The Jazz in December

Jazzsantahat

corbinsThe Utah Jazz’s front-office designs to land a future All-Star in the 2014 lottery are still working as expected, but Trey Burke is so good that it’s a good thing he missed the beginning of the season.

Yesterday’s game against Charlotte showed some good team defense, and we also got to see a chance why the Bobcats are doing so well defensively this season.

The Bobcats play Al Jefferson as a 4.  Technically they call Josh McRoberts the 4, but he was really doing the center’s job while Big Al was the low-block power-forward.  They also have the long-armed shot-blocker Biyombo as their third big.

It made me wonder why the Jazz’s defense suffered so much with Big Al on the team.  In Boozer’s last season with the Jazz, they finished 10th in defensive efficiency.  The next year, with Big Al coming aboard, and the drama of Sloan retiring, D-Will getting traded, and new pieces suddenly here, the Jazz finished 23rd.  In the lock-out shortened season, they went on a nice run and made the playoffs with #19 in defensive efficiency.  Last year, they were 21st.  Now they’re 30th.  Is it a matter of the Jazz never having the right pieces, or is Ty Corbin just not a good defensive coach?  In offense, they’ve been in top half until this year, where they sit #25.  The offense has flowed better with Burke (and Marvin Williams) in the starting lineup, but the defense hasn’t improved.

Anyway, here are the NBA standings if the season had started December 1.

EAST

1. Miami (11-4)
2. Indiana (10-4)
3. Atlanta (9-5)
4. Washington (6-5)
5. Toronto (7-6)
6. Boston (6-6)
7. Detroit (8-9)
8. Charlotte (6-9)
9. New York (6-9)
10. Brooklyn (5-8)
11. Chicago (5-9)
12. Cleveland (5-9)
13. Orlando (4-10)
14. Philadelphia (3-10)
15. Milwaukee (3-11)

While only three Eastern teams currently have winning records, five of them have winning records in the month of December.

WEST
1. Oklahoma City (14-2)
2. Phoenix (10-3)
3. Portland (11-4)
4. San Antonio (10-4)
5. Golden State (10-5)
6. Dallas (8-5)
7. LA Clippers (9-7)
8. Houston (8-7)
9. New Orleans (7-7)
10. Minnesota (6-7)
11. Utah (7-9)
12. Memphis (5-9)
13. Denver (5-10)
14. Sacramento (5-10)
15. LA Lakers (4-10)

That’s right. The Jazz would currently be poised to get the 12th pick in the draft if it weren’t for those Burke-less days. Looking ahead I can easily see them winning 4 of their next 5 games (MIL, LAL, OKC, CLE, DEN) which would give them a winning record over a six-week span. They’ll probably lose to the Spurs, but then they get DET, WAS, SAC and MIN twice. My July prediction was 31-51. Barring injury I still think that’s realistic. It would also mean the Jazz would wind up in the 8-12 range for their lottery pick.

Trey Burke is averaging 13 and 5 as a rookie. Just for fun, here from Basketball-reference.com, here are some Per-36 numbers of other point guards in their rookie years to peruse.

PGper36

The December records also shows just how impressive a job Jeff Hornacek is doing with the Phoenix Suns. They’ll have three, possibly four first round picks in the 2014 draft. Now maybe none of them will be lottery, but they’ll still have plenty of flexibility there, and their salary situation is great. The Suns will be players in free agency, where they can boast warm weather and winning ways to free-agents-to-be.

About the author

John English

John studied journalism at UVU and put that to good use by writing for free for blogs on a part-time basis. Money well spent. He became an avid Jazz fan since moving to Utah in 1989. Also a fan of the NFL and BYU football.