Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Utah Jazz Player
A long season packed with losses and talk of tanking has mercifully ended for the Utah Jazz.
The organization has only had two seasons in its history that ended with fewer wins than the 25 that came from the 2013-14 campaign. And both of those were in the '70s.
It's been a rough go for players and fans, but not a surprising one. Everyone knew this was a rebuilding season when management let four of the team's top five scorers in 2012-13 walk in free agency, turning things over to the young core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke.
They took their lumps on the way to 57 losses, but there were definitely a few bright spots providing reason to be excited about the future.
With all that in mind, the Jazz players will be graded on a curve. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to give anyone much higher than a C.
Key Stats: 3.0 points, 38.8 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three-point range
Undrafted free-agent rookie Ian Clark played in just 23 games for the Jazz this season. He was signed for training camp as a potential three-point specialist.
In his very limited playing time, Clark managed to hoist up 31 attempts from long range, hitting 11. If he'd played enough time to qualify, Clark's three-point percentage of 35.5 would be fourth on the team.
If he can add to his game the ability to create for himself from time to time, Clark could be able to find a niche somewhere in the NBA, possibly Utah.
Key Stats: 2.1 points and 34 percent from three-point range
When the Jazz picked up Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins from the Golden State Warriors last summer, it looked like little more than a salary dump.
Rush was the only one who seemed to make any sense as part of the rebuilding at the time, but alas, coach Ty Corbin felt differently.
Prior to this season, 28-year-old Rush had averaged 9.1 points while shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range as he grew into the role of three-and-D guy for the Warriors.
As Rush was recovering from a torn ACL, Corbin opted to go with 33-year-old Jefferson, who'd averaged 3.1 points in 10.1 minutes in 2012-13.
With Jefferson firmly entrenched in the rotation, Rush was never able to work himself into Corbin's good graces—at least to the extent it earned him playing time. He appeared in just 38 games, averaging 11 minutes and 2.1 points.
Rush admitted the season was, "a little frustrating," according to Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. And who can blame him?
Now, he'll enter this offseason as an unrestricted free agent who was given no chance to prove himself to a potential suitor.
John Lucas III
Key Stats: 3.8 points and 1.0 assist
John Lucas III was the "big" free-agent signing of the Jazz in 2013. That's right, John Lucas.
He was brought in to be the veteran mentor to the rookie point guard Burke but wound up appearing in just over half the team's games, as he was woefully ineffective whenever he was on the floor.
Lucas struggled so badly, that the team had to bring in D-Leaguer Diante Garrett to assume the duties of backup point guard. And even as Garrett posted a terrible player efficiency rating of 7.1, he still made more sense in the role than Lucas.
The 31-year-old Lucas had never shot better than 39.9 percent from the field for a season prior to 2013-14, and yet somehow, he didn't even meet the low expectations that were a result of that inaccuracy.
On the season, Lucas shot 32.6 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from three-point range. He averaged 3.8 points in 42 games—including six starts!
Key Stats: 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 points
This was supposed to be a season of rebuilding and discovery, right? If in fact it was, Rudy Gobert's role and playing time was, in a word, curious.
The 21-year-old rookie from France, who stands 7'2" and boasts the league's longest wingspan at 7'9", averaged just 9.6 minutes in 46 appearances this season.
Sure, his offense is more raw than a Monday night on the USA Network, but having him on the floor would've done more good than harm—in both the short and long term.
Minutes against NBA competition and among teammates with whom he may spend the next several years could've expedited Gobert's development. After all, experience is the best teacher.
And for instant benefits, look no further than this eight-minute highlight reel of the big man dunking, blocking and rebounding his way into the hearts of Jazz fans from France to the Salt Lake Valley.
Whenever he'd check into a game, those fans would perk up, anticipating his first swat or dunk. Gobert typically delivered in short order. On the season, he averaged 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes. And among players with at least 100 minutes, Gobert's block percentage of 7.4 was second only to Cole Aldrich.
He's already a good rebounder too. In that same group (players who logged at least 100 minutes this season), Gobert was seventh in total rebounding percentage at 20.6.
A lot of that production is a natural result of his insane size, but that's not the only reason. The guy played with more consistent passion and energy than a lot of the rotation players. Click on the highlight reel up there if you don't believe me.
Sure seems like someone with that size and attitude could've helped the very worst defensive team in the NBA. Certainly, a few more minutes of Gobert could've helped the Jazz post a better defensive rating than the putrid 109.1 points per 100 possessions they allowed this season.
But we are left to wonder yet again.
Hopefully, Gobert made strides in practice and will continue to improve over the summer. According to Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune, Gobert said his focus in the offseason would be, "Getting stronger, my legs and all my body. Getting stronger, quicker. … You got to be tough, especially me. I’m a center."
If he can do that, and Utah hires a coach who can work Gobert into the rotation, we could be seeing a lot more highlight blocks and dunks from the big Frenchman in 2014-15.
