Okay, I don't know if you've heard . . . but the Utah Jazz have a problem on defense. They foul a lot. Or at the very least they get called for a lot of fouls. It's a chicken / egg thing by now. Do they get called for a lot of fouls because they foul a lot? Or do they get called for a lot of fouls because they have a reputation of fouling a lot? Sometimes the Jazz play rough, and more physical contact is expected. Other times the Jazz play with that same physicality, but get called for whistles. Such is the life of this franchise.
As it stands right now we have this stigma of being a foul-y team. But what is a foul, really? Well, A foul is what happens when you can't do what you want on the floor without breaking the rules. Sometimes this is a charge ("I can't get to where I want because of the defense, so I will try to break the rules!"), or moving screen ("I can't stop this guy from defending my guard, let me move with him!"), or just something simple like hitting a dude hard so he can't make the shot. Really, that's what most of the fouls are in Jazz history. It's a defensive breakdown where the only possible or probable way that they can do anything to make the opponent miss their shot is to go and break the rules.
And thus, fouling.
Fouling sometimes happens to prevent a 'sure' two points. Sometimes you rather foul, and have them 'earn it at the line', instead of just letting them score. Other times you foul to 'set the tone' of a game. Hit someone when they try to penetrate. And hit them hard enough that they think twice of doing it again.
These are the essential principles of the Utah Jazz defensive scheme. Let's not forget that it also works out better when your paint is also anchored by a guy 7'2 to 7'4 feet high who is there to do two things on the court: change shots and foul. If your defensive anchor is a 6'10 guy that you also need for on offense, perhaps the "foul all of the times" defense needs to make way for the new, and risky "actually play defense" defense.
The Jazz have done this before. Really. According to NBA Rank Defensive Rating (DEF RTG) the Jazz spent five years in a row in the Top 5 (1984-1989). And beyond that stretch they spent 9 out of 10 years in the Top 10 (1984-1994). It's no surprise that having John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Mark Eaton in their physical peaks can help you be a good defensive club. But sometimes you have to move beyond the individual abilities (or sizes) and devise strategy. This year would be a good year to start that.
Well, because right now we have the worst defenses in franchise history, and also still foul a heck of a lot. Here's how it breaks down from our W/L record, pace, Opp. PPG, DEF RTG, how many fouls we get called for each year, and of course, the FT / FGA ratio.
|Season||G||W||-||L||%||Pace||Rank||Opp PPG||Rank||DRTG||Rank||Fouls||Rank||FT / FGA||Rank|
It's not pretty. I'm seeing a lot of red over the last 15 years. But this is almost too much information to digest. So let's simplify. Let's just look at three factors: DEF RTG, Fouls, and FT / FGA Ratio. And let's move away from the raw numbers, and just look at their NBA Ranks (out of 30). No one asked, but we can try to see which line more closely follows the other:
- Do fouls, physically stopping the other team from scoring, actually help with defense?
- Or do fouls more closely lead to putting jerks from the other team to the FT line?
It's almost unfair, because we KNOW the answer. I really think lazy defense is fouling. This isn't a "toughness" NBA anymore. You can't be tough with the stars anymore anyway, you'll get suspended and fined.
That said, I still really like this video.
It really doesn't pay to play physical on defense -- unless you have the reputation that a guy like Roy Hibbert has. But that's just hit. At this point the Jazz are just KNOWN for fouling. And it's a reputation that will be hard to change.
It is going to be hard to change when all you seem to be doing over the last 15 years is foul people, and send them to the line. But having naturally talented defensive players like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert should help though. If they ever get to play together.