Monday, February 6, 2012

cool kids

today's post brought to you by screeching weasel's timeless classic.

 the hubbub on the intarwebs over the last few days regarding which jazz players will go to the all-star game seems to converge on two points.  first, jefferson isn't going to go and millsap is a bit of a longshot.  second, at least one of the jazz rookies/sophomores should be in orlando come the final weekend of february.

but there are questions within that second point, as the annointed youth isn't being discussed as deserving a trip to florida to play in the actual rookie-sophomore game.  rather, jeremy evans has illustrated his dunking prowess time and again, to the point of garnering national attention and inspiring an online campaign furthering his inclusion in the dunk contest titled, fittingly, #LetJeremyDunk.

despite the momentum behind jeremy "elevator" evans (i refuse to acknowledge this "human pogo stick" moniker), some of the jazz faithful have been wondering whether some of the ESA's other underclassmen should be making an appearance in the Rising Stars Challenge on the first night of all-star weekend.  while i think gordon hayward probably should be in that game, i'm not sold on any of the other junior jazzmen as shoe-ins.  but the ongoing conversation did get me thinking about what the can't-rent-a-car-yet jazz players have been doing so far this year.

the stats in the images below represent the basic production numbers from the rookies and sophomores on this year's jazz squad:  gordon hayward, derrick favors, enes kanter, alec burks, and jeremy evans.  the top matrix in the image below shows the total numbers put up by those five per each game, and the second grouping has those numbers averaged out in a few different ways.

my initial idea was just to look at the rookie/sophomore player production from the first half of the existing season against the second half, and those numbers aren't terribly encouraging by themselves.  the only categories to see improvements by the jazz youth are points per game and steals.  fouls committed dropped nearly a whole foul per game, but that could be attributed either to smarter play or softer defense--a determination i'll have to leave to the synergy crowd.  all other basic categories (field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, blocked shots, blocks allowed, and assist-to-turnover ratio) have seen a slight decline from the utah youngsters.  the only stat not to make any change at all as been turnovers, with the rookie/sophs averaging 4.36 on the season and in both the first and second half of games played.

but there are some serious signs of good things from the the youth on the roster.  the youngest jazzmen actually play arguably better offense on the road, with increased points per game despite a lower field goal percentage--a pair of stats that means gordon & co. are driving and picking up fouls while they're out of town.  similarly, the kids up their assist game on the road by 1.5 per game, get more steals, turn the ball over  40% less often, with the resulting road assist-to-TO ratio sitting at an impressive 1.9 versus 0.75 at home.  it seems likely to me that the starters and vets on the team are making the bigger plays at home, whereas the young guys are gritting it out in garbage time on the road.

which, by the way, is fine with me:  if the bulk of away-game playing time our young guys see is in down by 20 in the fourth, and they still come out strong, so much the better.  in april of last year, the only hope we had as jazz fans was that the team would improve and build.  at this point in the season, the youth on the roster remains committed to playing 48 full minutes, even if they're actually only playing 4 late in the game.  the two biggest W's at the ESA (that i saw in person) in terms of lop-sidedness this year were the january 10 cleveland game and the january 17 clippers game.  both of those games showcased a second unit from the visiting team more or less give up somewhere in the fourth.  the jazz's rookie/soph road numbers do not reflect that kind of attitude.

the rest of the numbers require a more in-depth analysis than i have time/talent for.  but for those of you who are keeping tabs on the long-term future of the jazz, these numbers might be a fun start for you.  i'd be happy to email the spreadsheet to anyone who wants to play with the numbers themselves, just leave a note in the comments.

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