Ranking Every Player in the History of the Utah Jazz

Posted on May 24, 2009 by


This past season was the 35th in the history of the Jazz.  In honor of this anniversary, The Salt Lake City Tribune spent the season counting down the top players in the history of the franchise.  Each morning another player from Jazz history would be profiled and as I read these stories over breakfast I wondered: What would this list look like if we ranked each player in terms of Wins Produced?

Wins Produced can only be calculated back to 1977-78, so the first three seasons of this franchise cannot be considered. Still, I do have enough data to rank every player who ever played in Utah (there were 193 players) and a few who played in New Orleans.  The rankings – which only consider what a player did for the Jazz franchise – are reported in Table One.

Table One: Ranking the Utah Jazz: 1977-78 to 2008-09

The big question in ranking Jazz players is where you place John Stockton and Karl Malone.  The Tribune apparently punted on this question.  When we look at Wins Produced, though, we see that Stockton produced 311.1 wins while the Mailman produced 287.8.  So according to Wins Produced, Stockton was slightly more productive.  In looking at Stockton and Malone we must keep in mind that the summation of Wins Produced for this team across this time period is 1,428.7 (the team actually won 1,445 games).  This means that across these 32 seasons, Stockton and Malone produced 42% of the team’s wins.  So obviously – and I don’t think you need Wins Produced to see this – Stockton and Malone are the two most productive players by far in the history of this franchise.

Once we get past Stockton and Malone, the top 10 according to the Tribune was as follows:

1&2: Stockton and Malone

3. Adrian Dantley (4th in Wins Produced)

4. Pete Maravich (186th in Wins Produced)

5. Mark Eaton (5th in Wins Produced)

6. Jeff Hornacek (6th in Wins Produced)

7. Deron Williams (11th in Wins Produced)

8. Darrell Griffith (25th in Wins Produced)

9. Carlos Boozer (8th in Wins Produced)

10. Ricky Green (7th in Wins Produced)

After each name is where the player ranked in terms of Wins Produced.  For many of these players the Tribune and Wins Produced came to a similar conclusion.  The exception that stands out is Pete Maravich.  About two years ago I made the argument that Maravich really wasn’t that productive.  He was an inefficient scorer who was prone to turnovers.  Still, he was a prolific scorer and that tends to lead people to think he was helping his teams win games (although his teams were generally unsuccessful).

Although Maravich is by far the biggest difference, Wins Produced also argues that Williams and Griffith were not top 10 players (although Williams will probably crack the top 10 after next season).  According to Wins Produced, Maravich, Williams, and Griffith should be replaced on the list by

3. Andrei Kirilenko (12th on Tribune rankings)

9. Greg Ostertag (22nd on Tribune rankings

10. Byron Russell (16th on Tribune rankings)

Ostertag was actually the subject of one of the first posts in this forum.  The comments on that early post included some attacks on Ostertag, which were actually answered by members of his family. 

Let me close by making two observations.  As I have noted before, most of a team’s Wins Produced is created by a small number of players.  The top 10 players in the history of this team (history since 1977-78) have produced 75% of this team’s Wins Produced.

And I also want to comment on Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s WP48 compares favorably to what we saw from Karl Malone.  The big difference between the two players – as Jazz fans have told me – is that the Mailman always showed up for work.  Boozer, though, is often on the bench.  And on the bench Boozer doesn’t help.

The question facing the Jazz this summer is whether they should keep one of the top ten players in the history of the franchise.  If they think Boozer can stay healthy and productive, then the team should try and keep him. If not, they should let him go.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how you can predict the future health of a player.  So although I can say Boozer has definitely helped when he has played in the past, I can’t say for certain he will be helpful (and worth a  huge contract) in the future.

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.