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Friday, April 19, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for January and and February: 13. Utah Jazz

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of February 28th): 31-27 (third place, Northwest Division)  

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of February 28th)

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (11th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.1 (19th)
  • Team FG%: .452 (13th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .460 (21st)
  • Team FT%: .767 (13th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .361 (12th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.0 (16th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.2 (9th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.8 (15th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.7 (17th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of February 28th)

Worst Player of the Month: Marvin Williams

Again Marvin Williams has continued to disappoint in his stay in Utah justifying the thoughts of many of how much of lottery bust he was playing for the Atlanta Hawks.  With each passing month, Williams has been less relevant with every game as his production on the offensive end has steadily stopped while at the same time his presence on the defensive end has been all but nonexistent.  January and February were by far the two worst months of his season as he dropped averaging 7.7 points per game while shooting a respectable .459 from the field to completely tanking down to 6.7 points per game and shooting a woeful .372 from the field.  This was supposed to be the season where Marvin Williams was to resurrect his failing career, but all he has accomplished is just simply continue justifying the perception of him being a utter waste of space on the court.  He is essentially a small forward in a power forward's body who is too slow to beat his opponent off the dribble and whose sole offensive repertoire consists of a shaky jumpshot--and what's worse is that the Jazz will continue to be stuck with him for yet another season.       
First Player of the Month: Alec Burks

At the start of the season Alec Burks looked as if his breakout rookie performance last season was a fluke as he had simply lost his shot and was on his way to be swept away as so many wannabee NBA stars end up as.  Fortunately for Burks however, with each passing month he slowly and surely improved with each passing month as his shot had gradually reappeared in time.  He hit a major breakthrough in February when he finished the month with his best performance of the season averaging 9.9 points per game while shooting a season's best .455 from the field and a whopping .478 from beyond the arc.  Considering the fact that Burks started the season averaging only 1.7 per game while shooting an even more woeful .182 from the field, one can certainly notice the vast improvement that has occurred over the past four months.  With such an impressive performance, Burks has proven all doubters wrong that he was nothing more than simply a one hit wonder and continues to show an ever evolving game making him certainly a future building block for this Utah franchise.    

Although NBA hoops fans in Salt Lake City must be ecstatically cheering for their Utah Jazz team as it has defied the odds yet again to remain among the top teams, the sad fact of the matter is that their home team is essentially on borrowed time.  Although they currently hold onto the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a rather comfortable lead, that will be short lived at best because the Utah Jazz are simply not as good as a team as their record would indicate.  For starters, despite sitting the a respectable record with four games over .500, the Jazz have allowed their opponents to outscore them by a little over a point per game and while at the same time allow them to shoot over .460 from the field. Although the Jazz do have a slight advantage when it comes to rebounding the ball and rank among the top ten teams in the league in rebounds allowed, those numbers are rather misleading to say the least.  The real reason why the Jazz have a slight lead over their opponents on the board is not so much their ability to box out their opponent in the paint, but the simple fact that they allow their opponents to shoot at a rather high percentage resulting in missing the ball less thus grabbing less rebounds.

In January the Jazz seemed simply marvelous going 10-4 after finishing 2012 with a rather mediocre 15-17 record and improved their record to a respectable 25-21; unfortunately however they started to show signs of waning in February going 6-6 for that month, yet managed to maintain their respectable standing in the west with a 31-27 record.  Upon closer examination at their games, one can see a rather disturbing trend as most of the games that Utah won were rather close ad could have gone either way leaving many to believe that much of the Jazz's good fortune had more to do with luck that anything else.  Although it may look as if the Jazz won their games rather convincingly by an average margin of 8.8 points, six of those sixteen games were won by six points or less and five of those teams that they narrowly beat can not be considered as the NBA's cream of the crop.  They narrowly beat two of the Eastern Conference's worst teams in the Detroit Pistons (1/12/2013) and Washington Wizards (1/23/2013) by a grand total of seven points while narrowly scraping past two of the Western Conference whipping boys, the New Orleans Hornets (1/30/2013) and Minnesota Timberwolves (2/13/2013), by just nine altogether.  Utah even needed overtime to defeat of all teams, the Sacramento Kings (2/9/2012), a team that many consider a laughing stock by not only NBA standards, but on the world of professional sports as well.

