Could the 2017-18 Utah Jazz compare to the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 10: Roy Hibbert (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 10: Roy Hibbert (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The 2013-14 Indiana Pacers were an elite defensive team that found success despite struggling offensively. Could the 2017-18 Utah Jazz follow that model?

Earlier this morning, my J-Notes colleague John Keeffer put out an excellent piece discussing why he would take the over on the Vegas win projections for the Utah Jazz. Those said predictions have Utah pinned at a measly 40.5 wins, putting them under .500, and John was quick to wager that they will indeed defy those odds and finish with a winning record.

One of the main evidences he used to back up that point was that historically teams with a top five defense have been able to break .500 and in many cases make the playoffs, even if their defense was in the bottom 10 in the league. Below is a chart he put together showcasing a few solid examples from recent years:

The Jazz finished the 2016-17 season ranked third overall in defensive rating and, despite their low overall scoring output (third lowest points per game in the league), finished 12th in offensive rating.

That defensive mark was extremely impressive last season and, quite frankly, when looking at the solid defensive additions that the Jazz acquired this summer such as Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, Ekpe Udoh and Donovan Mitchell, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see their defense improve even more. Not to mention, although he’s not quite the defender George Hill was, Ricky Rubio is also a solid defender and could very well find himself on the floor more often than the injury-riddled Hill was last season.

With Rudy Gobert as the anchor in the middle, Quin Snyder and Co. have long hung their hat on the defensive end which has helped them to suffocate and irritate teams quite effectively. Next season that trend ought to continue even further and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jazz either repeat their finish as the third best defensive team in the league or perhaps even slide into first or second.

With that being said, it’s no secret that Utah’s offense is bound to take a hit next season now that Gordon Hayward is out of the mix and he wasn’t replaced with any true scorers. Thus, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that the Jazz could drop into the NBA’s bottom 10 in offensive rating.

Given that they were 12th last season, though, that would be an astronomical decline and quite frankly between Quin Snyder’s coaching and other players stepping up, it wouldn’t be all that surprising in my mind to see Utah’s offense take less of a decline than some are predicting. However, for the sake of this argument, let’s predict that the Jazz do indeed fall out of the top 20 in terms of offensive rating.

Doing so would put them in that same mix of teams brought up in the chart above – teams with a top five defense (which they most certainly should have) and a bottom 10 offense (which is quite likely – but it could end up better than that). Of the teams mentioned there, the one that stands out the most to me is the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers who were the number one seed in the East with 56 wins and the biggest threat in the conference to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat for two straight postseasons.

Their offense was lackluster at best. In fact, sometimes it was downright awful, but their hard-nosed, grind-it-out defense gave even the most elite teams in the NBA problems. That model may very well be one that the Jazz should follow this upcoming season.

For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the depth chart of that Pacers team in 2013-14 compared to that of the 2017-18 Utah Jazz based on their stats from last season:


George Hill – DEFRTG: 96.5, OFFRTG: 102.7, DEF Win Shares: 4.0, OFF Win Shares: 3.8, Def BPM: 1.4, Off BPM: 1.4

Ricky Rubio – DEFRTG: 109.9, OFFRTG: 108.9, DEF Win Shares: 1.7, OFF Win Shares: 4.5, Def BPM: -0.9, Off BPM: 1.7


Lance Stephenson – DEFRTG: 96.8, OFFRTG: 102.9, DEF Win Shares: 4.8, OFF Win Shares: 2.6, Def BPM: 1.7, Off BPM: 0.7

Rodney Hood – DEFRTG: 102.6, OFFRTG: 106.7, DEF Win Shares: 1.9, OFF Win Shares: 0.7, Def BPM: -0.9, Off BPM: -0.3


Paul George – DEFRTG: 96.3, OFFRTG: 102.7, DEF Win Shares: 6.4, OFF Win Shares: 4.4, Def BPM: 1.8, Off BPM: 2.9

Joe Ingles – DEFRTG: 104.6, OFFRTG: 109.4, DEF Win Shares: 3.0, OFF Win Shares: 2.0, Def BPM: 1.8, Off BPM: 0.9


