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Winning in Utah: Is it really the Home Court Factor?

Energy Solutions arena is well-known for its ruckus atmosphere and rabid fanbase.  The building, and more importantly the crowd, is credited with a lot of the success the Jazz have at home.  But now that the season is in full swing with nearly one fifth of the total 82 game schedule behind us, other less obvious but ultimately more impactful reasons are beginning to surface.

After earning a rare win away from home this season, the Jazz moved to 9-7 on the season(prior to Friday’s loss to the Thunder), but that includes a perfect 6-0 at home and a horrible 3-7 on the road.  Of course the easy blame is the team’s youth and the knowledge that young teams simply play a lot better at home.  However careful analysis of key Jazz player stats reveals a telling story.

Let’s begin with the most influential position on the floor, the floor general if you will, the point guard.  Here the Jazz have absolutely no claim to being young with Mo Williams pushing 30, and Earl Watson and Jamal Tinsley both well passed that mark. Here’s a breakdown of stats for Mo and Jamal(Earl as the 3rd string is not covered here.)

Mo Williams:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

30.7

.441

2.2

7.2

0.7

1.3

2.2

12.5

In Losses

34.5

.402

2.3

5.8

0.5

0.7

2.0

15.0

Jamal Tinsley:
STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

24.0

.296

2.4

6.9

0.3

1.1

1.8

2.4

In Losses

17.2

.381

1.3

4.3

0.0

0.5

1.7

3.5

 

Is it just me or is it rather disturbing that Utah’s starting PG scores more points and shoots a lower percentage and plays more minutes in losses while the backup PG gets a huge increase in minutes in wins?  If these numbers are any indication, Mo needs to stop shooting and start passing and Tinsley needs to be out on the floor more.

The shooting guard position is also something the Jazz need some serious work with, especially if you don’t include Gordon Hayward in that mix(I’ve put him at SF for this article).  With Raja Bell inactive(and 36 besides), Alec Burks having a disappointing 2nd year, that really leaves Randy Foye as Utah’s only true shooting guard.  Here’s his stats:

Randy Foye:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

23.3

.370

0.9

1.6

0.3

0.6

2.7

10.2

In Losses

26.4

.406

1.4

1.6

0.4

0.4

2.3

11.7

 

Again, less minutes and points from Foye translates into wins for Utah, and the recent report is that Foye will be moving into the starting lineup.  Good move?  We’ll have to see.

As for the Small forward position, the Jazz are deep, but that’s part of the problem.  With Favors and Millsap grabbing minutes here because of a log jam of big men, there’s not a ton of minutes left for starter quality SFs in Marvin Williams and Gordon Hayward.  Then there’s DeMarre Carroll whose hustle out on the court seems to energize the whole team.  Here’s the SF stats:

 

Marvin Williams:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

28.7

.519

4.3

1.2

0.4

0.6

1.4

13.9

In Losses

26.6

.333

3.0

1.0

0.9

0.6

1.1

5.9

More minutes and points here translate into wins.  Most of the points are likely purely from the much improved shooting percentage, which means the point guards need to be distributing the ball to Marvin when he’s open, and he needs to be selective in his shooting.

Gordon Hayward:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

28.8

.359

3.0

2.1

0.9

0.7

2.4

13.3

In Losses

27.8

.464

3.0

2.1

0.4

1.1

1.6

13.3

 

Hayward is one of the few consistent players, win or lose for the Jazz.  Same points, rebounds and assists.  The only thing I find odd is his shooting percentage is considerably lower in wins.  Overall though I’d say giving more minutes to Hayward would likely indicate more production seeing how consistent he is, which is all you can ask a player to provide.

 

DeMarre Carroll:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

18.7

.364

3.8

1.2

0.3

0.5

1.3

6.5

In Losses

12.4

.647

2.2

0.2

0.6

1.4

1.4

5.8

 

The eyebrow-raising stat here is minutes per game.  A jump from 12 to 18 in wins vs. losses can’t be coincidence.  Anyone who’s seen DeMarre out on the court can understand why.  The man provides pure hustle, which catches on.  I remember during the Houston game he poked the ball away from behind on defense, got it to Tinsley who chucked it upcourt to a streaking Hayward, and on the replay, who else but DeMarre was running right beside Hayward the whole way, where most guys would have considered their job done after creating the turnover.  So I say the Jazz need him on the floor, but it’d probably be best if he sticks to rebounding, hustling and playing defense instead of shooting the ball, as he has a dramatically lower FG% in wins than losses, but his personality needs to rub off on the team as a whole.

