BREAKDOWN – Why Starting Matters?

A regular refrain in the NBA is that it isn’t who starts it is who finishes. That makes players feel good who are told they aren’t starting but I would argue it is not true.

Who starts matters for two reasons. One it guarantees minutes. Second, it is the most commonly used 5 man unit on every team.

The first issue is a math issue. Most coaches don’t make their first substitution until after the first timeout which happens under 6 minutes. Therefore, the starters usually play the first 8 minutes of the first and third quarters. Therefore, the maximum a bench player can play in a game is 32 minutes and that is only if he is never taken out of game.

If the team is typical the starters or some variation of the starters will usually come back with 6 minutes left in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Then the bench player only plays 20 minutes a night.

The other issue is 5 man units. Starters play together and other units don’t. It sounds so simplistic but look at the Jazz this year.

Harris, Bell, Hayward, Millsap, Jefferson 383.25 mins
Watson, CJ, Howard, Favors, Kanter 113.67 mins
Harris, Hayward, Howard, Millsap, Jefferson 76.77 mins
Watson, Burks, Miles, Favors, Kanter 63.32 mins
Watson, Burks, Howard, Favors, Kanter 49.07 mins

This is universal around the NBA, in fact the Jazz are a lesser extreme. The Pacers starters have played 547 minutes and the next unit has played 69. The Houston Rockets starters have played 368 minutes together and the next closest is 84. This list could go on and on.

That is why starting matters.

BREAKDOWN– How have the Jazz gone from best to last in 4th Quarter Defense

In the last post I showed how the Jazz defense has changed in February compared to January. The difference is more stunning when you isolate 4th quarter play. This is important because at home in January the Jazz were finding ways to win games and in February on the road they have not been winning those game.

The Jazz have gone from the #1 FG% defense in the 4th quarter in January to the #30 FG% defense in 4th Quarter in February.

The amazing difference is a nearly 10% FG% defense.

Here is the 4th quarter Jazz defense in January

Now here is February

How does this happen? It is two fold. The Jazz are not defending the shot, they are sending people to the line at a much higher rate.

I dug a little deeper into the advanced stats and found some more revealing numbers.
The Jazz pace of play is not changing so these numbers are comparable.
In January the Jazz allowed 43% EFG and in February 53%. That is a major issue but it is even worse when you consider the increase in fouling.
In 15 games in January the Jazz opponents shot 98 free throws and in 13 February games they have made 94 in 128 attempts.
Therefore the True Shooting % of opponents, (Pts/FGA+(.44*FTA)*2) (pts/scoring chances*2) has gone from 48% to 59%.
The other way to look at that which I talk about a lot is pts per scoring opportunity has gone from .96 to 1.18. Stunning.

Interestingly, the offensive rebounding issue of late has not been a month long issue.

FILM STUDY – Part 2 – How the Jazz big men perform in the post?


At this point, not a lot to learn here. Almost everything is in the left block. Unlike the other guys he has a nice foundation of moves that he is mixing between with a set goal on each touch.

He seems to know based on how he is being defended where he is going with the ball everytime. The question is could he do it quicker? His footwork is really special so he is able to adjust when he needs to.


Watching the collection of post ups by Paul recently is a hard watch. He is usually on the right block and he is trying to get by guys with his quickness off the dribble and he isn’t. Then if he beats someone and any help defense comes he is not a good enough athlete to rise up over them and his lack of height really shows. His lack of height is very obvious on these plays. Ron Boone has been mentioning this he is getting really tough looks.

His counter move is a fade baseline jumper similar to what Boozer used to do, but Paul is not getting the separation he needs and that shot is getting blocked at times and he hasn’t used it recently. He has become almost entirely straighten up and put the ball on the floor at the big man.

When he scored it was off Jefferson getting the ball in the high or mid post and he sneaks underneath the rim for deep position. Paul is remarkable off the ball at getting himself free. When is guarded by a young player he is able to draw a foul, Patrick Patterson, Jan Vesley or Derrick Williams. However, he is not facing the best defenders. Those players are on Jefferson and Millsap is not beating Scola, Patterson, Bonner, Booker, Ayon and Cunningham.


