The Sum of Jazz Parts

The Jazz do not have superstar talent to carry them. They are a deep, balanced team and to be successful they need to be more than the sum of their parts. So far many of the players have looked out of sorts and just lost on the court. It seems like they don’t understand their role in the unit or maybe they are not in the best position to succeed. We have Enes forgetting how to rebound, Burks developing a fear of the rim, and Marvin struggling to fit in after a strong preseason.

For most of the season the Jazz have looked like way less than their sum would suggest. There are multiple coaches on staff to teach the players, but it is ultimately on the shoulders of Ty to figure out how to put the pieces together. I think Corbin has been a slightly below average coach (which is not a terrible thing for his experience) when it comes to rotations, but I do think he is showing improvement. He has made several defensive possession substitutions, rode hot shooters, played the big lineup a decent amount (who knows why it took so long last year), and even gave Favors huge minutes last game. I hope Corbin continues to tinker and improve, but the impatient fan in me expects it will take a while.

Some probable lineup truths given my limited knowledge, and then a discussion about specific units:

  • A Tinsley/Foye backcourt should be strictly verboten. It is beyond atrocious on defense, and with all the quick guards in the league it makes any defensive system unworkable. I think a Mo/Foye tandem is barely acceptable, and when you swap in Tinsley the offensive benefits no longer outweigh the defensive shortcomings.
  • It hasn’t logged as many minutes but the Tinsley/Mo option also makes for an odd couple. I understand that Mo can play some 2 and might be the best at shooting off of screens, but we don’t have enough nba-quality depth at PG to justify this. If we really want to get Mo some shots teach another ball handler to pass him the rock (Hayward/Foye/Burks should be able to execute that pass).
  • Ultimately I don’t think Tinsley should play (maybe a few minutes if paired with a solid defender like Hayward or Burks). I know he had 14 assists the other night, but against any quality opponent, a PG who can’t shoot or defend AT ALL (he might be our worst defender and shooter) will subtract more from the team than he adds. We have already seen teams just completely ignore him to double team or sink into passing lanes.
  • Excessive minutes of a Millsap/Jefferson frontcourt (when Sap is the 4) combine two of our best offensive players at the peril of the whole team. Neither can protect the rim, and Al is especially bad at PNR D. I think the double whammy is that you can run the offense through either of these guys and this lineup underutilizes them because they have to split usage.
  • Kanter and Favors are not ready to be go-to post up options. They need occasional touches to learn, but if you make them the focal point of an offense they will struggle badly.
  • Improving Defense is not only about paying lip service to “playing hard and getting better.”** You have to reward strong defensive play with minutes, and we all know Favors’ impact can not be denied.
**God I hate the fake interviewing that goes on in the NBA. When someone replies to every question “play hard and get better” I think one of two things has to be true. Either they are basically blowing off the reporter and refusing to answer any question meaningfully or they really have no idea what is wrong or how to specifically fix it… This is one of the reasons I love the Van Gundy’s. You can count on them to occasionally just let loose and have the truth fly (however ugly it is at times).

Ty needs to create some stable lineups where everyone has a role that they can be successful in. Each lineup should have an identity for their play style that they can take pride in (anyone remember SWARM?). These lineups need to blend the talents of Jazz players to put the right mix of defense, shooting, and playmaking on the floor.

Off and Running (Starters): Mo/Hayward/Marvin/Millsap/Favors
I would definitely want to start games off strong defensively so why not play 3 of the best defenders? All three of those defensive players can be very competent offensively as well (in the right system). Throw in Mo and Sap to carry the offensive responsibilities and this is a balanced unit. I am assuming (maybe optimistically?) that Marvin/Sap/Hayward/Mo can combine for over 35% 3pt shooting despite early season woes. If this group can be good defensively it will be good offensively – defense leads to fast breaks and this group is built to run. Millsap, though undersized, is not as bad a defender as some think and his stealing ability could lead to some easy fast break buckets. The burden of the half court offense would be mostly on Mo/Sap and I believe they can handle it. I also think Hayward is too deferential when playing with Al, and might channel his aggressive, play-making form in this lineup. Regardless he is awesome in the open court if this group can get running. I also would love to see Hayward and Favors get more chances at the PNR together.

AL THE CONQUERER with a side of Burks (2nd Unit): Burks/Foye/Kanter/Al + Hayward or Marvin
Al struggled early in the season and in several games, but still has been clutch late. I suspect he needs touches to get into a groove and have the right feel for his shot. I actually think his per game points could increase with him coming off the bench. He would still finish most games, and would play at most 5 minutes less than usual. The key is increasing his usage – I don’t love Al the Conqueror as our primary offense but I am on board for our 2nd unit. This is how you get him as many shots (or more) with a few less minutes. Right now he is getting about 14 shots in 33 minutes so if he goes down to 28 minutes that is just 1 shot every 2 minutes. That should be easily doable if he is playing a lot of 2nd unit minutes. We all know Al has deficiencies on D, so if we increase his usage we can get similar production with less of his bad defense.

“Demoting” Al also has the massive benefit of combining our only player worthy of double teaming with our best spot up shooter… Foye should benefit from open looks, or big Al should benefit from better spacing. Kanter has also appeared to have a good mid range game which could have synergy with Al owning the paint. I think with a little work Foye/Burks should be very capable of entry passes, so running the offense through Al diminishes our weakness at backup PG.

Burks should be given the green light to penetrate/create for some percentage of 2nd unit possessions (20%?). He clearly has lost his mojo at the moment so he needs to get back to his strengths – going at the rim. They also should run a few plays for foye coming off screens. Heck, I am even for trying a Burks/Kanter PNR at some point later in the year.

Kanter should be able to focus on defense, rebounding and some spot up mid range shots. I don’t mind posting him up occasionally so he can learn, but he clearly struggled when the coaches try to run the 2nd unit offense through him.

Big Unit (Closers most games): Mo/Sap/Favors/Al + Hayward or Marvin or Foye
You want your best players on the floor to finish games and for most of last season this was a problem for Corbin because 3 of our best players shared position. Ty started to adjust at the end of the season, and when matchups allow he should continue to play Favors/Al/Sap together. Millsap has legit offensive 3 skills so the Jazz definitely need to capitalize on this to get our best players the most minutes. Obviously there is potential for Sap to get burned by fast, offensively powered 3s but the coaches shouldn’t be too timid – sometimes you need to make the other teams adjust to you. I hope the 3 point shooting is good enough without Foye because you don’t want to throw out a defensive backcourt of Mo/Foye to close games. Maybe include Foye if Hayward is off or we need a barrage of 3s to make a comeback.

There are obviously more lineup variations you would need to matchup with certain teams, but I think these would be a good foundation to start getting everyone comfortable roles they can excel in. For the 2 people who read this, sorry it was so long.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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