David West – DEFRTG: 95.6, OFFRTG: 104.0, DEF Win Shares: 5.0, OFF Win Shares: 3.1, Def BPM: 2.7, Off BPM: -0.6

Derrick Favors – DEFRTG: 102.3, OFFRTG: 105.1, DEF Win Shares: 2.2, OFF Win Shares: 0.5, Def BPM: 2.3, Off BPM: -2.4


Roy Hibbert – DEFRTG: 95.9, OFFRTG: 103.4, DEF Win Shares: 5.0, OFF Win Shares: 0.5, Def BPM: 3.3, Off BPM: -3.4

Rudy Gobert – DEFRTG: 100.6, OFFRTG: 108.7, DEF Win Shares: 6.0, OFF Win Shares: 8.3, Def BPM: 4.5, Off BPM: 1.4

Bench #1:

C.J. Watson – DEFRTG: 93.6, OFFRTG: 100.7, DEF Win Shares: 2.1, OFF Win Shares: 1.1, Def BPM: 0.8, Off BPM: -0.3

Dante Exum – DEFRTG: 101.6, OFFRTG: 103.6, DEF Win Shares: 1.3, OFF Win Shares: -0.1, Def BPM: -0.5, Off BPM: -2.0

Bench #2:

Luis Scola – DEFRTG: 97.8, OFFRTG: 98.0, DEF Win Shares: 2.8, OFF Win Shares: -0.4, Def BPM: 0.5, Off BPM: -4.3

Thabo Sefolosha – DEFRTG: 103.3, OFFRTG: 102.8, DEF Win Shares: 2.7, OFF Win Shares: 0.6, Def BPM: 3.1, Off BPM: -1.9

Bench #3:

Ian Mahinmi – DEFRTG: 95.2, OFFRTG: 96.4, DEF Win Shares: 2.7, OFF Win Shares: 0.7, Def BPM: 3.6, Off BPM: -3.3

Joe Johnson – DEFRTG: 104.3, OFFRTG: 108.4, DEF Win Shares: 2.1, OFF Win Shares: 1.7, Def BPM: -0.1, Off BPM: -0.2

Bench #4:

Evan Turner – DEFRTG: 104.1, OFFRTG: 100.9, DEF Win Shares: 0.9, OFF Win Shares: -0.2, Def BPM: 0.4, Off BPM: -3.6

Alec Burks – DEFRTG: 104.9, OFFRTG: 105.0, DEF Win Shares: 0.9, OFF Win Shares: -0.1, Def BPM: -0.9, Off BPM: -3.3

There are some similarities there, but also some major differences. Also, it should be noted that some of these numbers won’t translate perfectly, especially when considering players coming over to the Jazz from new teams such as Ricky Rubio.

Beginning with him compared to 2013-14 George Hill, it’s obvious that Hill has an enormous advantage defensively. I think that still holds true next season for Rubio, however, I also think his defensive numbers will look much better as he becomes part of a solid defensive-minded team. Offensively, you could argue that Rubio will be a better contributor than 2013-14 Hill was.

Hill put up 10.3 points and just 3.5 assists that year and Rubio’s assist numbers alone could make him a more impactful contributor on offense this upcoming season.

When looking at the shooting guard spot, even though Lance Stephenson takes a lot of grief for his steep drop-off after leaving Indiana, he was a solid producer for the Pacers in 2013-14 and he certainly had the edge over current Rodney Hood defensively. Nevertheless, assuming Rodney is healthy, he should be significantly better offensively.

Moving to the small forward position is where the largest discrepancy takes place and creates the most difficult challenge for if the 2017-18 Utah Jazz would want to compare to the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers. Paul George was absolutely incredible that season and was the Pacers’ legitimate star that helped give their sometimes putrid offense life.

Although the Jazz will have an elite defense next year and perhaps a better than predicted offense, there’s no denying that they’re missing a star player like Paul George that made that 2013-14 Pacers team truly as dangerous as they were. In trying to model themselves after a fellow elite defense/poor offense team, not having a guy like George could very well be Utah’s missing link.

