Utah Jazz stretch big Steve Novak is excellent at three pointers, but is that enough?

Bruce Bennett

Sometimes all it takes to get on the floor is to be great at something

The Utah Jazz traded away fan favorite Diante Garrett for Steve Novak . For the Toronto Raptors it was a salary dump, where they will waive Garret's non-guaranted $915k and end up saving over $7 million over the next two seasons. The Raptors didn't really use Novak last season, as the stretch big would only see action in 54 games in the regular season, and end up playing just 15 minutes in the playoffs. For them, this move was necessary and helped them out with their current plans for being a playoff contender out East. For Utah, on the other hand, they got someone who is absolutely, unquestionably, great at something. The questions, though, are about what to do with this guy.

In his interview with the Deseret News' Jody Genessy the former Raptor expressed a desire to be a part of the Utah Jazz, become a part of this community, and perhaps play a larger role. I can get that, in the previous two seasons with the New York Knicks he played in 135 of 164 games, and within them played 19.7 mpg. In Toronto he played a neat 10.0 mpg.

Utah may need to increase his role, regardless of what he wants.

Novak satisfies a huge need:

And this is the case because the Jazz are looking at the possibility of returning to the doldrums of being an awful outside shooting team. Years ago when the Jazz last made the playoffs (a miraculous run from the 12th seed to the 8th) they did so without any outside shooting help. This flaw was exposed in the playoffs and the San Antonio Spurs made quick work of the team. The next season the Jazz front office made sweeping changes and added Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, and Randy Foye. Those three players, along with Gordon Hayward, and a lesser extent Alec Burks and DeMarre Carroll, had banner years from outside. This last season the Jazz lost all but three of those guys. And this upcoming season they could be left with only one. Furthermore, Richard Jefferson could also be looking for a new home.

The Jazz could be three-less again.

In order to avoid that the big money boys took a look at what they had and made a move to get someone who was excellent. It's not an insult to suggest that Steve Novak is basically the Ray Allen of stretch bigs. Except, but a bigman who rebounds less than Ray Allen, and doesn't pass or play defense.

It isn't bold to suggest that. It's accurate to say that Novak does both:

  1. one thing at an excellent level,
  2. and also, just one thing. Full Stop.

Normally getting onto the floor means being someone who plays at least average defense, or failing that, does great things on offense that you have to just roll with it. Having a one way player on the floor has to be balanced in some way, specifically, the good has to outweigh the bad.

Novak's recent history:

Is Novak excusably poor on defense? The Toronto Raptors, the #3 seed in the East, did not think so. And they barely used him during the season or during the playoffs. The two New York Knicks teams he was on both made the playoffs as well, but only one one of the three series he was involved in during the post season had him playing a major role.

However, Novak is in a different situation now. The Jazz are not going to the playoffs anytime soon. Furthermore, this team is desperate for outside shooting. Beggars can't be choosers, and in a new Jazz offense where Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors all like to score in the paint someone has to stand outside to spread the floor.

So let's look at Steve and what he does, let's look at his three point shooting.

For his career he has gone 548 / 1268 from downtown in the regular season. That's a tidy .432 success rate. In the playoffs it's even better, he is shooting .455, but has only gone 10 / 22. And that's the problem with Novak, while he is excellent at one thing, coaches have a hard time justifying playing him a lot of minutes. He has played in 414 total games in his 8 year career. He's not a guy who gets injured a lot, but he averages playing in 51.75 games a season. Furthermore, he has played in only 5394 total minutes, in again, 8 seasons. For his career he plays in 13.0 mpg, and only in 50 games a year.

Absolutely essential players don't rack up 30 DNP-CDs every year, well into their 8th year in the league.

What does that have to do with three point shooting? Absolutely nothing, and a lot, at the same time. His amazing ability was not enough to get him on the floor for other teams, and if you're not even getting in games then you can't be spreading the floor. But . . . . when he did play, he did make it rain.

Synergy:

With all of the tools we have we have greater access to information. I may not be around to stand next to sweaty guys and get a few canned responses to questions in a media scrum. But I do try to make the best of what I do have available to me. And by looking at the last three seasons (what we're focusing on, NYK for two year, and last year) the puzzle starts to form itself.

On offense Novak is usually an after thought. Over the last three seasons (regular + playoffs) he has played in 207 games, and 3,361 total minutes. That's 69 games per season + playoffs, and 16.24 MPG. Within that time he is someone who has a possession run through him 4.81 times a game. So on offense he's involved about a quarter of the time (just looking at the 16 and 4 there). Within the play breakdowns he does one thing a lot of the time, two things a little bit, and then nothing else.

He doesn't pass, set screens, or get offensive rebounds. He moves well without the ball and his job is to spot up. In three seasons he has posted up three times and received the ball on a cut three times. These are the usual things a bigman on our team does. In fact, if you just list all of the things he does on offense 3% of the time or less it would be easier: Post up, Cut, Offensive rebound plays, isolations, dribble hand offs, pick and roll, and so on.

