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If you ran the Circus - designing the Jazz game plan

Ty Corbin is lost in thought as he works through how to best match the game plan with his players' skills.
Ty Corbin is lost in thought as he works through how to best match the game plan with his players' skills.

Last year's offense was, I believe, a very poor match for the players. That is, a very poor match for several of the players—several of whom were some of the best performers on the team last year.

It became clear early that what we were seeing—he post up by Al while the rest of the players stood outside—was by design. Jerry Sloan started using this play when Al Jefferson came, and Ty Corbin made it his primary focus. As a guy who loved the old flex offense, who loved the pinpoint passes and creativity of Deron and AK, who loved all the cuts and interior passes ... well, it was really hard for me to find peace with the new way of doing things.

One of the big sources of my discontent was how it forced several players to abandon their strengths. Specifically Hayward, Devin Harris, and Derrick Favors were asked to play in ways that left them largely unable to do what they did best. I'd add in Alec Burks, but I think we know he was a bit of an afterthought. That the offense didn't fit him well is a very different issue from how it ignored strengths from Hayward, Harris, and Favors.

However, as I look back I can see whose strengths the game plan catered to. Al Jefferson, of course, but it was really designed for more than him. Millsap worked well in the plan. It also seems designed for what Josh Howard and Raja Bell were asked to do. It also worked for what CJ was being asked to do.

The offense was heavy on post play, a focus on tandems rather than an entire team, with a secondary emphasis on spotting up and iso abilities. That's what we saw.

And it did fit certain guys. And if you look at who it fit, there's an interesting pattern:

More after the jump.

Aside from Devin Harris, the offense fit veteran players who had established what they can and can't do well (or the illusion of what he can/can't do in the case of CJ Miles). The poor play of Raja and Josh wasn't because it didn't fit their skills. It did. It gave them the best chance to be effective. They just ended up too far past their prime.

Even with Devin Harris, although the offense didn't match his skills, it was reminiscent of what he was asked to do long ago with the Mavs (teammates with Josh Howard) ... and just like he was in Dallas, he was quietly efficient.

The coaching staff simply designed their plan around the players they felt they understood well. Without a training camp and summer league, there just wasn't an opportunity to figure out what you can depend on from Hayward and Favors (and forget the rookies—who knew what they could do). Yes, they had talent. But they had not established who they were and what kind of game plan would best suit their abilities.

So the team went with what they could count on, hoping they could fit in Hayward and Favors as they better established who they were. And to a degree, the team did that. Hayward's role was screwy to start the season. He was fitting in much better at the end. Same with Favors.

* * *

And now we have a new season upon us. One with summer league. One with training camp. While there are still questions about how good the young players will ultimately become, I think there's very little question about what kind of strengths they have. Even with Burks and Kanter now, I believe it's pretty clear what kind of skills they have and what kind of plays they will fit with best.

And so I'd like everyone to think about our team this next year, and specifically the players who will (most likely) be the main guys:

  • Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Paul Millsap in the frontcourt.
  • Marvin Williams, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks as wings.
  • Mo Williams and Randy Foye at PG.

To me, there are some clear things that work with these players. Al needs to post up and space to do his pivots and such. Hayward needs opportunities to improvise on the dribble. Burks needs cuts and curls. Both Hayward and Burks need space to drive to the paint. Millsap and Favors work well in cuts and P&R's. Mo gotta shoot.

I could go on. But however you put it all together, it won't just accidentally fall into place.

So ...

What kind of offense, and even what kind of defensive philosophy, what do you think would best fit these guys who are going to lead our team next year? How can the team design its entire game plan to use these guys' strengths, to limit the problems of their weaknesses, and reduce the amount of suppressed skills?