Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Jazz are all FOULED up

Every time the official blows the whistle, victory is farther away

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong Jazz supporter. However, it has become clear that the Jazz are FOULED up this year.

One over-looked statistic that actually tells a great deal about winning and losing is the fouls called differential. Meaning, the number of fouls called on the Jazz, minus the number of fouls called on their opponent in the same game, creates the fouls called differential (FCD). I'm not sure that it's statistic that is monitored all that often, and perhaps is only being done so now as I grasp at straws to explain the Jazz season thus far. That said, this statistical review delivered a pretty powerful result.

The Jazz have the highest and worst FCD in the NBA at +2.82 per game (A good FCD is a negative number). How important is the FCD to winning and losing? Consider a study of the worst 6 teams (highest FCD) and best 6 teams (lowest FCD) as of Friday night (01/21/05):

Worst 6: Utah (+2.82 ), Atlanta (+2.47), New Jersey (+2.00), New York (+1.92), Chicago (+1.88), and New Orleans (+1.78); Combined Record: 77-153, or .335 winning percentage.

Best 6: Phoenix (-2.82), Miami (-2.47), San Antonio (-2.39), Detroit (-2.26), Sacramento (-1.76), and LA Lakers (-1.67); Combined Record: 163-73, or .691 winning percentage.

How could the fouls called differential be so important? Consider that every additional foul called would most likely be a foul called when the team is already in the bonus for a quarter, and their opponent would get two free throws. So the Jazz are fouling almost 3 more fouls per game than their opponent and therefore giving up nearly an extra 6 foul shots per game. For a team that has lost many close games that is important. Add to the fact that an extra foul here or there could be putting one of their good players on the bench during a key time.

Don’t the Jazz always play physical defense, and most likely always been poor in this category? Actually No. Last year when the Jazz finished with a 42-40 record, their FCD while still not great at +1.18, was more of a middle of the road number. In the last two Stockton and Malone years, the Jazz had impressive -1.38 and -1.19 FCD’s and won 55% of their games.

Why are the Jazz doing so poor this season? It could be the fact that the NBA has changed the way they call fouls this year and are whistling aggressive defensive teams for more fouls. However, three aggressive and physical defensive teams (Miami, San Antonio, and Detroit) are 3 of the best 4 teams in the NBA in terms of FCD.

Missing Andrei Kirilenko with injury, could that be a reason? Could be. Interestingly, with Andrei in the line-up this year the Jazz are 8-6, with a -1.36 FCD, which would be 8th best in the entire NBA.

Perhaps having Kirilenko back in the line-up will allow the Jazz to make a few more defensive plays, and result in the referees blowing that whistle a couple less times per game. One thing is certain: Over a period of games, fewer whistles, means fewer losses.

1 comment:

Pete Nussbaum said...

That's a great article, and it touches on a point we've been looking at I've said it before, but fouls are the unknown soldier of NBA stats.

Keep up the great writing, it's nice to see someone interested in the game behind the game!

By the way, I'm picking a Jazz win tonight. Just a hunch.