The Jazz entered February with a surprising 12-7 record behind strong play from Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. The Wizards entered with a paltry 4-17 record, mostly due to Jordan Crawford’s and Andray Blatche’s awful shooting, but also due to John Wall’s general ineffectiveness. The Jazz were playing playoff caliber basketball while the Wizards were playing 25%-chance-at-the-first-pick caliber ball.
Since February started, the fortunes of these two teams have changed dramatically. The Wizards have looked only sort of bad and the Jazz have looked regular bad. The Wizards’ progress is generally due to John Wall, who has vastly improved his play in February, averaging 18.0 points, 8.9 assists, and 4.2 rebounds on 46.7% shooting on the month up from 15.9 points, 7.2 assists, and 5.3 rebounds on only 39.4% shooting prior.
The 2-7 record on the month for the Jazz is due to a strong strength of schedule, with seven of the games being against teams currently .500 or better. During this cold streak, the Jazz are being outscored by seven points a game, which would rank them sixth worst over the season.
The Wizards visit Utah Friday night and controlling the paint and the boards will be important. Utah takes more shots from 3-9 feet than any team but Indiana and is strong on the offensive boards (8th in offensive rebound rate). JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker will have their hands full, as neither of them are great defensive rebounders and the team allows the most offensive boards in the league.
Now some “Bullets Points” on the Jazz:
- The Jazz have been a mediocre team this year, with rankings in offensive and defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 12 and 23, respectively.
- Paul Millsap has a higher PER than Blake Griffin. Millsap and fellow big man Al Jefferson both have PERs higher than Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony. Millsap ranks 8th amongst forwards. Jefferson ranks 12th.
- Utah is mecca for players having quietly decent seasons – along with Millsap’s and Jefferson’s strong 2012 campaigns, Derrick Favors has per 36 minute averages of 14.9 points and 9.8 boards on 49.7% shooting in 20 minutes a game.
- Of forwards or centers playing under 21 minutes a game, only Chase Budinger (2012 dunk contest champion?) and Corey Brewer are averaging more points a game than Derrick Favors.
- Both teams block a lot of shots. Washington and Utah average 7.4 and 5.9 a game, good for 2nd and 3rd in the NBA. Utah is third by a mile however, blocking 25% less shots a game than the Wizards.
- The Jazz are dead last in three-point shooting. The Wizards are 25th.