This was terrific work by Amar.

Let’s take the next step and put this into actual play.
Jazz starters play 25 minutes a night v. other starters and 8 minutes a night v. Reserves. Hayward is 12.5 of each, whereas Favors and Burks play 9 minutes v. Starters and 11 v. reserves. Finally, Tyrone Corbin has been very careful to protect 20 year old Enes Kanter and he is playing just 5 minutes v. starters and 10 v. reserves.

What jumps out to me from Amar’s work is what an enormous jump of competition it is to be a starter.
If Favors were to start he is moving from 9 minutes a night v. front level guys to 25 a night and even Hayward goes from 12 to 25. Favors is undertaking 3 times as many minutes against the best talent.

What Kanter is doing tonight, thankfully v. the Bobcats, if he starts is even more stunning. Kanter will move from 5 minutes a night to 25 minutes against front line players.

Looking at this gives me two different conclusions. First, comparing starters performance to bench players performance are apples and oranges. On the other hand, a team better start its best players to handle the difference in talent a team is facing throughout the game.

INSIDER – Jefferson’s presence a boost for Enes Kanter

Paradoxically, the player who gets the largest benefit from Al Jefferson not being traded is the player who would have received the most playing time with his departure. Jefferson’s relationship with Enes Kanter has been well documented over the last year. Kanter still just 20 years old, looks up to Al, learns from Al and is inspired by Al’s offensive game.

Playing a little Dr. Phil here, let’s look at the male influence in Enes Kanter’s life, who doesn’t turn 21 until this May. While growing up in Turkey, he has told us this father was a taskmaster. From Kanter’s version of things his father did not want him to play basketball , instead aligning tutors and educational work for him all day everyday.

In the book Raising Boys they discuss the third party male as the 3rd stage in boys development from the ages of 16 to 21. For Kanter, he left his father at a young age and I do not believe his parents have visited him in the United States as of yet. His first male role model of the Utah Jazz was countryman Mehmet Okur who was quickly traded before that relationship could fully develop.

Al Jefferson filled that void. Now Kanter and Jefferson have the relationship of teacher and mentor and as the book Raising Boys would talk about the third party male developmental role model for Enes Kanter is Al Jefferson. He is the young adult security blanket.

Therefore, while Kanter would have gotten much more playing time if Al Jefferson had been traded, the reality may be that he needs Jefferson’s presence for his personal, mental and athletic development.

Kanter has shown at just 20 years old the desire for attention and often to be heard with his antics. No different than any other 20 year old Kanter is searching to discover who he is. A very bright and funny young man Kanter’s trying to still discover what being a professional means and entails. With Jefferson around for the rest of the year the on floor pressure is lower on Kanter and he can make mistakes and develop under the radar.

With Jefferson’s return the Jazz may have been trading some playing development for life development for Kanter and that may be key for long term success.

INSIDER – Carroll acknowledgement of weakness spurs him to success

Admitting your weaknesses is never easy. It is even harder if you are a world class athlete performing at the most elite level. However, it is at that level where that admission may be most vital to your success.

This year the Utah Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll has had to put his pride aside to become a better player. On Jan 11th in Atlanta, DeMarre went 1 for 4 from three point land and after the game came to the realization he was not a three point shooter.

“I really went and looked it after I went 0 for 4 (he did make 1) from three, why are all my shots short or long, so why don’t I just take 2 steps in and knock down a 2 rather than missing a lot of threes, being a consistent shooter that keeps me on the floor.”

The next night he took and missed 1 three. Over the next 10 games he has taken just 1 three point shot. Simultaneously, to putting his three point shot in its holster DeMarre has unleased awesome mid-range shooting.

“It is difficult to let it (three point shooting) go, you have to know who you are. I have been knocking down mid range shots day in and night out. I know what I worked on this summer and it was inside 2’s.

Over the last 10 games, DeMarre has hit a sizzling 34 of 53 from the field for 64%. Not only is he burying the mid-range jumper that used to be a bricked three, but he is no longer sitting outside the arch looking for a three. Instead, he is cutting and slashing and getting to the rim at a much higher rate.

carroll 1st part of season

carroll since the change

DeMarre has gotten in the restricted area for 24 shots in the last 10 games, whereas in the previous 32 games he only took 44. Moreover, he has started to make the mid range jumper and it is building on itself. Doug Collins, head coach of the 76ers, said it well earlier this year, “players need to see the ball go through the rim.”

