We've been looking at offense a lot lately here. There are two reasons for that. The first is that there are more numbers recorded for offense. And the second one is that we're going to spent a LOT of August looking at defense. I think among the qualities we think out when we think of "Jazz Basketball" would be playing tough, physical defense. Another would be playing without making excuses; just going out there and getting it done. Still, the number one quality we think of when we think of Jazz Basketball is a smooth, shifting, cooperative offense that bewilders defenders and excites onlookers. Our offense, at its' best, is Jazz personified in the bodies and minds of five players doing things in unison.
It's not the stagnant, boring play every single time down the court. And it's not an iso heavy offense that emphasizes one star over the 'back up singers'. Our offense is supposed to be Jazz because we are the Jazz. We're not some Top 40 station playing pop music. Similarly, our offense is not supposed to be vapid and formulaic like pop music.
Let's get back to playing Jazz Basketball. Let's look at some offensive trends -- after the jump, what's going on with our scoring off of cuts?
Even in the hey-day of Stockton and Malone, a lot of our offense was predicated upon pin-point bullet passes from both of those stars to smart team mates who moved to an open spot. Part of this is getting guys spotting up, but really it's almost the same theory when hitting a man going to the basket. These are plays that rely upon defensive help situations where your team reads and reacts to the defense. And you get easy baskets. After all, our offense is all about cutting and moving without the ball. We started Adam Keefe and went to the NBA finals. He wasn't a sit in the corner defender like Bruce Bowen, dude was part of our offense and used to get to the free throw line. Why? Because our offense was unselfish, and he knew how to cut. Cutting has long been one of our best carry-overs from Jazz era to era. But what's wrong with it?
The Three Year Trends:
Read it and weep...
Hmm, the thing that should stand out is that we've been Ranked #8 in the NBA each of the last three seasons. It's something we are good at, and something we are consistent in. Yet, we've used it less and less each season. That is upsetting. There are two things that you need to cut well: floor space, and unselfish guys with the ball. With Al Jefferson you have a guy always occupying the near rim area, who isn't known for his passing. With moving him around to different areas on the floor we could make more space on the floor for cutters. He has shown a willingness to pass when cutting. The other issue is, well, maybe we don't need the ball in his hand all the time, and we can either use him to free up potential cutters with an off-ball screen, or heck, even USE him as a cutter more. That way we maximize his strengths -- shooting near the rim, and not passing. When you get the ball in scoring position as a cutter it's dumb if you don't shoot. This is precisely the area where Al needs to be, he needs to be in a situation where it would be dumb to not shoot the ball. He was made to play off cuts.
Does that mean we lose out on the guy who should instead be creating those 'must defend' over help holes in the defense where cutters need space? Not really. The Jazz can create this over-help situation with some of the other players on the floor. Or, heck, start using that pick and roll thing again which gets us to use Al off the ball, create a screen, and if he's mobile enough to get in scoring position -- get him the ball back where it would be dumb not to shoot.
Cutting then becomes another fundamental problem. Our boring predictable offense needs more off the ball movement, and more floor space. This problem is VERY related to the same problems involved in getting Spot up jumpers in that regard.
Fixing this, even if the problem is different than spot ups, should be important. (Review: the Spot Up problem is complex, our problem with scoring off of cuts is that we do not do this enough, despite being a Top 10 NBA team at it).
Guys need to cut more, our guys with the ball need to find them more, and the coach needs to call more plays that allow for this. More than anything, though, is that we could just keep doing what we're doing, but do more of it. We don't need to change the plays or the players -- just change which plays we run.
The Jazz did not need to really change anything, but they did resign Jeremy Evans (a quick backdoor alley in the half court is a cut to the basket), and traded for Marvin Williams. Marvin was always used incorrectly in Atlanta, but he very good at cutting. He was in that Top 100 range, and slightly less effective than Derrick Favors, who is a beast. Watching Marvin in mySynergySports database makes me go a little nuts. He doesn't get to cut often in their offense, but he should get more chances here. And boy, even last year after getting close to 30, and having a number of injuries, dude can still get up and jam it off of cuts. We haven't had a guy to really do that since Shandon and Blue were on our roster. Hmm, I'm clearly forgetting that Ronnie Brewer cat. Sorry Ronnie, I mean 'since we had Brewer on our roster'.
We need to get back to Jazz basketball and cut more, getting the ball high post or with dribble penetration while guys cut is essential.
Here is the data for the guys NOW on our team who were about 200th best (by PPP rank) in the NBA last season (2011-12). This data is from mySynergySports.com, of course. I've also included ePPG (estimated points per game), which is just what it appears to be: How many points that player scores per game from this play type. Why Top 200? That's basically your Top 6 players at this play, and isolates the guys who are in that "better than average" spot at this thing in the NBA. The more Top 200 guys you have the better, and the more options you have.
This team DOES have 7 guys who are great at cutting (which is numerically what we want), Burks doesn't shoot a very high percentage here, but you know what? I had to include him because he's in that 200 range, and out of everyone on our team HE GETS FOULED OVER 22% OF THE TIME HE GETS THE BALL ON CUTS. That is an impossibly high number, especially for a bench rookie who played in over 60 games (4 playoffs, 59 reg season). Also: Jeremy Evans. Wow. We need to get him on the floor, and get him to cut. Even if it's not an Oop, he is deadly at this thing that we should try to exploit more.
And that's really it, we need to exploit cutters more. Millsap is #27 best in the league. Jefferson if #59. Favors is #102. Marvin is #107. That's four dudes in the Top 100. We didn't suck at cutting last year, but we really have the guys who can make it work. We need to do more of it.
That would be Jazz basketball anyway, everyone getting to try out different things. We don't have to post up to Big Al each time down the court, we could Post up Sap, and have Al cut. Or post up Favors, and have Marvin cut. And so on, we have enough guys that our boring "Post up to Al" offense becomes that much more dynamic even with the little shift of changing it to "Post up to X" offense.
Especially when that would confound the defense when they put their biggest guy on Al, and the next offensive play down Al gets a cross screen and that slow guy now has to deal with staying up with Al when he makes a quick cut. Jazz basketball, more than anything else, is "playing" the other team by making lots of changes without having to call a time out, and change who is on the floor.
That versatility and adaptability is best served through attacking the other team with our EIGHT different guys who are great at cutting. We have the guys who know how to do this. We have the variables in our playbook already. We're already a Top 8 NBA Rank team at this.
Why have we gone from doing this 13.9% of the time down the 9.9% of the time though in three years? We need to do this more. In fact, we should probably do this 20% of of the time. After all, sharing the ball, making quick moves, and being unselfish is what Jazz basketball is all about.
Let's get back to playing Jazz basketball.