27 January 2011
Not THE Solution, But A Solution Nonetheless
Times are tough as a Jazz fan. Mired in a 6 game losing streak, Utah is struggling to find answers to cure what ails them. Even Hall-Of-Famer Jerry Sloan admittedly is finding it difficult to pinpoint. Directly following a brutal 120-91 shellacking at the hands of “big brother” Los Angeles Lakers, Sloan was asked what it will take to snap out of this losing streak.
The first words he uttered? “I’m not exactly sure.”
Not a great sign, really. But it’s time to tackle this head on. Jerry has shifted the starting lineup around the past 3 games (Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles starting in place of Andrei Kirilenko at small forward), but to no avail. The reason is simple: The wrong position and needs were being addressed.
Utah needs a change at shooting guard.
We’ve all heard it. “If only Utah had kept Wesley Matthews.” “If only we had a legitimate deep threat like, say, 6th Man of the Year candidates Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry.” “I wish Utah could pull off a trade for O.J. Mayo.”
These names are regulars in the discussion for solutions to Utah’s shooting guard problems. But what if I told you that Utah is better off without them? What if I told you that the solution is right under our noses, but we are refusing to see it? I’m telling you right now, our solution is already in a Jazz uniform.
And his name is C.J. Miles.
While Miles carries a reputation as an inconsistent streak shooter, which isn’t completely untrue, he’s often overlooked by fans and coaches alike as a defensive presence. Raja Bell, meanwhile, gets a pass as a defensive stopper based solely on reputation alone. I hold absolutely no reservation is stating that C.J. Miles replacing Raja Bell as Utah’s starting shooting guard is a good move. A great move, even.
It’s not even close. And statistics back me up.
Keep in mind, C.J. is 23 years old and has less than 6,000 career minutes under his belt, while Raja is an aged veteran at 34 years old. This alone should give Miles a bit of a nod, but nonetheless, Raja remains the starter. Essentially, both players’ reputations precede them.
First, let’s take a look at C.J. Miles this year compared to Raja Bell’s first year in Utah (fourth year in the NBA). Raja quickly became a fan (as well as Coach Sloan) favorite for his toughness, shooting and intangibles as a glue guy. C.J. is still battling a stigma, even this year, that he’ll never be the player Utah expected when it drafted him out of Skyline High School.
Miles vs. Bell – Offense
Similar points in their careers. Similar usage as a role player off the bench. Raja was a slightly better 3-point shooter, but outside of that, CJ owns. On technically less minutes per game. And advanced statistics show offensively, C.J. now was a bigger threat as well as better with the ball.
That was then, this is now. How does an off-the-bench CJ stack up against Utah’s current starting SG? Since the minutes played are a bit off, we’ll also look at Per-36 stats as well as advanced stats to give a more accurate assessment.
The 3P% deficiency is virtually the same as in the previous comparison, and while Raja has vastly improved his free throws over the years, Miles is getting to the line twice as much as Bell (3 FTA per 36 for Miles to 1.5 FTA for Bell), suggesting a more aggressive approach on offense. Also, on Per-36 points per game, we’re led to believe that C.J. could nearly double Raja’s output were he given the starter’s minutes. Also, you have to think Raja’s TS% is bolstered by his very impressive 92.5% from the charity stripe.
While shooting percentages this year are virtually a wash head to head, Miles protects the ball and is a better teammate in terms of sharing the ball effectively. It’s not surprising that C.J. is a greater offensive threat. I’m sure most assume that was the case.
This is where it gets interesting….
Miles’ inability to provide on the defensive end like Raja Bell is what is holding him back, right? Well, let’s take a look:
Miles vs. Bell – Defense
Using Per 36 Minute averages (due to playing time discrepancy between the two) and advanced statistics, we compare C.J. Miles and Raja Bell’s effectiveness on defense.
Yes, Raja has aged. But these figures aren’t even close. Per 36 stats alone should bust the myth that Bell is a better defensive SG than Miles. But look even closer at the more accurate and relevant advanced stats. IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE. Miles is by far a better defensive rebounder (a key stat, considering Utah’s woes giving up offensive boards), and the lineups he is in benefit from him being on the court more than having Raja out there.
Yet Raja continues to start at SG, get 30+ minutes per game and even close out games. Raja’s ineffectiveness is costing Utah wins and robbing Miles of minutes that would be better suited for his skill set.
This should settle the Miles vs. Bell debate as to who should be starting and getting the majority of minutes from the two spot. But what about those other guys I mentioned earlier? What about Matthews, Crawford, Terry, and Mayo? Would those guys put the Jazz over the line of pretender to legitimate contender?
See for yourself:
Miles vs. Shooting Guards - Offense:
First, let’s look at offensive production. Even though these three come off the bench for their respective teams, each gets anywhere from 5-8 minutes more per game than Miles. Therefore, we will again look at per game, per 36 and advanced stats. We’ll also compare the same categories that we compared Miles and Bell head-to-head with.
As it stands, Miles’ point production per 36 minutes is on point with all four, given he is allotted their equivalent minutes. Mayo is still very young and could develop, but when Miles is already on your team, why wish for someone less effective?
Look, I know we all miss Wesley. And yes, he is having a terrific season. His shooting percentages are better than C.J.’s. But you have consider his usage/role is up as Portland’s second option behind Aldridge, thanks to Brandon Roy’s knees. He would be the 4th option on this Jazz squad and wouldn’t produce in the way he does for the Blazers. Apples and oranges.
Besides Wesley, the only player who definitively shoots better than C.J. is Jamal Crawford. And while Crawford and Jason Terry distribute better than Miles, is it enough to offset the defensive presence C.J provides over them?
You be the judge.
Miles vs. Shooting Guards – Defense:
Once again, not even close. Miles defense is severely over looked by Jazz fans (and, dare I say, coaching staff). Wesley on defense is closest and still Miles is statistically better in EVERY CATEGORY. Who knew?
Mayo is also close, but his offense alone makes it a moot point. Miles statistically beats Mayo in every category, save 3P% (and it’s very close).
Sure, Crawford and Terry would be more of an all around offensive threat. But for the miniscule offensive boost they provide, their presence on defense would severely damage an already fragile mix that Utah has. The tradeoff? Not worth it. Miles doubles them in rebounds and blocks per 36 minutes. He is a more efficient in every defensive category than them. And again, it’s not even close.
Am I trying to sell you on Miles as being Utah’s Ray Allen or Manu Ginobili? Of course not. Those guys are big-time players making big-time contributions to big-time teams. What I am going for is to help each of you realize that we have a solution to what ails Utah. We don’t need Wesley Matthews. Our solution is right under our nose.
At 23 years old, Miles is a much better option than a 34 year old Raja Bell. Hands down. Defensively, he’s better than *gasp* Wesley Matthews. Miles, given the proper minutes, could be our own Jamal Crawford. Our own Jason Terry. Our new Wesley Matthews. And even more.
And Mayo shouldn’t really even be in the conversation, unless he’s coming in for an outgoing Raja and planning to come off the bench. That, I could go for.
My conclusion: Let the statistics speak for themselves. If you are still hung up on C.J. Miles as a viable option at starting shooting guard on the Utah Jazz, it’s time you wake up to the fact that C.J. has matured and is filling his role quite well.
Even Levar Burton likes C.J. Miles. Ok, I made that up.
But, as they say, you don’t have to take my word for it.
I’ll let the stats to do the talking for me.
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