Utah Jazz 2K20: Simulating with John Stockton on current roster

With the NBA put on pause, I did an experiment on NBA 2K to see how the 2019-20 Utah Jazz would perform with John Stockton running the point.

The Utah Jazz were no doubt a good team this season, but how much better could they have been with a time machine on their side? I went to the X-Box 360 yesterday to find out the results.

My exercise was similar to the one my colleague Zack Padmore did last week. The procedure went as follows:

  • I released Mike Conley from the Utah Jazz
  • I assigned John Stockton, of the 1997-98 Utah Jazz, to the current roster
  • I fixed up the rotation to make it more realistic

Ever since the purple mountain jerseys were brought back early this season and the hype videos were released, I’ve been pondering the correlation between this Jazz team and the great NBA Finals teams of the late 1990s.

John Stockton and Karl Malone were a dynamic big/guard duo, with very different games. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell likewise are a dynamic duo with a foot of height difference.

The biggest discrepancy that’s been revealed over the past three months is the lack of an elite play maker on the current Jazz roster. Part of it has to do with how different the NBA is in the modern day compared to twenty years ago.

Rarely now do you see a point guard that is solely responsible for running the offense. Chris Paul might be the last of the dying breed, and the Utah Jazz offense run by Quin Snyder isn’t the same one that Jerry Sloan ran back in the day.

Snyder’s offense values ball handlers at every position on the floor, which is why the assists per game numbers haven’t been very gaudy for any individual player under his regime. Case in point: Ricky Rubio averaged 9.1 assists the season before he came to Utah.

During his time in Utah he averaged 5.3 and 6.1 assists per game. His debut year in Phoenix? That stat is back up to nearly nine assists a game.

You would think Mike Conley had it in him to be the main table-setter for the Utah Jazz this year, but 1) he’s not used to playing with Rudy Gobert, a non floor spacing big, and 2) Donovan Mitchell works best with the ball in his hands.

I fantasize how well Rudy Gobert would perform with a Hall of Fame point guard as pure as John Stockton, who always seemed to thread the needle with his timely passes, creating buckets that nobody else had the vision to see except Stock.

Here’s what the rotation would look like with a 35 year old John Stockton inserted with the modern Utah Jazz. All stats are from the simulation itself:

John Stockton- 93 overall, 29 minutes (16.6 PPG, 7.1 APG, 4.3 RPG)

Rudy Gobert- 87 overall, 35 minutes (14.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.0 BPG)

Donovan Mitchell- 87 overall, 34 minutes (22.2 PPG, 5.3 APG, 5.0 RPG)

Bojan Bogdanovic– 81 overall, 33 minutes (21.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 43% 3PT)

Jordan Clarkson– 80 overall, 25 minutes (15.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.2 APG)

Joe Ingles– 77 overall, 30 minutes (10.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.4 APG)

Tony Bradley– 76 overall, 13 minutes (4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG)

Emmanuel Mudiay– 76 overall, 13 minutes (6.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG)*

Georges Niang– 75 overall, 13 minutes (5.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 43% 3PT)

Royce O’Neale– 73 overall, 22 minutes (2.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG)

* Mudiay only appeared in 26 games, filling in for the injuries to Clarkson

The Utah Jazz went 58-24 and landed the best record in the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole. They had the third best defense and the second best offense in the league. Here’s how far their playoff run went:

  • Swept the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round
  • Beat the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the second round
  • Fell to the Golden State Warriors 2-4 in the Western Conference Finals

Thanks to a pulled hamstring for Donovan Mitchell in game one of the Western Conference Finals, Utah’s simulated season was cut short of its true potential. If he had stayed healthy for the duration of the playoffs, that could’ve really changed things up.

The Golden State Warriors went on to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals, 4-1. Quin Snyder was given the Coach of the Year award and Rudy Gobert made the All-Defensive First team. But other than that, awards were hard to come by for the Jazz.

Next: Grading Justin Wright-Foreman's G-League season

This was definitely a fun simulation to do, as it kept my basketball mind occupied for an hour. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who owns NBA 2K. Go Jazz!