Due to the lockout, the 2011-2012 had 66 games. The determined Jazz managed to fight their way into the playoffs with a 36-30 record. The Jazz currently sit at 34-32. This is a slight step back from last season, so let’s look at the numbers. Which players are better, which ones are worse? Are the Core 4 developing?
First, to focus on Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Their minutes are down slightly, as is their FG%, FT% and points per game. But they’re still great big men. Al Jefferson’s points/rebounds/blocks are comparable to LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Millsap to Chris Bosh and David West. They’re both solid, reliable, and probably at their ceilings. One of them will be gone this summer, maybe both, and they’ve had the majority of the minutes to show off what they can do and try to get this team wins.
Moving to the Core 4, I was surprised at how little they’ve advanced, minutes-wise. Gordon Hayward has 10 fewer games this season but he was still on pace to have fewer minutes. His FG% has declined but his 3P% is up. His assists are slightly down, but I think he’s put a little more focus on his own scoring, hence the jump from 14 to 18.4 points per 36.
Alec Burks had some inexplicable DNP-CD’s this year and is therefore behind last year’s pace. His outside shooting has improved, and his passing ability, but his point production is down.
Derrick Favors is playing almost exactly as he did last year, and I never would have guessed that six months ago. Then again, I never would have guessed his minutes would be virtually the same. His rebounding is down, but he’s become a better shot-blocker. He’s able to get to the line more and make more free-throws when he does.
Then there’s Enes Kanter, a guy who just seems ready to start but still hasn’t broken through the 1000-minute barrier. His rebounding is down, but his shooting is vastly improved.
Then you have the other four guys who were on the team last year. Evans has even fewer minutes this year than he did last year, while Carroll’s minutes have tripled, and he’s taken advantage. Watson and Tinsley are significantly declining, but they can both still pass.
So have the Core 4 improved? Overall it looks like a wash. They’ve improved here, declined there, and their minutes aren’t much different. Next year when the roster is more stable, THEN we’ll actually what the Jazz have with these guys.