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The ones and twos of threes

Bonner: "You know how I know your team sucks at threes? Because this is where you guys shoot them from."
Bonner: "You know how I know your team sucks at threes? Because this is where you guys shoot them from."

While some may suggest that this is a 'grass is always greener' issue, it really is not. We don't shoot threes. We don't make threes. And every team that advances in the NBA players does both. And the Utah Jazz need to do it too.

After the jump . . . a non-stat look at the ones and twos of making threes. (I try to make it simple here)

There are a few components towards three point shooting - some obvious, some less so. And like everything in basketball -- nothing exists by itself. Everything influences everything else on the court. Having one good shooter gets better looks for your other shooters, giving them good looks in turn. Effective scoring from the outside opens up the paint for your bigs or cutters. Getting points in the paint means the defense has to help down there -- resulting in open guys on the perimeter. This is really like that recycling symbol, you know: reduce, reuse, recycle. Except it's all about the relationship between getting open looks while playing unselfish ball. If you forgot what this looks like remember the Spurs Tony Parker penetrating off of a high screen, making our defense hyper ventilate in the paint, getting super easy looks outside to their players -- who made their wide open threes. The other variation on this is what OKC did with Durant, where the defense has to worry about him outside -- so they let Westbrook or Harden handle the ball instead (easy looks while D is on Kevin). Another variation still is how the Celtics can actually run a designed play to get a shooter (Ray Allen) open for three. And the balls gets to him right when he needs it, and he makes the shot. There are many ways to get a three, another method is to pass the ball inside, have the post player run the clock down, get jammed up in single coverage, then reverse the ball to a shooter with his defender all over him with 5 seconds left on the shot clock.

That last one isn't very effective. It's also the most familiar method of getting a three if you are a Jazz fan. A few months ago I was checking out how we shot threes via the tools at . . . and more often than I'd like it, our threes came like that. Very few made threes happened because of great off the ball movement (save for that one option for C.J. Miles against the zone which actually worked like a charm, despite his poor overall shooting from deep last year), or a set play. I don't expect the Jazz to somehow unlock all these great three point plays, but I'd like them to get more of the Spurs style "fundamental unselfish basketball" style threes that come in the flow of taking what the defense gives you. When the ball goes out to one of our dudes the ball then gets reset for one of our post guys again. I've never coached a team to the NBA playoffs before, but sometimes an open shot from 23 feet is a better shot than a contested shot in a packed in paint with 3 seconds left on the clock.

The key to solid team three point shooting seems to be having that starting point player. Either a speedy penetrating PG (a Tony Parker), a wing player with dependable range that has to be checked (Durant, Kevin Martin, etc), or a dominating bigman who requires a consistent double team down low (vintage Shaq, vintage Hakeem, etc). I guess those are the three keys in the recycling symbol for solid team three point shooting. As a result having one of these starting point players is key. The next step is to have unselfish guys who are good enough to draw the held defender (hopefully in a sloppy, desperate close out) due to their own shooting ability -- and make a third or fourth team mate open and have options. These are personnel issues. If you aren't going to go out there and get a Top 5 or Top 10 individual three point shooter, you need to have a few guys in the Top 50 who share the ball. You have to keep the other team honest from outside. All of this, all of this is the one.

The two is, of course, actually shooting threes. The Jazz look for the easiest shot. That only makes sense. However, what constitutes the 'easiest shot' needs to be updated to incorporate both the fact that the three point line exists, and that players now are more capable of hitting it. We know this as Memo and Korver both have made threes for us before. (Again, that's why the first part is getting guys who can make that shot). Run some plays for our three point shooters, or run more isos / pick and rolls that do not allow for the defense to uniformly set up, and thus, create a situation where there is a defensive overflow on one side of the ball -- that results in a dude who is super duper open when the ball is reversed.

