Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Better or Worse? pt. 1

Better or Worse? How exactly does someone judge performance, ability, or success? One way happens to be in the Win Column. Are the Utah Jazz better or worse in this regard? Well, in the Deron Williams-era we seem to improve every season: 26 wins pre-Deron; 41 wins in his first season; 51 wins and 9 wins in the playoffs in his 2nd season; 54 wins and 6 in the playoffs last season. (Basketball-reference.com, 2008)

Decidedly better, right? We are, at least by performance (as a function of total wins). Sure, we aren't making huge strides anymore as we've kind of tapered off with 60 wins the last two seasons (regular season and playoffs combined). The Jazz, as they are currently comprised, are a solid team that can get out of the 1st round. This team can be counted on for this much -- thought the potential to do better still exists.

My predictions for the Jazz in the 2007-2008 season were 55 wins in the regular season, and at least 9 playoff wins -- anything less would be abject failure. How so? Well, according to the timeline, we should be a little bit ahead of where we currently are -- we signed Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur 4 seasons ago; but we've only made the playoffs twice.

Speaking of the playoffs, that seems to be a pretty good indication of ability. So far our two playoffs salvos (2006-2007, Western Conference Finals; and 2007-2008 Western Conference Semi-finals) were filled with great memories -- yet most people forget that both occurred as a product of hard fought wins as a 5th seed! (Sure, the Jazz won the Northwest Division both times, but it's still not like earning a top 4 seed) It's nice that we no longer have a 6'2 shooting guard (thanks for the 38% shooting, Derek!), and that our younger players are more seasoned now. Perhaps our ability is still increasing, even if our numerical performance has leveled off.

Could the Jazz have done better than the 5th seed this time around? Certainly, as the Jazz dropped a whole mess of games they had no business losing (on paper, at least). The 2007-2008 Jazz were particularly poor on the road (maybe a product of missing Fisher's "leadership"?). How poor? The Jazz lost on the road to New York (always!), Indiana, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, New Jersey and Chicago. That's 7 games dropped to some poorly playing Eastern Conference teams. The Jazz did not discriminate, as they lost a handful of games against the Kings, the Clippers and three times to the Timberwolves. Surely, Utah has the potential to perform much better.

There is a relationship that exists between greater ability and better performance. Not surprisingly, these two factors should lead a franchise towards greater success. The Utah Jazz are getting better, for example: instead of rolling out Devon Brown and Andre Owens we have Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver at the two. This increase (not just limited to the 2 guard, but the whole roster) in ability *should* translate to more wins. More wins *should* translate to a better seed in the playoffs. And a better seed in the playoffs *should* translate towards advancing father. Advancing in the playoffs is indicative of greater success.

So, better or worse?

We *should* be.