[Editors Note: Changes made to update all players on all 6 games played]
The Jazz are sitting at a disappointing 3-3 after 6 games, but are things as bad as they really seem? Maybe. On one hand, the Jazz are probably only one game worse than we all expected them to be at this point in the season. We expected them to beat Phoenix at home and probably Golden State in California, but did we expect them to blow out Oklahoma City at their place? On the other hand, the Jazz have looked like anything other than the Jazz at times and things just look broken. The Jazz almost dropped a home game to the Clips, something they have only done one time ever. But is it the offense or the defense that is to blame for the Jazz woes? Truthfully, it's a little bit of both, but if you were forced to choose one, it is the offense, by far.
While the Jazz defense hasn't looked great, they are the best defensive Jazz in the last 5 years, if you look at the numbers. The Jazz are currently giving up 100.9 points per 100 possessions. Last year the Jazz gave up 102.9 pp100p, which was the best in the last 6 years or so. I was surprised by the low number, even though I have noticed that the Jazz have been good at forcing opponents into contested jumpshots. If the Jazz were able to be more successful with their defensive rebounding, that defensive efficiency would improve greatly. Bottom line is that this team has the tools to be very good defensively, which is encouraging.
The offense on the other hand is struggling big time. The Jazz are managing to score 101 points per 100 possessions, good for 21st in the league. That's the worst offensive output for a Jazz team in the last 5 years. It's actually the worst by 5 points. Anemically bad. Do you remember the 2007-2008 season? That was the year that we sported a pretty good team and were closer than anyone outside of the Jazz fanbase is willing to admit, to dethroning the Lakers in the playoffs. That season, the Jazz also scored 110.8 points per 100 possessions. That is the golden standard we need to get back to. So let's see what is so different.
Before we delve into the numbers, I should clarify that six games is not a very good sample size. We have played only a small portion of the teams that the NBA has to offer. But the stats we do have, tell a tale of the season so far. They just don't explain what team the Jazz truly are yet. All numbers and stats can be found at hoopdata.com, a terrific site for answering a lot of statistical NBA questions.
To illustrate the offense, or lack thereof, I am going to focus on three different things: shot selection, free throws and turnovers, with an emphasis on shot selection.
The Jazz are turning the ball over about 2 times more often per 100 possessions than they did in 07-08. Two lost possessions is significant, but doesn't account for being 6 points worse. The Jazz are also shooting 2 more free throws per 100 possession this season than they did in 07-08. So the big problem is the lack of shooting and shot selection.
I'm not good at making charts and graphs or coloring in between the lines, so I'm going to cut right to the chase and tell you what is wrong with the team instead of letting you make inferences. In 07-08 the Jazz shot 30.4 shots a game at the rim and made 64% of those shots. They shot 6.6 shots a game from 2-10 feet and made 42% of those. So in 07-08 the Jazz shot 46% of there total shots from within 10 feet and made 60% of those shots. This year the Jazz are shooting 47 % of their shots within 10 feet and making 58% of them. Pretty equal.
In 07-08 the Jazz took 13.4 three pointers a game and made 37% of them. This season they are taking 14.2 three pointers a game and making 34%. Fairly equal. So lets get to the real heart of the matter: 10-23 foot shots or mid-range jumpers.
In 2007-08 the Jazz took 33 midrange jumpers every 100 possessions and made 42.5% of them. This year, they are taking 32.5 midrange jumpers and making only 35% of them. That's a difference of about 5.5 points per 100 possessions the Jazz are losing due to poor midrange shooting. So who's to blame? I'm sure you can guess exactly who is shooting poorly, but let's see just how poorly they are doing.
I start with Paul, because I think it's easy to overlook just how incredible his shooting has been the first 6 games. Just in case you were ever thinking it, the Jazz don't miss Carlos Boozer's offensive production. Paul Millsap is shooting the ball better than Carlos Boozer ever did while in Utah. Millsap is shooting 70% from within 10 feet and 50% from midrange. He will have a hard time keeping up those numbers, obviously, but if he does, we are talking about not only an all-star, but a deserving starter in the all-star game. Only Dirk Nowitzki and Lamar Odom are shooting as well as Paul is among forwards and centers.
How about the other big guy? Jefferson has a true low post game and he should keep it there. Big Al is shooting a respectable 51% from inside 10 feet, but he is shooting 27% from midrange. That's not impressive. His worst year previously from midrange was 36%.
We've all cringed when AK has pulled up for a midrange jumper. That's because he is only making 17% of his midrange jumpshots. But, he has made 5 of his 8 attempted three pointers. He's also only shooting 60% at the rim, when 70% is his norm. So much for the added weight making him tougher at the cup. I never thought I would say this, but maybe you oughta stick to the longball, AK.
I appreciate Raja's defensive tenacity. I think he has helped lead what has been an improved defense. But he needs to fix his jumper. He's made all 3 shots within 10 feet this season, but outside of 10 feet, he is putting up career low numbers. Only 30% on 3 pointers. That's gotta change. I think it will.
It's hard to take CJ's numbers seriously, because he's so up and down. He was torrid in OKC and against Toronto and then put up two of his worst shooting nights in his career as an encore. It's not fair to compare CJ to any of his previous years because he is still growing as a player, but this season he is finishing more poorly at the rim, but shooting from distance and midrange with a little better accuracy. We just need some consistency from CJ at this point. He's not dumb/smart CJ. He's Jekyll and Hyde CJ.
I saved Deron for last, because he is the main culprit. He's down almost across the board. He's making 55% of his shots at the rim. Sixty percent is his norm. He's made 63% of his floaters and short jumpers which is a big improvement, but his midrange shooting...ouch. Only 31%. His average is something around 45%. And the 34% from deep isn't helping either.
The Jazz can fix their offense and I think they will. They still need time. If they can keep up the good defensive effort and get the offense to be even just as good as their previous 5 years, then they will become a top 5 team with a tremendous point differential. I have ideas on how they can improve the efficiency of the offense, but I will save that for a later post. First I want to hear from you. What do you think the Jazz can do to improve the offense? And don't say, "make their shots." That's the equivalent of a "first" comment.