In Joe Ingles’ defense, though, his defensive numbers are solid. And while he by no means could match wits with the player that George was for that Pacers squad of old, he should still be a key contributor to helping Utah reach elite defensive status this upcoming season.

The power forward spot is somewhat misleading given that Favors’ numbers come from a somewhat disappointing and injury-riddled 2016-17 season. However, although the 2013-14 Pacers clearly had the advantage with their three wing players, I’m pinning the Jazz as being better off in the frontcourt.

A healthy Favors paired alongside Rudy Gobert (who I’ll get to shortly) should very well be a more prolific offensive AND defensive combo than David West and Roy Hibbert were on this formerly elite Pacers squad.

Rounding out the starting lineup is the center comparison between 2013-14 Roy Hibbert and Rudy Gobert. Hibbert’s decline has been more catastrophic than that of the formerly mentioned Lance Stephenson, but make no mistake about it, he was a force to be reckoned with back in his hay day with the Pacers.

Hibbert was an elite defensive force that helped make his entire team better and was arguably the leading reason why the Pacers were able to finish the year with the league’s top defense – an incredible defensive rating of 96.7.

Even so, Rudy Gobert was more of a force last season than even prime Hibbert both offensively and defensively. Although Hibbert wins the battle of defensive rating, last year’s Gobert takes the cake in every other key category. If the Jazz are going to mimic the 2013-14 Pacers’ model of an elite defense and subpar offense leading to success, it’s going to start and end with Rudy Gobert.

Last of all, looking at the bench, overall the Jazz should have the edge. That 2013-14 Pacers team had to rely on their starters so much that they nearly ran them ragged, whereas the Jazz will have plenty of capable reserves (many of which I didn’t even include above such as Donovan Mitchell, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh) who can come in and help the Jazz maintain their solid level of play.

True, the Jazz don’t have a star wing like Paul George was for that Pacers team, but hopefully a better bench will help to make up for some of the gap that exists there.

In regards to the question posed in the headline, it’s pretty obvious that the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers and the 2017-18 Utah Jazz are going to be quite different teams. Obviously, the Jazz don’t have a Paul George-like player to match his production. Furthermore, I think Utah will be hard-pressed to match Indiana’s historically good defense that year that produced the aforementioned 96.7 defensive rating.

Beyond that, the 2013-14 Pacers were able to claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference with their rare combination of incredible defense and poor offense, whereas, barring a miracle, the 2017-18 Jazz simply won’t have quite the talent necessary to be able to nab anywhere close to a number one seed, even if they were in the Eastern Conference.

However, on the flip side, even if the Jazz aren’t quite as good defensively, despite what many are predicting about them, they could actually have better than a bottom 10 offense next season. Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, a healthy Derrick Favors and without a doubt Rudy Gobert all have the potential to have more offensive impact than the four guys they were compared to above. Not to mention, Utah’s bench should help provide a boost there as well.

In short, while the 2013-14 Pacers may not be a perfect model, they still represent a pretty good goal for the Jazz to aim for. There’s no doubting that Utah’s defense will be significantly superior to their offense, so regardless of where their offense truly ends up landing, following that Indiana team’s mantra of hanging their hat on defense to power their way to victories would be a great game plan to follow.

And even though that Pacers team is largely remembered for collapsing down the stretch of the 2013-14 season and putting up less of a fight against the Miami Heat than the year before, the fact still remains that they were the number one seed in their conference and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Next: Utah Jazz: Why you should take the over on the Vegas win projections

And considering how great the doubts surrounding the Jazz have been recently, if they can follow in that team’s footsteps and earn even a portion of that playoff success, it will be an incredible victory for a Jazz team that many have pinned finishing out of the playoffs entirely.

As long as Utah’s defense is as good as it appears that it will be, just as the 2013-14 Pacers and other teams have shown us, that should be enough to make up for a potentially lackluster offense and help propel the Jazz into the playoffs for a second straight season.

All stats courtesy of and