Key Stats: 3.5 points, 1.7 assists and 37.5 percent from three-point range
After being called up from the NBA D-League, Garrett quickly became Burke's primary backup, appearing in 71 games and averaging 14.8 minutes.
During his time on the floor, efficiency wasn't exactly Garrett's forte. As previously noted, he put up a paltry PER of 7.1, something that had a lot to do with his penchant for turning the ball over.
Among players who qualified for Basketball-Reference's minutes per game leaderboard, Garrett had the fourth-highest turnover percentage. He gave away 21.7 out of every 100 possessions.
And the three guys with a higher turnover percentage were doing a much better job of distributing to teammates or stealing from the opposition to offset the turnovers:
It wasn't all bad for Garrett, though. He did manage to put up a solid three-point percentage of 37.5, good for second on a team that desperately needed more shooting.
With that ability and his size (he's 6'4"), he could be a matchup problem from time to time if he could figure out his glaring weaknesses.
He'd obviously need a lot of work to become better at facilitating and taking care of the ball, but Garrett may be worth another look as a third or fourth point guard next season.
Key Stats: 6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 52.7 percent from the field
In his first season with a substantial role, Jeremy Evans posted career highs in both points and rebounds per game at 6.1 and 4.7. And his PER of 16.2 tied Hayward's for second-best on the team.
He essentially filled the role of "energy guy" that was owned by DeMarre Carroll last season, and he filled it well.
Evans' high-flying dunks, improved mid-range shot and effort on the boards made him a fan favorite in 2013-14, but he mysteriously disappeared from the rotation in March.
He re-emerged in April, and he even started the season finale in place of injured bigs Marvin Williams and Kanter. He went out with a bang, posting 18 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes.
Key Stats: 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds
Williams had something of a bounce-back campaign in 2013-14, after he struggled in his debut season with the Jazz the season before:
His numbers don't exactly jump off the screen, but Williams was at least marginally effective as a stretch 4 for the Jazz, posting the best PER (14.0) outside of the five core young guys.
His outside shooting helped provide some space during the first part of the season, though that failed him eventually. He shot 40.1 percent from three-point range prior to the All-Star break, and just 26.4 after.
But even as his shot cooled off, Williams still provided energy, especially on the boards. His rookie season was the only one in which he had a better rebounding percentage than the 11.5 he posted in 2013-14.
On top of that, Williams was a solid veteran presence and could be back next year for that reason. In writing on the future of Williams, Rush, Lucas and Jefferson, Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News said:
Of the four, Williams seems the most likely to be back with the Jazz next year. Williams, who started 50 of 66 games and averaged 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds, said he loves playing in Utah and hopes to be here next year.
He then went on to quote Williams as saying:
I’ve said all year long, the way the Jazz organization has treated me, the way the community has treated me, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Obviously I understand in professional sports things happen, but I’ve made it very clear I would like to return here if possible.
If that's the case, he'll likely return to a smaller role under a different head coach. With Favors and Kanter still developing and Utah possibly adding another forward in the draft, there may not be a ton of minutes to be had for Williams.
If he's OK with that, I'm sure Jazz fans would love to have him back as a mentor on a team that manages to get younger as time moves forward.
Key Stats: 10.1 points and 40.9 percent from three-point range
The Utah Jazz finished the season tied with the Boston Celtics for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. Nine players basically made up the rotation of this 25-57 team.
Jefferson's PER ranked eighth among those nine:
Despite providing little on the floor besides a reliable outside shot, Jefferson was given a bigger role than Evans and Kanter, and for portions of the year, Burks.
Utah obviously had a need for floor spacing, and Jefferson's three-point percentage of 40.9 provided that. But it came at the expense of basically every other aspect of the game. When Jefferson was on the floor, Utah was worse on offense, defense and the boards:
|On − Off||56%||-3.7||-0.6||+3.7||+3.3||-7.5||-3.9|
I'd like to blame Jefferson, but he wasn't the one giving himself 27 minutes a game. Is there any way I can pawn his grade off on Corbin? A coach should be able to recognize when a starter is actually making it harder to win games. Maybe he did, and was tanking after all.
I'm being facetious, of course. Or perhaps just grasping at straws trying to figure this out. I mean, he had Burks on the bench. He could've at least tried Rush. I get the whole veteran leadership thing. But that could've been done from the bench.
Whatever the reasons were for Jefferson having such a major role are largely irrelevant now, aside from a possible discussion among Jazz fans years from now, "Remember that one year we had Richard Jefferson?"
Grade: D (because come on guys, it wasn't his fault)
Key Stats: 12.8 points and 5.7 assists in 32.3 minutes
Like Evans—and I would assume plenty of Jazz songs—Burke ended his season on a high note.
In the season finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he went for a career-high 32 points to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. It was an exclamation point on a solid rookie season that many have misinterpreted as great.
Yes, Burke was one of the most productive rookies in this class, but look at his peers. ESPN's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) recently proclaimed this crop of rookies the second-worst ever, saying, "The 2000 draft had been the only rookie class since the ABA-NBA merger to leave the league worse off than if no rookies had played at all—until now."