DeMarre is seeing the ball go through the rim more and more. His 14 of 29 from mid range is way above the league average of 38% and his rim efficiency is remarkable for wing player making 21 of his last 24.

The three is not gone from DeMarre’s game. He is aware of his divergent performance from three’s in the corner (6 of 12) v. three’s above the break (5 of 21). This stems back to who he is modeling his game after.

“ I try to look at guys who I can play like and see where they are shooting from and what shots they are taking and I went back with my cousins and looked at Bruce Bowen, if he wasn’t shooting a corner three it was a mid range 2.”

DeMarre now sits second in the NBA on the Jazz shooting 48.7%. The only small forwards shooting better than 48.7% are Leron James, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Durant, Andrei Kirilenko, Shawn Marion, Jimmy Butler and Rashard Lewis.

Understanding your weakness is as important as knowing your strength.

INSIDER – Do Foye and Hayward create open looks for the other?

Over the last 5 games the Jazz are #1 in the NBA in 3pt shooting percentage and since Jan 1st are 3rd in the NBA. A large reason is the hot shooting of Hayward and Foye. The question is are they helping each other

* With Foye on the floor Gordon Hayward shoots 48% from the field and 45% from 3 – with Foye off the floor Hawyard shoots 41% and 38%.

* With Hayward on the floor Randy Foye shoots 44% from the field and 48% from three whereas with Hayward off the floor Foye shoots just 40% from the field and 41% from three.

In both cases the players shoot considerably better with the other on the floor. Thus, far this year Hayward has only played 269 minutes with Foye and 769 without him and the same for Foye who has played 782 without Gordon.

Keep an eye on Hayward and Foye on the floor more together.

INSIDER – Do you Hayward and Foye’s shot charts compliment each other

Opposing defenses are getting a tough choice around the perimeter right now they have to decide if they are going to focus on Randy Foye or Gordon Hayward. Both of them are drilling the three point shot at at least 40% for the season and Hayward has been near 50% since December 1st. Foye is shooting a career best 43%.

Here are the two players shot charts and you can decide if they compliment each other.

hawyard shot chart 1-14

foye shot chart 1-14

INSIDER – In season improvement a great sign for Hayward and Favors future

Development is a must for a young NBA player. Constant enhancement is a necessity to survive in the league. Players use the off-season to improve facets of their game, but inevitably inside the season flaws are exposed and those holes must be attended too.

Two of the Utah Jazz third year players Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors have had to go back to the drawing board during the season. Hayward’s jump shot was off kilter in the opening month of the season and in the limited practice time available he re-tooled his fundamentals. Nearing the end of the pre-season and into the opening of the regular season Favors altered his free throw technique.

The willingness to work at the craft showed Tyrone Corbin the core of who these two player have become, “ They are true competitors, young pros trying to get better and understanding the things they have to get better and they are putting in the time and effort to get better.”

The difficulty arises when a player has to use the new found skills in the game. This is truly uncomfortable and has a high risk of failure. If a player stops playing the game instinctual and becomes a thinker success rarely follows.

Yet, both Hayward and Favors have been able to implement what they have worked on into game action. For Tyrone Corbin this shows why these players on the road to large improvements.
“They are smart kids, they want to get better, both of these guys game are going expand faster because they can take lessons on the run and they implement them. They transfer from the practice floor to the game quickly.”

This ability should not be underestimated, working in the off-season is a much easier task. Altering how you shoot in the middle of a season is a big leap.

“It is difficult; it is tough for a lot of guys to do it in season, to make a tweak in their game, when they make improvement in the course of the season in areas like free throws or jump shots to do it without throwing their whole game off. “

Favors has improved from a 65% free throw shooter last season to 71% free throw shooter this year. Hayward opened the year shooting 29.6% from three in November then hit for 46.3% in December and has nailed 9 of his 14 three point attempts in January.