One should also note that despite finishing January and February with a rather respectable 16-10 record, when the Jazz lost, they lost rather badly as their opponents literally pounded the team into the ground crushing them by an averaged margin of 13.8 points losing all but four of those ten games by 10 or more points.  In that rather impressive January performance where Utah finished 10-4 for the month, in their four loses, they lost three of them by an average margin of 31.9 points as they lost to the Denver Nuggets (1/5/2013) and Los Angeles Lakers (1/25/2013) by a total of 37 points then simply got humiliated by the Houston Rockets by a whopping 45 points (1/28/2013).  Utah managed to show a somewhat respectable performances in their losing efforts in February as they lost their six games in that month by an average margin of eight points; however, considering the teams that they lost to and how they lost still will make many an observer raise an eye or two.  After losing two hard fought games against two respectable team such as the Portland Trailblazers (2/2/2013) and Chicago Bulls (2/8/2013) by a total of just ten points, the Jazz would lose by eleven points against of all teams, the NBA's laughing stock Sacramento Kings (2/9/2013).  And in what can be seen as an absolute low for the Utah Jazz's poor reputation on the defensive end, they would allow the league lowest scoring teams, the Boston Celtics (2/25/2013), to score 110 points on them eventually outlasting them in overtime.         

Upon looking at these stark examples, one can certainly see how the Utah Jazz, despite resting comfortably in seventh place in the West are nowhere near as good as their record would indicate and certainly not in any place a lock at making the playoffs.  Despite being four games over .500 at the end of February, the team has yet been able to outscore their opponents as they have -0.06 points margin from their opponents while allowing them to shoot the lights out at .460 from the field.  Those numbers certainly should not inspire any confidence for Jazz fans who have been rooting for their home team to make the postseason for the second straight year since the resignation of long time hall of fame coach Jerry Sloan and the departure of the disgruntled star player Deron Williams to the Brooklyn Nets.  If anything, making the playoff would probably be detrimental to the Jazz as it will give them a false sense of security which would then lead the head office to put back plans to do what is necessary for the team's overall growth.  Namely, the Jazz need to just tank the team, unloading the veterans that impede the development of the impressive young talent and allow these young players to grow and improve at the expense of winning; however, if the team manages to reach the playoffs, it will certainly not force Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor and head coach Tyrone Corbin to undergo the long road towards rebuilding, because they would be more than satisfied to simply keep the gravy train rolling as long as they can to keep their jobs.

Missing the playoffs will be what the Utah Jazz needs to finally move on from the past because as it stands now, the team still rest under the immense shadow of coaching legend Jerry Sloan.  If Tyrone Corbin wants to show that he is a worthy successor to Sloan, who had coached the Jazz for 26 years where he led the Jazz to the playoff in all but four years, he needs to prove that he can build the team in his own image.  Instead of truly making a name for himself as a head coach in the NBA, he has been simply content coasting with the same team that was originally coached under Sloan giving him a winning coaching record that he most likely does not deserve.  The Jazz front office may also be tempted to take the cowardly approach keep the team as is by resigning the Jazz's three major upcoming free agents--Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap and Mo Williams--offering them bloated contract extensions that would erase any real salary cap flexibility in the future.  Upon doing that, the Jazz will end up marginalizing the team's young group of talented players thus creating internal discontent and threatening to tear the team apart.  The Jazz have extremely young, talented and hungry players are looking to prove themselves but can't because they are being upstaged by veterans whose time in Utah should come at an end--and unless they get their chance, Utah will never improve as a team, but simply continue to settle with being a team hovering between being average and mediocre.