The things he does do is spot up, get the ball off of screens, and score in transition. Those three things sum to be 87.7% of everything he does on offense, over the last three seasons. Within that it's heavily skewed to spotting up. During those three seasons he was someone involved in 996 possessions, of that 585 (58.7%) were spot ups, 150 (15.1%) were off screens, and 138 (13.9%) were in transition.

Over all 82.7% of his FGA were 3PTA. In Spot ups threes were 84.3% of his FGA, off screens threes were 82.4% of his FGA, and in transition three point attempts were 88.1% of his FGA. He's not a guy who gets layups, or midrange jumpers. He is purely a three point shooter. And I am okay with that because he is absolutely fantastic from outside.

If you disregard his otherwise forgettable performance in everything that isn't a spot up, coming off of a screen, or getting the ball in transitionm then he is remarkable. During these three years he shot 343 / 775 from outside. That's making 44.3%, and taking 3.7 threes a game. That's amazing. But . . .

  • Off Screens: 47 / 122 (38.5%), 0.6 3PTA per game
  • Transition: 52 / 188 (45.5%), 0.6 3PTA per game
  • Spot Ups: 231 / 479 (48.2%), 2.3 3PTA per game

He doesn't have the large volume of a starter, but as a situational guy over the last three years he has been very deadly in three specific ways. These three things are nearly 90% of what he does on the court, and yes, taking threes is already 83% of all the shots he takes. And yes, he's not particularly effective at taking threes in other ways (4/22 in pick and pop situations, 1/4 in isolation, 0/4 as the guy in a pick and roll getting the screen, 4/17 in a dribble hand off) -- but thankfully they aren't really things he does much of.

Steve has an amazing 1.35 PPP off of Spot ups, which ranks him among the best in the league. He's clocking in at a 1.28 PPP in transition (all those trailing threes), and 1.02 PPP off of screens. He's a shooter. And a damn good one. And he's smart enough not to try to do things he is not so good at.

Novak is consistent:

He's not just some guy who is a garbage time all-star, nor is he someone who gets his points when the defense is lose. At the end of games he's just as good as the start of them. I mean it. Surprisingly his overall career three point % is 43.2%. What is his three point % in the 3rd, 4th, or Overtime of games? It's also 43.2%

Steve_novak_three_point_all_vs_3_4_ot

This is important to see because this means that when plugged into a 5 man unit, regardless of when his number is called, he will drain shots at that same level. He's a guy who doesn't get a lot of starts -- so when he's in the game off the bench he is as deadly as he ever is.

He may be a one trick pony, but it's a pretty darn good trick. And it's going to get the crowd every time.

Location, Location, Location . . .

Let's be real, we're disregarding anything inside the paint. He sure has. So if you sum up his regular season and playoff three point shooting over the last three seasons you get something to love.

Steve_novak_shot_locations

Note, the red and "bad" colors don't mean he's below league average from these spots. He's just below Novak average compared to the other locations. He's a killer in the corners, and seems to find himself taking most of his shots from either there, or the right elbow extended. Of course, if you look at the location chart and the completion percentage you are happy.

Two things stand out, though. He is rarely used. And his New York days were much better than his Toronto days.

And there's the rub:

He's not a prime time player. He's not a starter. He's was not even a regular rotation guy last year. Of course he wants a bigger role, something more like what he had in New York. He may get that too because our team will sorely need floor spacing. But over his career few coaches have felt like he was good enough to keep out on the floor for more than a quarter (career MPG of 13.0 remember).

And part of that HAS to be the fact that he is a limited player. He is great at threes, but what beyond that? The next best thing is free throw making -- but he gets to the line slightly more than I do. But I did not play 200+ games over the last three seasons.

If he was this great at shooting and did something else well he would surely earn a larger role. He doesn't board. He doesn't pass. He doesn't defend. But he can shoot. Effectively, he's a taller Randy Foye with a way worse dribble. And he wants a larger role.

I want a raise from SB Nation but I'm not going to get one. We all can't get what we want.

And until proven otherwise, I don't think we should go out of our way to accommodate Novak's desire for a larger role. He will have to earn it. He wasn't the #5 pick of the draft or anything.

If he can defend, or pass, or rebound then we can talk. He is a guy with a career PER of 12.8, his career highs for a season are 1.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, and a combined 0.4 spg+bpg. His Per 36 values for his best season in New York had him getting 3.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, and 0.6 spg. I'm not comfortable with that. Furthermore, it's very rare for a 30+ year old going into his 9th season in the league to suddenly develop this amazing All-Around game.

He's in this league to shoot. He has shot really well. And our team needs shooting. But shooting isn't one of the "Three Ds". Defense is. And most of his coaches in his life have felt like his defense wasn't good enough to get him on the floor, despite his absolutely amazing shooting.

And that's where we are right now.

Amazing shooting when spotting up. Provides something we need. Has done so in the NBA in a very small sample size, over an 8 season career that had him playing for six different teams.

Can the team get more from a Rodney Hood or Malcolm Thomas than Novak? Overall, probably. If you need an immediate floor spacer, well, now that's different. Novak has done it, hit threes, for years. And done it at a 43.2% clip. He just hasn't done much else in his career.

Is that enough? That's a question for Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder. But seeing how we're on the internet, let's go ahead and try to figure out the answer for ourselves.

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