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Utah Jazz Players Ranked By Real Plus-Minus

Dec 22, 2019, 3:18 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz celebrates with Donovan Mitchell #45 and R...
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz celebrates with Donovan Mitchell #45 and Royce O'Neale #23 following the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 28, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are off to a strange start to the season. To the naked eye, it’s clear they aren’t playing to their potential. The offense stagnates far too often for a team that added significant offensive power in the offseason, and the defense had fallen over the last 15 games after opening the season as the most difficult team to score against in the league. The defensive rating has since fallen back to 10th, and the offense currently sits at 21st best. 

The team sits in the sixth seed in the West, two games out of the third seed, and six games safe of being on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. 

A little over a third of the way into the NBA season, it’s worth looking at ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus Rankings to see which Jazz players are having the biggest impact on the team’s win this season, and why despite their record, it’s clear there is room for improvement. 

First, it’s important to note that when looking at any plus-minus measurement, of which there are many, there is no perfect catchall number for measuring a player’s impact, which is what Real Plus-Minus attempts to do. Despite its effort to reduce the impact of surrounding players, it’s clear one great player will elevate the RPM ranking of those around him.

For example, the Milwaukee Bucks Donte DiVincenzo and Wesley Matthews both have top 30 rankings to begin the season. Truthfully, neither player is a top 100 player currently in the NBA, much less top 30, but they are buoyed by the truly superb play of Giannis Antetokounmpo who ranks second. 

However, as well as any plus-minus goes, Real Plus-Minus does a relatively strong job in correlation with the conventional wisdom of how well NBA players are playing. This season LeBron James leads the league in RPM. He’s followed by Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. If the media were to vote for an MVP through the first third of the season, these players would likely make up the top-four vote-getters. 

With that said, here’s a look at how Jazz players rank this season in RPM, including their offensive and defensive rankings within the team, and how they compare to the rest of the NBA. 

     1. Rudy Gobert: 3.14 Offensive: .3 Defensive: 2.46 NBA Rank: 25

It should be no surprise that Gobert is the Jazz top-ranked player, thanks in large part to his strong Defensive Real Plus-Minus numbers (D-RPM). Gobert has been the 17th best defensive player in the NBA according to D-RPM this season (an obvious slight), but his 2.46 ranking is still twice that of his next closest teammate. Gobert’s .3 Offensive Real Plus-Minus (O-RPM) is far from spectacular but still ranks third among all Jazz players. 

Overall, Gobert has the 25th highest RPM in the NBA so far this season, and while that might be a partial slight to the defensive star, it’s not terribly off considering the Frenchman has seen a dip in his points, blocks, and assists per game, and a jump in his turnovers from last season.

     2. Bojan Bogdanovic: 2.32 Offensive: 2.54 Defensive: -.22 NBA Rank: 50

Whether Bogdanovic or Mitchell belongs here may be the most controversial argument in RPM when it comes to the Jazz, and still, it’s worth discussing. 

Bogdanovic has been by far the Jazz most efficient wing scorer this season, especially when considering how prolific he’s been. Though he ranks behind both Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang in effective field goal percentage, he attempts nearly twice as many field goals as the two combined and is just a few percentage points behind the two players. Bogdanovic’s O-RPM is more than twice that of Donovan Mitchell who ranks second on the Jazz, and ranks 22nd overall for the season. 

The Jazz forward isn’t as strong defensively as his fellow starters, but his incredible offensive prowess more than makes up for it. Overall, Bogdanovic has the 50th highest RPM in the NBA, and while probably slightly low, is a testament to the success of the Jazz off-season acquisition.  

     3. Donovan Mitchell: 1.9 Offensive: .95 Defensive: .96 NBA Rank: 68

Mitchell comes in slightly behind Bogdanovic in RPM ranking and based on consistency over the Jazz 29 games played this season, it’s understandable how he earned that ranking. 

The third-year guard set out this summer to become a better defensive player, and so far in the Jazz season, he’s seen his .96 D-RPM nearly triple from last year’s .33 rating, a good sign for his overall growth as a player. 

Offensively, Mitchell has dipped some from last year, but remains better than good overall as a scorer, especially considering the burden that falls on his shoulder when the team hits rough scoring stretches. Recent clutch performances are a promising development from Mitchell that may need to continue until the team’s truly jells on the offensive side of the ball. 

Overall, the 68th best rating might be low for Mitchell based on how heavily he’s relied upon, but from a raw data perspective, it makes sense. 

     4. Royce O’Neale: .86 Offensive: -.61 Defensive: 1.47 NBA Rank: 118

For non-NBA die-hards, seeing O’Neale this high in the rankings may be a surprise. For those who have watched the Jazz for any significant amount of time this season, it passes the eye-test. 

O’Neale is the Jazz second-best three-point shooter, and 11th best in the NBA at 44% for the season while tasked most nights with defending the opposing team’s best wing player, regardless of their size. 

O’Neale has gone from European afterthought to one of the purest ‘3-and-D’ players in the NBA, something every great team needs. He’s not a particularly adept offensive player beyond shooting open three’s, hence the negative O-RPM, but he does exactly what the Jazz ask of him. 

     5. Mike Conley: .33 Offensive: -.58 Defensive: .91 NBA Rank: 172

Conley coming in with the fifth ranking on the Jazz is both a positive and a negative. 

It’s a positive in the sense that Conley has yet to play anything near his best basketball, and still has a positive RPM. It’s a negative knowing that Conley was acquired to be the missing link alongside Gobert and Mitchell, and was supposed to carry a bigger offensive load, and hasn’t shown the comfort in Quin Snyder’s system to do that yet. 