His bold proclamation was based on wins above replacement, and the fact that the 2000 and 2013 rookie classes are the only two to combine for a negative WARP.
To his credit, Burke was one of the six lottery picks who managed to post a positive individual WARP. But again, being one of the better players in this class isn't saying much.
Burke still has a lot to work on—first and foremost, shooting.
His shooting percentages of 38 from the field and 33 from three-point range were well below the league averages of 45.4 and 36.
Obviously, there's no reason to say he can't get better, but those kind of numbers put Burke's rookie season on par with someone you might not expect:
And if that isn't alarming enough, check out who he compares best to in terms of offensive and defensive rating:
While those two comparisons may surprise some, they're based on numbers. They're hard to refute, but they're definitely not the end-all, be-all.
Burke is great in clutch situations, takes care of the ball and has shown the ability to improve in the past. I laid all this out a couple of weeks ago. Suffice it to say, there's still a chance Burke can get on track to being the star Jazz fans hope he will be.
Key Stats: 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 45.7 percent from the field in 28.1 minutes
Burks has the talent to average 20 points in the NBA. He proved that in 2013-14, even if he didn't get the opportunity to actually do it.
This season, Burks played over 30 minutes just 28 times. He averaged 17.6 points in those games while shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
He had 15 games with at least 20 points. Among Jazz players, only Hayward had more 20-point games with 22, and he played 8.3 more minutes per game.
And Burks did this while often spending his time on the floor as the second or third scoring option. Burke and Kanter both averaged more shots per 36 minutes.
This despite the fact neither has the natural scoring ability of Burks. Kanter may be great offensively in the paint, but he doesn't get to the free-throw line nearly as effectively. And no one on the team is better at penetrating from the perimeter to the rim.
Unless Utah lands Jabari Parker in the draft, there's almost no question Burks should be the No. 1 scoring option next season.
That will especially be true if he's starting alongside two capable playmakers who should probably take fewer shots next season in Burke and Hayward.
Key Stats: 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in 26.7 minutes
You wouldn't have had to tune into many Jazz games this season to realize that Kanter drew the ire of Coach Corbin more than anyone else. On any given night, you could catch Corbin screaming at Kanter for something he'd done wrong, with seemingly more intensity than other players drew.
Every coach has one, at least in my experience in high school and college: someone who for whatever reason becomes the verbal whipping boy. Often, it's someone with great potential from whom the coach expects a lot.
I've seen the treatment break some guys. Others, it's refined. Utah Jazz fans are hoping Corbin's hard treatment of Kanter will have the latter effect.
He does indeed have great potential, with footwork, post moves and shooting touch most coaches would love to have in their own big men.
He just needs work on defense. Actually, he needs a lot of work.
The Jazz gave up 6.5 more points per 100 possessions when Kanter was on the floor, thanks in part to his struggles around the rim.
As light as Kanter is on his feet offensively, he's darn-near lead-footed on the other end. He's typically a step late on defensive rotations and struggles to react to opponents' post moves when he's one-on-one in the post.
Better defensive players around him would help quite a bit, but there's no denying Kanter has some work to do as a defender.
Key Stats: 13.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 52.2 percent from the field in 30.2 minutes
He wasn't quite able to fill the shoes of Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson, but Favors showed why management was confident in its decision to let those two walk last summer.
The 22-year-old Favors was a consistent source of scoring, rebounds and defense all season long, as he averaged 15.9 points, 10.4 boards and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes.
The numbers were a result of Favors' skills finally starting to catch up with his immense physical gifts. The combination of his size (6'10", 268 pounds) and explosiveness has always made him a nightmare in the open court. Now, he's starting to figure out how to take guys one-on-one inside.
If he improves his mid-range game and ability to pass out of the paint, Favors could become a franchise big man.
Key Stats: 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 36.4 minutes
Hayward proved himself to be a legitimate and dynamic point forward in 2013-14. And made some history in the process, becoming just the second player in Utah Jazz history to go for 16, five and five over an entire season:
Being the No. 1 option took a toll on Hayward's shooting percentages though, as he posted career lows in both field-goal and three-point percentage:
The added pressure of facing the opposition's best perimeter defender every night made things tougher than ever before for Hayward. Not having Jefferson and Millsap around to attract the attention of defenses hurt too.
If he can get into the right role—a point forward who's the second or third scoring option—Hayward could be one of the most uniquely valuable players in the league.
A season around 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds is well within his grasp, especially if Favors, Kanter, Burks and Burke continue to improve and Utah lands another scorer in this year's draft.
Can you imagine pick-and-rolls with Hayward and Parker? Or how about pick-and-rolls with Kanter or Favors, flanked by Burks and Parker.
The future is very bright for the Jazz. And even if Hayward isn't the star or the leading scorer, he should be in the middle of this.
Whether or not he is depends on his upcoming restricted free agency. He's sure to sign a big deal based on his versatility, but Utah will have a chance to match.
I, for one, hope the Jazz do.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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