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Sunday Syncopation # 32

Yes, even a trip to Lake Geneva in the wild barrens of Wisconsin cannot stop me from writing this weekly column. I wanted to take a break from all the draft talk and take a look at . . . three point shooting.

  • This season the Jazz shot 34.6% from deep, as a team. That ranks 20th in the league last season. The Jazz also made 435 (24th), and took 1256 (22nd). Clearly, the Jazz were in the bottom third when it comes to doing anything from deep.
  • I wish I could say that the Jazz were way better at defending the three over the course of the season, but that’s just not the case. At the beginning of the season it appeared that we were finally figuring it out; in October the Jazz held opponents to 31.8% from deep, and in November the opponents only made 30.0% from their shots from three. Then in December things went nuts.
  • In December Jazz opponents made 39.3% from deep. January? Teams shot 39.3% on us again. February had the Jazz giving it up at a 40.6% rate. It was bad. You get the picture . . . as the season went on, our defense got worse (by percentage).
  • For the season the Jazz were 29th best (or 2nd worst) in three point percentage defense, allowing an over-all three point percentage of 37.6%.
  • Why do teams shoot so well against the Jazz from deep? I think that this problem has many factors. The first factor appears to be defensive doctrine. The second may be players involved. And the last probably has to be morale.
  • The first, defensive doctrine, is probably the biggest. Our playbooks are written in stone. Not just because they are the law, but also because they are so old that they pre-date papyrus. There, if you believe those liars at the NBA Head office, something called the three point line now. And other teams have recognized that it’s worth more than two. Defending this miracle ‘high yield’ shot is something we haven’t focused on at all. Right now it’s our idea to defend the paint at all costs.
  • The paint has the easier shots, and the idea is to defend the ‘gimmies’. However, players have advanced to the point where an open three pointer is now a gimmie. It’s a gimmie for guards, and now most forwards as well. Unfortunately, we tend to give these gimmie shots to other teams. As a result, we’ve been burnt by anyone from Steve Blake to Matt Bonner over the last few seasons.
  • I don’t expect this to change at all, though. Especially with the way that we attempt to switch in order to cover open men due to poor dribble penetration definition. (If you somehow missed 8000 words on the subject you can read about it there) I do think that our three point defense is directly related to our dribble penetration defense. But it’s not just a systematic failure . . . it’s also a bunch of individual failures.
  • Some of our players are great athletes. Some of our players are not. Closing out on an open three pointer well can greatly affect the chance that it goes in. Andrei Kirilenko is fantastic at closing out because of his length (and previously his vertical). Raja Bell, on the other hand, does most of his defense below the belt and rarely gets his hands up to challenges shots. Not every wing guy is great or horrible at closing out; however, some are definitely better than others. I was surprised by Gordon Hayward’s determination on fighting through screens and closing out. I was surprised by C.J. Miles’ inconsistency. I can’t actually rank them, or guys like Ronnie Price. Why? Well, my laptop doesn’t want to log into MySynergy right now. Boo!


15 minutes later


  • Okay, I have MySynergy up and working right now so I *can* kind of rank them.
  • For the team, the Jazz were 25th "best" on defending spot ups. Opponents scored 1.04 points per possession (ppp) on these types of shots. The Jazz, over all, only allowed 0.91 ppp (21st overall). Andrei Kirilenko allowed 1.04 ppp on spot ups (202 possessions), while his overall was allowing 0.93 ppp. Clearly he was better other places, but let’s see how it matches up with the rest of the wings.
  • Raja Bell allowed 1.20 ppp on spot ups (191 possessions), while his overall was allowing only 0.99 ppp.
  • C.J. Miles allowed 1.02 ppp on spot ups (201 possessions), while his overall was allowing only 0.98 ppp.
  • Gordon Hayward allowed 1.14 ppp on spot ups (98 possessions), while his overall was allowing only 1.06 ppp.
  • Jeremy Evans allowed 1.05 ppp on spot ups (59 possessions), while his overall was allowing only 0.92 ppp.
  • Ronnie Price allowed 1.06 ppp on spot ups (83 possessions), while his overall was allowing only 0.93 ppp.
  • Clearly all of our wings were WORSE defending spot ups (don’t get me started on off of screens) than they were on all other defensive plays. That said, only two guys (CJ and Andrei) held guys to under 1.05 ppp on spot ups. Conversely, Raja Bell and Hayward got lit up.
  • This shouldn’t be read as orphan stats though. Guys like Hayward and Raja were more inclined to be sucked into the paint on help defense after a defensive breakdown on the ball handler. (Again, re-read that dribble penetration article) Andrei is long and mobile enough to do the very rare 2nd recovery off of ball rotation on defense (most of the guys who scored on him on close outs were the 2nd guy he closed out on – meaning the 3rd guy out of 5 on the court that he defended on a given possession).
  • Defensive principles and players aside, the morale is a big deal. Before the All-Star Break (where the Jazz won 31 of their total 39 games) the Jazz three point defense was okay. It was 36.2% -- much worse than back in October and November, but still better than how we finished. After the All-Star Break, where we ended up trading our franchise player a few games after losing our top two coaches the Jazz just lost and lost and lost. They also appeared to lose their will to hustle on defense at times too. The opponents shot a blistering 41.1% from downtown on us after the All-Star break.
  • Our team ended up being too shell shocked to close out all those close games we ended up losing.
  • Of course, not all three pointers are based upon spot up jumpers. And not all spot up jumpers are threes either; however, I think that they both are pretty close on defensive concept. They are products of defending the paint and not helping out on the perimeter.
  • It is fundamental basketball, but sometimes, well, it doesn’t work out that well because the game has changed. I remember watching the Jazz help out on David Lee in the paint while leaving guys like Dorell Wright open (37.6 3pt%). The desire to muck things up in the paint work out well against teams that like to score in the paint, but giving up jumpers to the hoard of guys who can make them in this league is suicide. Yes, Roy Hibbert is big, but we need to cover Danny Granger from 20 feet.
  • After all, just because shooting from deep wasn’t a high percentage shot when Jerry Sloan was making All-Star teams doesn’t mean that players haven’t since learned how to make those shots.
  • Offensively we almost held our own from deep when it counted. Sadly, we weren’t often in a situation where we needed a three. For the season Hayward shot 47.3%, Sap 39.1%, Andrei 36.7%, Devin Harris 35.7%, Raja 35.2%, and two of our best shooters had off seasons. Mehmet Okur only played 168 minutes last season, and shot only 31.3% from outside. C.J. shot 32.3% from deep.
  • Of course, all of this is going to be a moot point when we have Jimmer Fredette in another 11 days.


    Mini-vacation was fun . . . few big things dropping this week.