Power Forward is another tough position for the Jazz, home to Millsap and Favors who both can’t get the minutes they deserve at their natural position.  Their stats reveal some interesting choices placed before the Jazz.

Derrik Favors

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

24.2

.480

8.3

0.3

2.3

0.9

3.6

11.1

In Losses

21.3

.380

6.5

0.8

1.4

0.9

1.8

7.3

 

Other than assists (and fouls) when given more minutes Favors excels, increasing all other stats across the board.  Seems like Favors needs more time on the court.

Paul Millsap

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

29.7

.449

8.7

2.2

0.7

0.9

2.8

13.2

In Losses

31.3

.465

7.8

2.5

1.4

1.0

3.6

15.1

As much as it pains me to say it, Millisap’s #s here are telling.  Less minutes for Millsap = Jazz wins.  Also if he takes more of a rebounding role and avoids foul trouble.  With Favors out due to injury though, Sap may yet get his chance, and hopefully respond favorably-in terms of Jazz Ws- to increased minutes.

 

As for the center position, Big Al is pretty much where the buck stops, but Friday’s breakout game for Kanter provides some hope for his potential, though prior to that his stats are less than stellar.

Al Jefferson

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

34.2

.510

11.6

1.9

1.0

1.7

2.8

20.2

In Losses

31.5

.411

9.6

1.8

1.3

0.5

2.6

12.4

 

From these stats I think it’s pretty safe to say as Al Jefferson goes so go the Jazz.  If Al breaks the twenty point mark chances are the Jazz will win, so the key is to get Al going and keep him going.   And if he can get some steals and enough rebounds for a double-double all the better.

 

Enes Kanter:

STATS

MIN

FG%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

PF

PTS

In Wins

13.8

.563

3.3

0.6

0.6

0.2

1.9

4.7

In Losses

14.6

.524

4.1

0.4

0.4

0.4

2.1

6.3

 

Kanter’s stats are slightly misleading since in Friday’s game he scored 18 points in the loss to the Thunder.  Prior to that game Kanter’s stats were pretty even across the board.  It is nice to see thought that he shoots the ball at a very high percentage win or lose.  Maybe if he got more attempts and minutes he could have consistently high production.  Afterall this league doesn’t have many true centers, and a ripped 6-11 Kanter has the build to muscle around most centers.  With Favors out, he’ll probably see increased minutes.

So now that you’ve had your fill of Jazz stats, here’s my suggestions to the Jazz organization.  First, Mo has got to stop shooting the ball so much and be a Jazz point guard(rack up the assists!).  I know he’s always been a shooter, but that isn’t what the Jazz need. Give Tinsley the reins more often and slide Mo to shooting guard if you need.  Go to Earl Watson if needed.  Anything but let Mo be the leading scorer, since that pretty much translates into losses.

As for shooting guard, I say give more minutes to Hayward at that position.  He may be a small forward, but he’s a bit small at that position, and his shooting reminds me of Jeff hornacek, who in fact has worked with him on a number of occasions.  For being so young he’s remarkably consistent for the Jazz at home or on the road, which they could use.  Randy Foye will still play a large role at this position of course.

At SF Marvin Williams should get the nod.  He needs to be selective in his shooting, with the wide difference in shooting percentage in wins vs. loses, but he’s got the talent and the experience.  Of course Gordon Hayward can also back him up, but I’d try to get as many minutes as possible for DeMarre Caroll.  His work ethic on the court is something the Jazz need to see and follow as a team.

Now comes the tricky part. With four very solid Power Forwards and Centers a decision needs to be made, though it will likely be delayed with Favors injury.  The most logical thing, as painful as it might be would be to move someone, probably Millsap.  His undersized build seems to be more glaring this season, and the Jazz win more with him having less minutes.

The only other option to move would be Kanter, who I’m sure several teams would like to have. Considering both contracts and Kanter’s potential, I think you gotta try to hold onto Kanter and provide him more minutes to really develop, which can really only happen with one of the other 3 big men riding the pine or donning another jersey.  Other than that, for the big men, ride Big Al to the finish.  Give him the ball and let him punish teams like he did in Minnesota where he regularly posted 20-10.  His stats don’t lie, as he goes so go the Jazz.

With any luck the Jazz will figure out the kinks as they go, and find a way to bottle up the magic of Energy Solutions arena and take it on the road.  More importantly though, hopefully they can find a way to consistently play Jazz basketball. If not, it’s going to be a long season, especially away from Energy Solutions arena.

Note:  All stats provided from ESPN.GO.COM.  While I tried to make sure all of them included stats from the Friday Nov 30th game, I may have missed some due to the timing of this writing.

 

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