“I am a professional; this is my job, so I am supposed to be able to work on it. I have been getting extra shots working with Jeff, Jeff has done a graet job of making sure when I am on the court I am always ready to shoot and some release issues,” explained Hayward after the win in Phoenix.

These in season gains are terrific signs for the future of Hayward and Favors.

INSIDER – How Jazz might not only be able to survive without Mo but prosper

The Jazz loss of Mo Williams for nearly two months hits Jazz fans as a crushing blow to the playoff hopes for the 2012-13 season. Williams was the key off-season pick up for Head Coach Tyrone Corbin in an attempt to transition to a more up tempo offense and a more aggressive, tougher defensive team. Williams injury coupled with the sub 40% shooting of back up point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson makes things look dreary.

However, a case can be made not only for how the Jazz can survive but maybe prosper. Call it the Jason Kidd approach. The scoring point guard is in vogue in the NBA, however it is not the only way to win. For the past few years Jason Kidd lead the Mavericks while being a distributor, team leader and hitting enough outside shots to keep everyone honest.

For the season the Jazz have shot 44.4% from the floor. When Jamaal Tinsley is on the floor for the Jazz they shoot 47.5%, an increase of 3.1%. (this is mind boggling) In addition, the Jazz average 97.8 points per game, if Tinsley were to be on the floor the entire game the Jazz would score 101.1. That is 1.5 points more than any other Jazz regular.

Note: The 3.1% increase from team average maybe the largest in the NBA of any player. More research to follow today

In contrast with Mo Williams on the floor the Jazz shoot 43.9% and with Earl Watson on the floor the Jazz shoot 40.9%.

The simple explanation is probably the most accurate. Tinsley finds players shots. He is the consummate point guard who comes across the half court looking to give his teammates opportunities. His calmness on the floor emanates to all other players on the floor.

Another metric that shows Tinsley’s value is offensive efficiency, pts per 100 possessions. For the season the Jazz offensive efficiency is 103.6. With Tinsley on the floor the Jazz offensive efficiency is 109.2. Putting 109.2 in perspective it would be the 4th best offense in the NBA other than OKC, Miami and New York. The Jazz have 102.9 with Mo Williams on the floor.

Despite being self described as “slow” the Jazz have played very good defense with Jamaal on the floor this year. Many of the Jazz best defensive line-ups include Tinsley and when he is on the floor the Jazz defensive rating is 102.2 compared to a team rating of 104.5 and a rating of 106.7 with Mo Williams on the floor. The Jazz defensive is 103.3 with Earl Watson on the floor. The Jazz have been better defensively with Jamaal and Earl on the floor this year than the team as a whole.

This could be a little misleading since Mo Williams plays against frontline players and with the Jazz lesser defensive bigs, Millsap and Jefferson. Let’s take a deeper dig into this.

Jazz with Mo Wiliams, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson on the floor have a defensive rating of 107.7
Jazz with Jamaal Tinsley, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson on the floor have a defensive rating of 106.5
Jazz with Earl Watson, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson on the floor have a defensive rating of 110.4

The Jazz struggle defensively with Millsap and Jefferson on the floor and the point guard is not going to make a huge difference, but it does look like the uptick on the offensive end gives the Jazz a slight defensive improvement with Tinsley on the floor.

The Jazz offensive when Tinsley plays with Millsap and Jefferson is 110.4 per 100 possessions, contrasting the 104.3 with Mo or 36.5 with Earl.

The Jazz best defensive line-up this year has been Jamaal, Gordon, Marvin, Paul and Al and the 3rd best defensive line-up has Watson at the point one with Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter.

Finally the Jazz 3 best 5 man line-ups (at least 40 mins) all involve Jamaal or Earl. The top is the aforementioned Tinsley, Gordon, Marvin, Millsap and Jefferson combo (+28.4 efficiency differential). Followed by Tinsley, Carroll, Hayward, Favors and Kanter (19.1) and Watson, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter (10.6)

It defies logic that losing the centerpiece to the team, Mo Williams, wouldn’t cripple the season. However, a case can be made the Jazz will survive and possibly prosper.