One Team, One Stat: Utah’s Young Bigs Bring The D

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Utah Jazz, who are going with the youth movement.

The basics
UTA Rank
W-L 43-39 15
Pace 93.4 20
OffRtg 103.6 12
DefRtg 104.3 21
NetRtg -0.7 17

The stat

98.3 - Points per 100 possessions that the Jazz defense allowed with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor together.

The context

That’s 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than the Jazz allowed with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the floor together. The Jazz were basically a top-five defense with the two young bigs on the floor and a bottom-five defense with the two vets.

Overall, the Jazz ranked 21st defensively, because Jefferson and Millsap played a lot more minutes together. Their offense was good enough to make the playoffs, but their D held them back.

It’s a give-and-take with Jefferson, who is a talented interior scorer, but a defensive liability. In his last six seasons (three in Minnesota and three in Utah), his teams ranked 27th, 27th, 28th, 24th, 20th and 21st defensively. And it would be hard to imagine this year’s Bobcats not ranking in the bottom five, especially with Brendan Haywood injured.

If last year’s numbers are any indication, the Jazz should move up the defensive rankings.

Jazz efficiency with big man combinations on the floor

Combination GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Jefferson + Millsap* 75 1,858 92.9 105.1 107.6 -2.5 -104
Favors + Jefferson* 74 725 91.8 102.7 108.5 -5.8 -60
Favors + Kanter** 64 706 95.1 99.4 98.3 +1.0 +29
Favors + Millsap*** 55 445 90.7 107.3 102.7 +4.6 +49
Kanter + Millsap** 37 169 96.9 107.4 93.6 +13.7 +58
Jefferson + Kanter 13 51 95.7 102.3 112.3 -10.0 -6

* = Includes 85 minutes of Favors, Jefferson and Millsap on the floor together.
** = Includes 36 minutes of Favors, Kanter and Millsap on the floor together.
*** = Includes 121 minutes of the two 3-man combinations above.

In regard to their defensive numbers, the Favors-Kanter combination had the advantage of playing, for the most part, against opposing second units, which weren’t as potent offensively as the starting lineups that Jefferson and Millsap faced. They also played less than half the minutes that Jefferson and Millsap played together, and only time will tell if they can sustain a high level of defense over a full season of extended playing time.

But both the numbers and the film are promising. Below are some clips from a Dec. 19 game in Indiana in which Favors and Kanter were a plus-9 in 23 minutes together, holding the Pacers to just 37 points:


Now, that game was a blowout and 12 of the 23 minutes came in the fourth quarter, when the outcome was already decided. The Indiana bench was also pretty terrible offensively last season. But we see Favors and Kanter stopping Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Their activity, energy, and multiple efforts are clear.

The Jazz were pretty bad offensively with Favors and Kanter on the floor together, and they’re probably going to be pretty bad offensively this season. Gordon Hayward is bound for a breakout year, but Utah will need to see some development from the bigs on that end of the floor as well.

Last year, the good defense outweighed the bad offense. The Jazz aren’t a better team without Millsap and Jefferson, but they might not be as bad as you think. And in the long run, they look to be in great shape with a pair of bigs, ages 21 and 22, who can defend.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

12 Comments

  1. Eaham says:

    lol umm am I the only one who wanna asee Utah win games ? They were giving 100% every night with jefferson and MIlsap as well. They were putting 100% with d-will and boozer as well. Don’t forget about Stockton and malone either. Utah need to stfu and be aggresive about their organization being so humbling wiht all these years of losing out even with good players. Have some pride in winning bro

    • Jazz Nation says:

      Got plenty of pride here in Utah.
      Just admitting that the rebuild is going to be tough, and losses will be expected… But whether losses come in heavy, or wins pour in, we def have Die hard fans here thats for sure. Excited to give the young talent a chance to grow and prove themselves.

  2. best gm says:

    Lets see how they do against top tier talent… Every losing team sells potential…

  3. John Burgess says:

    The only people that watch the jazz lives in Utah …canter who?

  4. mark says:

    It will take time but hopefully they will grow at the same rate on defense and on the offensive side of the ball its hard to draft 2 bigs who are around the same age that can both play D And are on a team where they are all young but will be buying into being more of defensive team so in the long run if all goes wewell these 2 will have long careers and utah is a very loyal and player friendly organization that is willing to help grow young players into great talents so I hope they both have great long careers and remember defense eins championships maybe not now for them with a winning attitude and strong defense good coaching anything is possible

  5. OKC says:

    Yeah I’m actually pretty excited to see these two get better together, could end up being another team that can punish us down low.

  6. jazzfanryan says:

    that combo is going to be fun to watch this year! i dont care if we dont win a game as long as they put 100% into it every night.