Notes from Rockets shootaround

I just finished listening in on Kevin McHale’s media session today before the Jazz game. He had some interesting comments about where the Rockets are right now.

With the new additions they made at the trade deadline he quoted that  transition defense has become a problem for them.

Prior to the trade deadline he felt as though they had fixed that issue with the new players in a lack of communication between the new players they have not been as good in transition defense.

The Rockets are the number 1 pace of play team in the NBA. This game largely be dictated by pace of play.

If you recall the last meeting between the Rockets and the Jazz, they left Tinsley  wide open double teaming out Jefferson with Jeremy Lin regardless of wherever he was on the floor.

McHale said they probably would not be able to do that with Mo Williams as the point guard.

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.

Keys to the game for Utah Jazz

1. Crash the offensive glass. The bucks are the worst defense rebounding team in the NBA.
2.  Handle the guards in transition. Force Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings to play a half court.
3. Find al Jefferson looks. With double team is coming out still needs to get his shots.


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.