It seems simple though:

  1. Get guys who can make threes
  2. Run sets to get open looks
  3. Make threes

Let's see if Jeff Hornacek can come out of retirement. If not, uh, resign Memo? Seriously though, I think some of the guys on our team can be that Level 2 or Level 3 three point shooter. Level 1 is the guy the other team has to chase off the line when he's open. The Level 2 guy is someone who isn't as good, but still good enough that the defense needs to rotate two. The Level 3 guy is someone who will definitely make the shot if he's open, but isn't someone the defense has to stick to like Velcro. I think Burks is that Level 3 three point shooter, keep him open in the corner, and tell him to wait for the ball to get to him. I think that Hayward can be that Level 2 three point shooter, Harris even could fit this bill (the Harris of the last month of the season that is, not the air ball shooting one from last February). We do need that primary deep threat still. Or failing that, a ball penetrating PG who draws in the defense. Tony Parker isn't known for his shot, but he's known for being able to get into the lane at will, and forcing the defense to collapse onto him. Not all PGs can do this. My "Dream Draft Pick 2013" can though . . .

Strengths: It's tough to talk about the 6’1 Kabongo without discussing his playmaking skills … Kabongo is a special playmaker for others and really likes to look for teammates, whether it’s flashy or a basic kick in the flow of the offense … Plays the type of game that’s very fun to watch … An extremely quick guard, and really excels on the move and looks good in transition … Has very good floor vision, and is capable of making passes that make you say "how did he do/see that"? ... Excellent ball-handler who doesn’t have many problems getting where he needs to on the floor when you add in his speed and shiftiness … Really does a fantastic job of getting in the lane and finding teammates when his penetration draws attention defenders or attention to him … Understands how to play at different speeds and thus is hard to contain off the bounce ... Has an advanced ability to be almost equally effective in the transition game or in half-court sets, which is pretty rare for a young PG ... Feel for the game is impressive … Can operate in the pick and roll effectively … Pretty good athlete, with nice agility, leaping ability, and body control on top of his aforementioned speed and quickness … Also has good length … Is developing a promising 15 foot pull-up jumper, and has solid overall shooting mechanics that sporadically show when spotting up. If he's able to develop an automatic mid range jumper he is going to be a handful to contain … Will get his hands on passes defensively, and has quick reflexes … Shows very good leadership potential, and is a charismatic personality who’s vocal on the court … Will make contributions on the glass, despite his lack of size … Certainly a floor general … A charismatic young man with a reputation for being a strong character guy ... Has considerable upside ...


That's nice to read. And just a dream though -- it doesn't solve any of our three point shooting woes for this 2012-2013 season. Even if we go into the next season with the same roster as this last one we CAN find ways to shoot better threes. More Pick and Rolls means the defense (if we do it right) has to help out and cause overflow onto one side of the court. If we space everyone out and share the ball -- and force the defense to help on the ball handler -- then we can easily manufacture these open shots without having to actually add a three point play to our playbook.

That said, it's a whole lot easier if we add some legit deep threats to the team, some of those Level 1 three point shooters. I think we have enough Level 2 and 3 guys.

This post may make little sense. I haven't had my morning coffee yet.

What about going inside out (the natural way for the Jazz), with a bigman? Well, it only really works if the bigman passes the rock back out before there's only 5 seconds on the clock; or if the bigman elicits a double team. Both things are possible, but need to happen with regularity before we can make this something reliable. It worked back in the days of Shaq/Hakeem because they were so dominant. They were 20+/10+ guys. Big Al isn't even a double double guy (according to his career averages 16.2 and 8.9, or his performance in Utah 18.9 and 9.6 over two years). If you round up he is. But if you round up all of our long twos should be threes. Reality doesn't work that way though.

The ones and twos of threes suggest we need to get better three point shooters (at least one Level 1 shooter, and 1 other level 3 shooter), and we need to run sets to get them open shots. The Spurs killed us with dribble penetration and three point shooting. The Thunder killed the Spurs with dribble penetration and three point shooting. And the Heat killed the Thunder with dribble penetration and three point shooting.

It's not a fluke if that style of play gets those three teams 10, 13, and 16 wins all in the same playoffs. We have some of the players to run like that. We need some more of them, and we need to help them get open. And then we'll start making more threes.

There are a few ways to do this, and I believe that we can if the front office and coaches work together to fix this problem. I'm all about fixing one problem an off-season. Fix it this year or next year. But fix it, please!