Utah Jazz Lack Superstar, but Team’s Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Standard NBA protocol states that teams without a superstar have no chance at winning big. Can the Utah Jazz be the exception?

The Utah Jazz have stabilized their season after being crushed by an early bum rush of injuries. Undefeated since the return of George Hill, Jazz fans are feeling much better. In fact, the Jazz are back to playing the best defense in the league. They are allowing the fewest points per game in the league and have the fifth best point differential. It’s an indication that Utah is better than their current record suggests.

A very large part of Utah’s success is the simple fact that Gordon Hayward and George Hill are healthy. Please go read the latest from Jared Woodcox breaking down how well they play together. The Jazz are clearly a better team with those two healthy.  But how good can they be?

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the potential of this Utah team. In an attempt to answer the age-old question of ‘can the Jazz win without a “Superstar”?’, I analyzed the 2004 Detroit Pistons team that famously upset the first super team of this century.

League average PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is around 15, so I used that as a benchmark. In summary, the Pistons had more above average players (five) than the Lakers did that year (four). The Pistons were the more disciplined team and proved too much for the feuding, star-studded Lakers.

To revisit my thoughts from preseason, Utah doesn’t have the top-end talent of the NBA Elite. But they also don’t have the steep drop off of talent that those top-heavy teams deal with. The reason Quin Snyder is able to navigate the loss of the team’s best power forward in Derrick Favors is the talent level of the reserves in Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw.

Don’t forget that Favors statistically was the best and most stable player for the team last year. He led the team in PER and Win Shares per 48 minutes. (*Win Shares is an estimate of wins contributed to a player.)

Nov 29, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) celebrate after Gobert blocks Houston Rockets shot during the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz win 120-101. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Utah is currently showing five players with a PER above 15. Even more impressive — they have three players above 20 (Hayward, Hill and Rudy Gobert). Favors is currently just above the median line at 16, but when healthy it’s not hard to picture him returning to last year’s form which was also above 20.

For a comparison, these are the other teams this year that currently show five rotation players above 15 PER and at least 2 players above 20 PER:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers (five above average – four above 20)
  • San Antonio Spurs (five above average – two above 20)
  • Golden State Warriors (four above average – two above 20)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (five above average – two above 20
  • Chicago Bulls (five above average – two above 20)
  • Toronto Raptors (five above average – two above 20)

Utah has the ability to match the numbers of the NBA elite with their depth. With the hope of Favors returning to his 21 PER from last year once his knee heals completely, Snyder could have the ability to have four of his starters playing at or above an All-Star level.

Aristotle said it best, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

But for now, the depth of the bench will allow for Favors and now Rodney Hood to heal up. It will also help to finally have a decent home stretch where the Jazz can enjoy the home crowd and their own beds.

This team is finally starting to round into shape, and the potential is exciting.

This article originally appeared on