The Utah Jazz in 2005-06

And last (and probably not least) we have the Utah Jazz. With this discussion of the Utah Jazz in 2005-06, the review of the NBA last season is concluded.

Although the Jazz are the last team reviewed, players employed by Utah have already been the subject of previous entries in this forum. For example, one of the very first posts in The Wages of Wins Journal discussed the retirement of Greg Ostertag, a long-time above average role player for the Jazz.

More recently a discussion of Andrei Kirilenko was offered. The discussion focused on the following quote from Arn Tellem, the agent for Al Harrington:

“Al is going to be an extremely valuable addition wherever he lands,” Tellem said. “He has already cemented himself as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming young stars.” Tellem said Harrington is much like Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko — someone who can play multiple positions and is effective on both ends of the court.”

As noted earlier, this statement is just difficult to comprehend. It is the equivalent of Jon Kitna’s agent arguing that is client is every bit the same quarterback as Peyton Manning.

Per 48 minutes Kirilenko produced 0.295 wins, a mark well above the 0.100 Wins Produced per 48 minute [WP48] offered by the average player (for those who did not see the very brief review of the Atlanta Hawks, Harrington was well below average last year). Of players who played 2,000 minutes last year, only seven players – Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Ben Wallace, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade – were more productive per-minute played.

The difficulty with Kirilenko is not the numbers he posts per-minute, but his number of minutes. Yes, he did play 2,606 minutes. But he missed 13 games and over the past two seasons has not played in 54 games. And no matter how talented a player you might be, if you are not on the court you are not helping.

This is the same story one can tell about Carlos Boozer. Boozer – a second round draft choice in 2002 – has produced 36.7 wins thus far in his career. His career WP48 is 0.237. To put that in perspective, Yao Ming – the first player taken in 2002 – has produced 45.7 wins and posted a 0.231 career WP48. Amare Stoudemire’s best season was 2004-05 when he posted a WP48 of 0.225. Yes, one could argue that Boozer has thus far been the top player in the 2002 class.

There is one problem with this argument. After only missing six games in two years with Cleveland, he has missed 80 games the past two years in Utah. Like Kirilenko, Boozer has trouble getting on the court.

Had Kirilenko and Boozer played all 82 games last year the Jazz could have won as many as ten additional games last season. Clearly the loss of these two players hurt this team.

The loss of Kirilenko and Boozer was somewhat mitigated by the fact that Utah had other above average players in the frontcourt. Mehmut Okur, Matt Harpring, and Greg Ostertag were all above average performers last year. In fact, all the above average players employed by the Jazz (who played significant minutes) were at either a forward or the center position.

This means that the backcourt was where this team had problems. Utah had a chance to add Chris Paul in the 2005 draft, who produced 18.0 wins for the New Orleans Jazz (I mean Hornets, but shouldn’t it be Jazz?). But the Jazz took Deron Williams, who produced 0.9 wins. Had the Jazz taken Paul, and Boozer and Kirilenko stayed healthy, this team could have had three players with a WP48 in excess of 0.200. As noted in the discussion of the Washington Wizards, teams need at least one player above this mark to seriously contend for a title. And the Jazz could have had three.

But the Jazz didn’t take Paul. And Kirilenko and Boozer were not always on the court.

In 2006-07 life can be a bit better. No, the Hornets are not going to trade Paul for Williams. But Kirilenko and Boozer might play the entire season. The team also added Derek Fisher, who is actually a below average guard. But he is not quite as far below average as many of the guards Utah employed last year.

Given that Fisher was the only significant move Utah made, it looks like this team will go as far as its frontcourt can take it. That might be to the playoffs. But unless Deron Williams becomes as productive as Chris Paul, this team will probably not contend with the best in the west in 06-07.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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