Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Utah Jazz 2008-2009 Playing time and Rotation:

One of the greatest strengths for the Utah Jazz this season is the versatility of the roster. Even Jerry Sloan has seen it and he's fiddled with a variety of line-ups, everything from the very small (5'10 Brevin Knight, 6'1 Ronnie Price and 6'5 C.J. Miles as the 1, 2 and 3) to the very large (6'8 Paul Millsap at small forward, 7'1 Kosta Koufos at the four, and 7'1 Kyrylo Fesenko in the middle). In all only two players out of our total 15 man roster are an exclusivists in that they only play one position. Brevin Knight is a pure point guard who does not have the offensive range, or size to play shooting guard. Similarly, Kyrylo Fesenko is too big to play power forward, and he would be a liability on defense trying to guard people like Amare and David West one on one. Everyone else can play at least two spots -- and as a result, gives Jerry Sloan and the rest of the Jazz Brass a lot of chances to fiddle away. Here's a visual representation of the five different positions, and the guys who could conceivably play there during the course of any given game:

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Deron Williams Ronnie Brewer Andrei Kirilenko Carlos Boozer Mehmet Okur
Ronnie Price Kyle Korver Matt Harpring Paul Millsap Jarron Collins
Brevin Knight C.J. Miles C.J. Miles Andrei Kirilenko Kyrylo Fesenko
Andrei Kirilenko Morris Almond Kyle Kover Mehmet Okur Kosta Koufos
C.J. Miles Andrei Kirilenko Morris Almond Kosta Koufos Carlos Boozer
  Deron Williams Paul Millsap    
  Ronnie Price      
  Matt Harpring      

Unfortunately, the game is only 48 minutes long, and you can only play a maximum of 12 total guys in any given game. You would think, then, that there is a maximum total of 48 minutes available for each position, and thus -- 240 minutes per game to dish out. The math makes sense so far but gets more complicated when you look at the actual MPG from the team last season. Basically, the math does not add up. This is because not every player plays in every game. For example there are 48 minutes to give out at center . . . and last year our centers averaged 33.2 mpg (Okur), 10.0 mpg (Collins), and 7.8 mpg (Fesenko). That adds up to 51 minutes, which is 3 minutes over. Further muddying the waters is that Carlos played some five last season as well. As you can see, trying to reverse engineer a playing time chart based on the MPG played last season is not as easy as one would have previously thought.

I first tried to construct a playing time chart based upon the 240 minutes total theory, but that basically would result in some very upset players (we can't reasonably expect to give Matt Harpring DNP's all season long). Last season if you added up all of the MPG averages for all players (making up for Brevin Knight by using Jason Hart's time) the total was 277.9 mpg. That 37.9 extra mpg makes up for how some players do not play in every game, and how other players end up getting injured and so forth. However, that was for a total roster of 14 people -- and this season we have a full 15 man roster. In order to get what the new total should be I found the average playing time of what we had previously (278/14) and added that to 278. Thus, when I constructed my playing time chart I made it out of a total 298 minutes, and not 240. What do I end up with? (All the MPG for last season was rounded up or down accordingly)

  2007-2008 MPG Proposed 2008-2009 MPG + / - Justification?
Point Guard        
D. Williams 37 37 0

He doesn't need to play any more or any less, though our depth allows for him to play less this season.

R. Price 10 10 0

Price will play in more games this season than Knight, and this, will average less MPG as his mins will fluctuate.

B. Knight 23 10.5 -12.5

Knight will be playing nearly 13 mpg less than he did last season with the LA Clippers, and he will be playing in less games as the 3rd string PG. However, the games he will be playing in will be games where he plays more mpg as they will be games where Deron is out of.

Shooting Guard        
R. Brewer 28 29 +1

Brewer needs more playing time, but it's hard to get more.

K. Korver 22 21 -1

Kyle is playing great right now, but for us to be a really good team, he may have to just play better with less time, as we need defense.

M. Almond 4 9 +6

Almond is going to spend most of the season with the Flash again, and not see significant burn during the season. That said, he's going to play more MPG in the NBA this year.

Small Forward      

C.J. Miles 12 16 +4

C.J. is starting for now, and needs to make the best of his time on the floor -- lest others take it from him.

Andrei Kirilenko 31 37 +6

I have my reasons, you can read about them here if you wish.

Matt Harpring 18 13.5 -4.5

This is justified by his MPG trends over the last 4 seasons compounded by his cumulative injury history.

Power Forward      

Carlos Boozer 35 35 0

Boozer seems to do well in this amount of playing time, though in a contract year he may want more, though . . .

Paul Millsap 21 23 +2

. . . Paul Millsap is also in a contract year. There are only so many minutes to go around at the PF, so expect Boozer to be the back-up Center for us this season.


Mehmet Okur 33 35 +2

Memo plays better when he plays more, need empirical proof? Read this take.

Jarron Collins 10 6 -4

Collins needs zero MPG, but it's not going to happen. Too bad!

Kyrylo Fesenko 8 11 +3

The only way that he's going to be the defensive big that we need is if he gets some time actually playing against guys like Bynum, Dwight, Yao and Oden. Nearly a quarter of every game he plays in should feature him getting said experience.

Kosta Koufos n/a 5 +5

His job this year will be to play well in Orem, playing more MPG than Almond did in the NBA as a rookie will just be the icing on top.

This does cause some problems when trying to understand how any random, given game will go. The way I look at it, a random game somewhere after the all-star break will feature Morris Almond (Flash), Kosta Koufos (Flash) and CJ Miles on the IR. Harpring will be back, and playing minutes for us (you know, because he's Matt Harpring). So this is how I could reasonably accept the playing time to be divided:

D. Williams 37 R. Brewer 29 A. Kirilenko 35 C. Boozer 25 M. Okur 35
R. Price 7 K. Korver 19 M. Harpring 10 P. Millsap 21 C. Boozer 10
B. Knight 4     K. Korver 3 A. Kirilenko 2 K. Fesenko 3
Totals 48   48   48   48   48

Sure, this is playing 11 guys like Jarron Collins gets the DNP-CD . . . but I can see Price picking up two fouls in the 1st half making Knight need to get off the bench. Similarly, Okur could sit at the end of the first half letting Fes get some burn. I think it is important to stress that Jerry Sloan will like to keep 3 PGs on the active roster for as many games as he can. Back when the Jazz only used to keep 12 people on the roster there were always three PGs signed. (Yeah, like back in the Stockton, Farmer, Les days when current Memphis Coach Mark Iavaroni used to start for the Jazz) Also, I think Sloan wants to have at least 5 bigs: three of which will be Boozer, Okur and Millsap. For this game I felt like he'd want to have the veteran Collins there, as he always seems to be on the active roster for games, and Fesenko -- as Koufos would be currently assigned to the Flash at this point in time. I would rather have Harpring be on the IR, and have CJ be active . . . but Harpring is going to play this season, even in my hypothetical scenarios.

This is way more than I ever wanted to type about this . . . it's not like Sloan is going to listen to me, and recognize the optimum playing times for certain players (i.e. Memo @ 35+, AK @ 37, etc.), and let them play that much time. So in a way this was completely pointless . . . but in another way, this is the essence of blogging. It's all very Taoist in that regard.