For the past few seasons the Jazz have been fighting for the 8th seed in the Western Conference and either barely made the playoffs or been one of the first teams to miss them. Being the best team to miss the playoffs is the absolute worst position you can finish. You don’t get the revenue you would have gotten by making the playoffs and having a few more games on TV and a few games you can sell more tickets and on top of that you get a low lottery pick which statistically isn’t going to get you a all-star type player that will change your future. Al Jefferson compared his years with the Celtics and Timberwolves as being in “NBA Jail” and was very excited to be apart of the Jazz. To me “NBA Jail” is being the best team that misses the playoffs. Your team doesn’t take a huge step forward unless they get extremely lucky in the lottery. The way Dennis Lindsay and the rest of the Jazz staff has gone about this offseason has proven that the Jazz weren’t in “NBA Jail” but they had a plan in place and were sticking to it.
The lackluster Jazz fan may not know who is on the Jazz anymore besides Gordon Hayward. To them we lost Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and have given up on this coming season. On the other hand die-hard Jazz fan has been begging for this to happen for at least a year, knowing that with the current make up of the team they would be fighting for a low seed in the Western Conference. Being a small market team in the NBA you’re not going to bring in big name free agents, so making smart trades and having good drafts is much more important to a team like the Jazz then it would be to the Lakers. So why did Dennis Lindsay decide to let almost everyone from last years team leave and let the young players take over this team? Where would the Jazz be if we kept the players we currently had?
Numbers Don’t Lie
Recently when on a Jazzcast with the purpleandblues staff our editor Josh Haslam made the statement, and this is not an exact quote, think of how many games we lost in the first quarter last season. I remember watching games and feeling that games were over very early sometimes but I wasn’t sure if that was a bad memory or if truthfully we lost a bunch of games in the first quarter. I decided to run the numbers for every game last season by quarter to see if the Jazz were truly bad in the first quarter or if it’s some idea we made up in our heads because we wanted the young guys on the court.
The Jazz overall, despite having a winning record, were out scored by 24 points last season. In the first quarter alone the Jazz were outscored by 75 points and were outscored by 102 points in the first quarter on the road. The Jazz only won 32 first quarters all season long which means despite going 43-39 on the season they went 32-50 in the first quarter. To me those numbers say a lot. It says that the majority of teams in the NBA had a better starting line up then the 5 guys the Jazz started. Starting Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter all season may not have fixed this problem and the number could still have been just as bad but knowing that the veteran players were putting up those kind of numbers then how much worse would the younger players really be?
Another number that really stands out is the 2nd quarter spread last season. In the second quarter last season the Jazz outscored their opponents by 73 points, outscoring opponents by 130 points at home and opponents outscoring the Jazz by 57 points on the road. The second quarter was primarily our bench against the opponents bench and as you can see the Jazz had a much better bench then most opponents. The negative 57 points on the road against opponents also doesn’t surprise me at all as it seems the younger players don’t do as well on the road when they can’t feed off their home fans. This is probably what we can expect a lot from this season since we have so much youth out there on the court.
These numbers prove two points to me. First, the Jazz starters were not keeping up with other teams and in a lot of games the Jazz had to fight back because we didn’t show up to start the game. Second, our bench players were better than other players coming off the bench for other teams. I’m not sure too many people can argue these two points with the numbers right there saying it all. Yes the bench players who are now in the starting line up will be playing against starters now and not the opponents bench but our bench players were better than our opponents bench players. Up to this season the bench players may not have been ready to take on a bigger role for this team but the numbers from last season show that this year they are.
Jazz on the Right Path to Success
The moves that were made this summer were without a doubt the right moves. The immediate future for the Jazz may not be as good as it could have been if the Jazz stuck with the current makeup they had and playing veterans who were really good players but not all-stars. They Jazz may have a worse record but we really don’t know that for sure until they get on the floor and start playing games. It is possible that the Jazz could fight for an 8th seed in the Western Conference this season even after letting all of last years veterans walk. The more likely scenario is the Jazz have a worse record, the younger players gain valuable experience playing together and the Jazz get a great draft pick in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft. Either way the Jazz had a decision of staying mediocre for the next 5 or so years or taking a chance to become great. Jazz fans need to trust in the management in charge of this team as this offseason shows that management is not okay with mediocrity.