The Jazz will be hoping that Conley’s game will come around much as Joe Ingles game has over the past two weeks. Ingles, already familiar with Snyder’s system still took more than 20 games to familiarize himself with his new role but has been strong since making that adjustment. 

Conley has been the Jazz seventh-best offensive player, a number that should climb if his shooting percentages rebound to normal career averages. Ranking as the Jazz fourth-best defensive player is a good sign for the team, as the 32-year-old hasn’t seen a significant drop in his once stellar defensive prowess. 

     6. Joe Ingles: .12 Offensive: -1.13 Defensive: 1.25 NBA Rank: 190

Ingles had the slowest start of his career with the Jazz, especially shooting the ball, and as a result, has a negative O-RPM. However, of his last nine games, Ingles shooting percentages have jumped to better than 50 percent from both the floor and the three-point line, and his points per game average has climbed from 7.1 to 13.1. 

Impressively, Ingles as kept up his better than advertised defensive numbers despite his poor shooting. As his shooting returns, mixed with his strong defense, Ingles should see his overall 190 rank climb significantly over the final four months of the season.

     7. Tony Bradley: .01 Offensive: .03 Defensive: -.02 NBA Rank: 193

Bradley is the largest outlier on the Jazz, as his RPM far outweighs the amount of floor time he sees. When Bradley has been on the floor, the team has played well, though the third-year big man hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game in nearly a month.

If Ed Davis continues to struggle, Bradley may replace him in the lineup for longer stretches than he did Saturday in Charlotte, but his comparatively strong RPM numbers are a result of a small sample size. 

     8. Emmanuel Mudiay: -.23 Offensive: -.09 Defensive: -.14 NBA Rank: 222 

While Mudiay has yet to be an overwhelming positive for the Jazz, he’s nowhere near the liability on the floor that he had been in previous seasons. 

Of the 443 players that qualify in RPM, Mudiay’s 222 overall ranking is firmly middle class, a significant improvement from last season when he ranked 425 out of 514. Ideally, his ranking can continue to climb as he grows more comfortable in his role with the Jazz. 

Though the sample size has been small, based on RPM rankings, it’s difficult to pin the Jazz bench woes on the fifth-year guard. 

     9. Dante Exum: -1.09 Offensive: -1.11 Defensive: .01 NBA Rank: 318

This is the space in the Jazz RPM rankings that drops significantly from the rest of the group, as Exum is nearly a full point behind Mudiay. 

Exum was signed to his large contract based on the defensive potential he flashed in the postseason two years ago. Unfortunately for both the Jazz and Exum, that potential has only shown up in flashes since, and like the rest of Exum’s game has been marred by injury. 

Exum has the Jazz eighth-best O-RPM and seventh-best D-RPM, but shares the same position as Mudiay, and simply hasn’t justified getting the majority of those minutes between the two. While he may have a better overall ranking than the final three players on the list, Exum can’t fill their role, and currently finds himself out of the rotation.

     10. Georges Niang: -2.24 Offensive: -1.2 Defensive: -1.04 NBA Rank: 383

Niang began the season being used sparingly as the team’s 10th player in a nine-man rotation. However, with Conley injured, Niang has seen a significant jump in minutes and has struggled to improve his play.  

When Conley returns, it’s likely Niang will once again find himself coming into games only in the event of foul trouble or late-game garbage minutes. Niang is a better than average shooter, knocking down 50 percent of his field-goals and 48 percent of his three-point attempts since Conley left the line-up, but his negative assist to turnover ratio limit his ability to do much on the offensive end beyond catch and shoot. 

Defensively, he’s targeted by every opposing offense.

     11. Ed Davis: -2.68 Offensive: -2.75 Defensive: .07 NBA Rank: 421 

Davis has a shocking split between his O-RPM and D-RPM, where he ranks as the Jazz sixth-best defensive player and by far their worst defensive player. 

Davis’ D-RPM history has been strong, so it should be no surprise he finds himself on the positive end of the rating despite playing alongside a bench rife with struggling defensive players. Last season, Davis trailed only Gobert in D-RPM across the entire league. 

That number has dipped significantly this season, likely as a result of his teammates, though he’s also seen a dramatic drop in his O-RPM. Currently, Davis has the fourth-worst O-RPM in the entire league and is a full point behind his nearest Jazz counterpart. 

     12. Jeff Green: -3.23 Offensive: -1.38 Defensive; -1.85 NBA Rank 434

According to RPM, Green has been one of the 10 worst players in the NBA, a tough reality for the Jazz who need scoring in his role off the bench. 

Green is shooting a career-worst 38 percent from the floor, a number that needs to improve for the Jazz bench to climb out of its current funk. As a career 44 percent shooter, there’s reason to believe the percentage will climb. 

Defensively, Green is more than a full point worse than Niang, the Jazz second-worst defender. It’s a troubling number for the Jazz who pair Green with above-average defensive players in the front-court every time he’s on the floor. 

The Jazz polarizing season is more clearly understood when examining the roster under the RPM microscope. The top half of the Jazz rotation, notably Gobert, Bogdanovic, Mitchell, and O’Neale is a strong grouping that should only get better with Ingles improving play and a healthier, more comfortable Conley over the second half of the season. 

However, with three of the four Jazz main bench rotation players falling in the bottom 60 RPM rankings in the entire league, the Jazz depth will continue to be tested until their play improves. 

  • Utah Jazz Scoreboard

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  • Utah Jazz Standings

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