by Daniel Olsen
In the new age of sports analytics, geeks reign supreme. However, some old school people rely on the eye test. The bottom line is that teams want to win and they want answers on how they can do it. Do they need shooters? Do they need a high assist-to-turnover ratio? Does defense really win championships? Let’s take a look at the Utah Jazz and examine what are the key factors that contribute to being one of the most efficient players on the team.
What is PER?
Player efficiency rating is a metric created by John Hollinger to measure all of a player’s contributions into one stat. Minutes are taken into effect as well. The more positive contributions a player makes (field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals) the higher their PER. On the other hand, negative stats (missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls) subtract from the overall number.
The highest PER in the league is currently Nikola Jokic with 31.89 while the lowest players receive negative numbers. Let’s take a quick look at the top five PER players on the Utah Jazz and see how they compare to the NBA.
For guards, this is potentially a key indicator as they usually don’t record as many rebounds or blocks. Assists are one of their money-makers but turnovers can erase the good that those assists do in terms of efficiency. It isn’t fool proof though. While Miye Oni leads the Jazz with a AST/TO ratio of 5.0, his PER is just 7.3. Mike Conley Jr. has the second best in this category at 2.9, which is definitely a good thing to see from the starting point guard. This metric is only telling if a player can record many assists per game while still keeping their turnovers down. Oni averages just .6 assists per game so his ratio to turnovers isn’t very relevant. Mitchell averages 4.9 assists per game so he doesn’t take as much of a hit in efficiency despite having the 6th best ratio on the team at 1.5.
Field Goal percentage
For someone like Rudy Gobert, shooting percentages are important stats in determining his overall PER. While he is a decent passer as a big man, he does most of his damage around the rim on the offensive end. Those are high quality shots. He has mastered getting easy buckets off of screens. The quick ball movement that the Jazz often incorporate in their offense often leads to these easy shots for Gobert when the other opponent tries to take away the three. Currently, Rudy is second on the Jazz in effective field goal percentage with 59.6 percent. He is ironically the 27th best in the NBA in this metric which matches his jersey number.
It is impressive that Gobert has such a high effective field goal percentage when this metric gives more value to three point shots. When it comes to regular field goal percentage, Gobert is the ninth best in the league. He has proven to be an extremely efficient shooter down low. The one area where he could improve is free throw percentage.
Defense wins championships:
While PER rewards players on the offensive end, it doesn’t hurt to play well on the defensive end. There are other other metrics though that take the defensive plays that don’t show up in the box score. Defensive Effective Field Goal Percentage is one of them. Even when Gobert isn’t blocking shots, he’s altering them to a level that people simply don’t score on him when he’s within an arm’s reach.
Gobert leads the team in defensive rebounds with 10.1 per game. He also leads the team with 2.7 blocks per game. While he doesn’t produce as much in other statistics, it should come as no surprise that Gobert is one of the most efficient players on the Jazz. Conley is the only other Jazz player to lead the team in a defensive statistic. He has recorded 1.4 steals per game. Both players are second and third respectively in PER on the team.
What does this mean for the Jazz?
The Jazz are an incredibly efficient team but there is still room for improvement. Several top teams in the Celtics, Clippers and Trailblazers have two players with a better PER than the top Jazz player. The Jazz have some players that do what they do best but they don’t have an all-around superstar. Some players like Bogdanovic, Niang and O’Neale could do a little better on their efficiency. Overall, the team is trending up with six straight wins. They are shooting at a high clip.
They will be a good playoff team that can win a playoff series if they continue at this pace. If they want to be a legitimate contender, then there are several things they can do. The best way for them to increase their efficiency is cut down on turnovers and make the freebies. They currently rank in the bottom half of the NBA in turnovers per game and are the second last in free throw percentage in the league. Once the Jazz can clean this up, their efficiency will skyrocket. They can’t change who they are, but they can be better versions of themselves.
Featured image © Getty Images / 2020 Omar Rawlings