Wow, two games are done in our 8 game NBA Preseason run up to the games that actually matter. Can you believe that we're 1/4th of the way through already? I don't feel that badly about losing to the Golden State Warriors (stream here) now that we spanked an injury disadvantaged Oklahoma City Thunder (stream here). I don't think it would be a stretch to say that if this would have been a REAL game it wouldn't have been this close. After all, I'm not completely convinced with our team's ability to put the opponent away. Or maybe that's just a relic from LAST season's Utah Jazz. And THIS season's Jazz team actually WILL put other teams away? Well, whatever we are as a team down the stretch of the season remains to be seen. So far in the preseason we played two teams playing without some of their starters.
The next four games will be a significant test of who we are right now, as we're going to face a lot of healthy star power in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Grant Hill, and Lamar Odom. Yes, the Lakers are without Dwight Howard and the Clippers are without Chris Paul -- but we'll be playing teams better than us who have more stars. Of course, both of those teams are 0-2 in the preseason so far. So I guess you just gotta play the games. The next four of these games don't mean anything, as they are preseason games, but they DO mean something. It's HOW we play that matters, not the final score.
I think the playstyle is a big deal. And Yucca noticed this as well, right now we appear to be playing at a higher pace. Which is super great. Last season we slowed everything down to maximize the strengths of a few players, which made life hard for some of our other starters (one of them, Devin Harris, is really only good at a faster tempo... and his play last season proved that). Last night we saw Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, and others push the ball up the court for a quick strike / counter attack. We got an open three pointer in transition (one of the things both Mo and Randy Foye have done over the last three seasons), and most of the night faced the defense when they were on their heels. If you are setting up your offense to make sure Al Jefferson is settled -- there is a very good chance that you've beaten none of your opponents down the floor and they are set up too. This is the biggest difference on the floor when we speed things up. We'll be able to counter attack against a defensive team that has to give up cheap fouls or layups.
Why does this matter? Well, according to Synergy, in 2009-10 the Jazz were the #1 team at scoring in transition. In 2010-11 we dropped down to #7. And last season we plummeted down to #24. We were the best at getting easy baskets -- and then last year we failed to get any anymore. That's not to say that we did not try. The Jazz actually had MORE transition attempts per game last year than they did in previous seasons. They just finished the transition play with a turn over, or a bad shot (Yes, this is Josh Howard's fault -- think about it). Last season the Jazz still managed like 16.9 transition plays a game, but only scored on them 55.7% of the time. (Previous seasons were in the 60% range) That doesn't get it done - and we saw that. The Jazz averaged an estimated 18.6 points per game off of transition plays last season; but it was an inefficient 18.6 -- we should have been scoring 20+ points at the rate from two seasons ago.
What was our margin of victory last season? It was +0.7 PPG. Getting easy baskets should be easy. We made it hard on our selves last season. Running a lot and doing a bad job doesn't get the job done. Last night, things looked a lot easier. We all know the defense is the big problem, but avoiding even discussing the offensive problems seems to be similarly condemning. Going a little faster will help us get BETTER transition attempts, instead of running four guys against three last night we saw the Jazz running three guys against two. Mathematically that is a bigger advantage, plus there's more floor and offensive players to cover with less defenders.
And it was perfectly capitulated by Gordon Hayward leading the break, drawing the defense, and flipping the ball off to Mo Williams on the break -- and he swished the three with no defenders around him. That's ALWAYS an easier shot than a double teamed bigman in the paint, even if the bigman is only 8 feet from the basket.
Yes, the Jazz schedule really is crazy, they play the next three games on the road in Los Angeles, three games in five nights. You know who this means the most to, don't you?
Source: @Enes_Kanter 's own twitter account -- and yes, click the link to read the women's studies discussion which started as a result...
Kanter's is getting "pretty damn Hollywood" this off-season, to steal a quote from the Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah. And you know what? That's fine. Gordon Hayward is a guy who isn't going to be demonstrative. Derrick Favors is super quiet he doesn't even celebrate when we hit game winners. Alec Burks does have the swagger that our development staff have already circled in his permanent records as a potential warning sign. I think our 2011 rookies are more "Hollywood" than our 2010 rookies. And I think we need that balance. At the very least . . . can you imagine how boring all the old off-seasons would have been without Karl Malone acting up? If he was more John Stockton-like the beat writers would have had a harder time writing about the Jazz. And I know as a blogger - Enes Kanter is a goldmine.
That Jam last night though? Damn. That was a nice, confident power move. But the rim hang and the trash he talked after (not directed at Cole Aldrich, but he was talking about his dunk) . . . that's pretty damn Hollywood. And I love it.
So the Jazz have three nights in LA that aren't travel days. I know one of our guys is going to make the most of it. And let him. You're only young once.
You know that my Downbeats have some special Da Vinci code to them, and they aren't just random bits of news and analysis, right? Well, all the talk about transition scoring, picking up the pace, and youth . . . well, other people are noticing that we have some pretty awesome ingredients as well; it's really not a secret anymore that our Utah Jazz have the chance to be pretty damn special.
via @SamAmicoFSO , who writes for Fox Sports....
Or if not special, at least fun to watch. Zach Lowe (formerly of SI's Point Forward, and now of Grantland) wrote that for him the Jazz are the #3 most necessary NBA All-League Pass team to watch. And yes, there are 30 teams in the league. Here's a bit of what he had to say . . .
"...but Favors represents the most likely potential cure for Utah’s diseased defense, which ranked 20th in points allowed per possession, mostly due to Jefferson’s flat-footed non-defense of the pick-and-roll. Favors is a shot-blocking menace, capable of getting from the foul line to the rim in a flash, and Utah needs to play him more if his unsure offense has progressed enough. That’s an important "if." As much as everyone wants to scream about defense winning championships, Utah made the playoffs mostly thanks to a top-10 offense that sputtered whenever more than one or two starters left the floor. Jefferson is a sieve on defense, but teams don’t get anywhere by solving one problem if the solution creates another. Corbin and his staff have an interesting juggling act to perform."
"I’m bullish on Hayward, too. He has solid all-around skills on both ends, and his struggles last season were typical of young players. He was turnover-prone on the pick-and-roll, with a habit of dribbling into crowds, missing easy pocket passes and generally proceeding without a plan. Perhaps as a result, he took too many jumpers on both pick-and-rolls and spot-up chances in which the opportunity to drive by a defender on the close-out was there."
The does talk a bit about the "Big" lineup as well, but we know the key to running is getting stops. And getting stops means playing Derrick Favors. Check out the full piece here.
Hmmm, there's not enough stats in this Downbeat . . . I have a stats post coming out later today . . . but let's stick with our new #5 - Mo Williams. Did you know that in two games he has played 22.5 MPG, averaged 13.0 PPG (56.3 fg%, 80.0 3pt%, 80.0 ft%, 68.8 eFG%, 1.63 PPS) while still getting 4.0 APG? He has been super efficient so far . . . . his Per 36 values are 20.8 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 3.2 made threes per game, and 4.0 FTA per game. He's also picking 1.6 steals in 36 minutes too. Man, if he can keep this up I'll be feeling much, much 'Mo better about our PG position. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag on the stats roundup though . . . but man, Randy Foye has been the opposite of what we need. He wants to play shooting guard. He's playing some shooting guard. And on the floor he has gone 0/10 FG, and 0/3 from three. He has been cringe-worthy. But more stats stuff this weekend with tomorrow's Player of the Week -- by Kyle Kirkham!