Watching him he is much more comfortable on the left block going to the middle than anything else. He is a bit lost on the right block of what he wants to do with the ball. His best move from the right block is to the middle for a little fading jumper. All of the moves are there but it doesn’t feel like he has a progression of what he is trying to do. For example, against New York he had a really nice move from the right block where he started to the middle and then came back for a baseline jump hook. That was really solid. If he could put those two together into his primary and his counter then he has the framework for a post game. Against, LA they went to him on the right block and Murphy overplayed him to the middle and he went up and under to the baseline for the lay-up. That is the three play package that he needs from the right block. Yet, at times we still see other things, like a left hand hook. It is just too much.

From the left block his primary move is rolling hook to the middle. The other thing he will do is straighten up fast and put it on the floor to the baseline side. His other left block play is a jumper over the top. Again this is the package he need but none of it is refined. This is less effective.

The Oklahoma City game on Feb 10th Favors was really engaged and active. Since then he has been much more passive with his moves.


The bright side is he is so big he gets great position and can really seal people. Otherwise, his post play is where you can tell how little he has played. Where his rebounding is instinct, his post play needs some patter and thought and it is not there yet.

He has a signature move from which to build. He gets the ball on the left block and he will always take a slight move to the middle and then drop step to the baseline side to the rim. He uses his body so well that he moves people.

I am not sure he has scored on any other move all season. He has a nice touch so he will develop a jumper off that move and maybe a short J to the middle. When he doesn’t get to his main move is can be a pretty tough possession.

He is elevating more as the season goes on. Looking at his early season plays and he was having a hard time finishing because he couldn’t get off the ground.

He dribbles the ball way to close to his body and is susceptible to getting the ball swiped on the reach around. This has happened numerous times.

BREAKDOWN – PART 1 – How the Jazz Big Men are Performing in the Post?

Throughout the year I have been reviewing the numbers on Synergy Sports to see how our players are performing in different areas.

Today I am looking at the post play of the 4 bigs. According to Synergy these are the numbers for the season. Later, I will post how they looked watching film.

MILLSAP 141 46 120 38.3% 5.7% 41.8%
JEFFERSON 283 106 246 43.1 4.9% 45.2%
FAVORS 73 30 74 40.5% 16.7% 39.2%
KANTER 54 13 40 32.5% 18.5% 31.5%


Millsap has hit on just 1 of his last 15 post plays, he has been fouled 4 times in that span. Millsap converted 28 of his first 60 post shots of the year and has since hit just 18 of his last 60 post shots. Paul hit on 24 of his first 45 post shots and since then is 22 of his last 75 (29%).


This is what Al does and he has been scoring in the post well as of late. Last year he had 587 post ups for 42.7%, this year he is right on at 43.1%. He is passing more this year and his turnover number is down last year he turned it over 6.1% of his post ups and this year it is 4.9% In turn he score % is up slightly. Last year , he ranked 74th in the NBA in post up according to Synergy this year he is 36th.


Kanter started the year 4 of 20 in the post with 4 turnover, in the last 20 shot attempts he has hit 9 of 20 and has 5 turnovers. He has converted on 5 of the last 10 shots in the post. Turnovers are still a major issue for Kanter in the post and he has no idea how to pass out of the post.


Favors has slumped as of last after being very productive. He has converted on just 5 of his last 15 and even more recently has been 0 for his last 6 but has drawn three fouls in that time.

If you break Favors 74 post shots into 5 groups of 15 he makes 4 the first 15, then 6, then 7, then 8 and slips most recently down to 5. However, in the last 15 he started drawing fouls. His biggest problem is he turns the ball over a ton. In his 45 shots he turned it over 8 times, in the last 30 he has turned it over 5 times. Truly all of these numbers show some progress.

Next I will watch the film and post how they look and what they are doing.