The season is just barely under way, and with 5 games under their belts, the Utah Jazz have learned a few things about themselves. No, really. I mean it. Sure, 5 games is only 6% of the season, but it all adds up. In another 5 games the Jazz will have played 12% of the season, and double that and when we're at 20 we're basically 1/4th of the way through. In this season of discovery and development the team has to learn things at every step of the way. And I am certain that they have started:
1. The team is taking off-time to look at game film
During Tyrone Corbin's first "season" at the helm he picked up the pieces after everything went to hell; and it was the end of the season and teams don't hold practices then. They auto-piloted it to the end of the season, and then there was an NBA lock out. In the lockout shortened season there was not enough time between games to schedule all of the things a coaching staff would want to schedule. We've heard all of this before. In his third year it was a vet led team that was, somehow, in 'win now' mode and did not have the time to teach. This year things are different. They are watching a lot of film early.
Looking over tape, rough first few games but I'm certain it will turn around.— Jamaal Tinsley (@jatinsley) November 7, 2013
I have no doubt that the team did this every season at times; but this year they are actively doing it -- or at the very least -- the players are communicating that they are. And that's really where it starts, the players have to recognize the situations there are in. Not all learning and development happens on the court. A lot of it does. But you still need to have these sit downs with the coaching staff and TEACH. I don't know how much of this happened before, but in this discovery and development year I am glad to see this happening.
2. This team really needs Trey Burke
Since the advent of the brilliant Tyrone Corbin "Alec Burks - Randy Foye - Gordon Hayward" lineup last season (by accident it seems) we've seen the benefits of two ball handlers who can run pick and roll being paired up with a deadly spot up shooter. That threesome managed to shoot 52.7 fg% as a group because of the dynamic ball sharing and spacing, and completely destroyed everything in their path with a blistering 55.3% shooting from deep. (It wasn't just Foye shooting each time either, they played well together and moved the ball around to the open guy) This season at times we've seen countless attempts at this, only with the point guard who receives the kick out pass behind the line be John Lucas III (currently shooting 4/22 from downtown, or 18.2%) or Jamaal Tinsley (currently shooting 1/12 from downtown, or 8.3%). If you break things down with MySynergySports it gets a little worse. I mean, a lot worse. The team as a whole is awful on offense, but are absolutely WORST in the league at making spot up shots matter. The Jazz use spot ups as 20.7% of all of their offensive plays (a full 1/5th), but score only 0.69 points per possession on them. As a team they are shooting 26.7% on spot ups, and an even worse 20.6% from downtown on spot ups. (Last season in the #MOFO days we were making 37.6% of our spot up threes, and ranked way higher than LAST) If you isolate for just Jello (or whatever), and Jamaal you get guys who are shooting 2/14 (14.3%) and 1/11 (9.1%) from downtown on spot ups, respectfully.
These two guys have not been shooting well, to put it politely. I do not anticipate Trey Burke missing at that clip if left that open. This means he'll make more shots, and the team will make more shots with him on the floor. That will result in a more efficient offense, and one that scores more points per possession. Selfishly, Burks and Hayward will get more assists, and the necessity to defend Trey will cause those two guys to be able to exploit other defensive adjustments as well. Like, you know, not having to drive into a crowded paint for 48 minutes a game.
And that is just how much Trey can help by being on the floor as a kick out, spot up option. This has nothing to do with the fact that he's a primary ball handler, knows how to drive, plays the pick and roll game, gets steals, makes his free throws, and can play uptempo. This is just how much the team needs Trey based on just the simple thing of being able to play off the ball and catch and shoot.
He really can't be worse than 18% John, or 8% Jamaal.
3. Sometimes three is not enough
A team, on any given night, has 96 minutes to give at the combined power forward (4) and center (5) spots in the NBA. Because of the dynamic changes of the game today, with more face up guys, more small ball, and the death of the bigman overall, teams sometime cheat at these spots. The Jazz do not need to cheat because they have size on size on size with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert.
Rudy is the purple one.
Yes, if you have three good bigs you can still give them all time on the court in those 96 minutes. Unfortunately, these are three young bigs with the potential to be good. I don't think we're quite there yet. In fact, right now we're seeing a significant flaw more than seeing a specific advantage (beyond the Jazz doctrine of crashing the glass) -- we don't have a face up four. We have Jeremy Evans injured and not playing, but he has shown an improved jump shot. We have Mike Harris, who is basically Tyrone Corbin from a worm hole or something -- I don't really know. I don't pay attention to that author, you shouldn't either. And we have . . . no one else.
Many Jazz fans have hopes for a guy like Marvin Williams to come in, and sweep us off our feet when he returns from injuries. He is 6'9 and his deadly spot is that left corner three that is more barren right now than my savings account. Bereft of the Alfense, and heck, pairing him up in the middle of the game with a BBH (Burke, Burks, Hayward) 1-2-3 group could be a nice changeup that allows him to play his game. It can't be that bad right?
Floor spacing must be maintained because the Jazz mainly are scoring on individual efforts, and ball movement. Three big guys who can only really score near the basket isn't good enough. The frontcourt will only really evolve if two of those three bigs develop legit floor spacing jumpers (we know Kanter is really close and knocking down those pick and pop shots from Charles Oakley range) . . . or we play someone with them who can space the floor. (Man, a Mehmet Okur type big would make life so much easier for penetrating guards and dominant paint scoring bigs . . . )
4. Turn overs look bad now, but will not be the death of us
The Jazz have surrendered the ball 101 times already in five games, that's an average of 20.2 miscues a game. We're not worst in the league at this on our own, we're 29th. The Jazz have taken the ball away only 79 times on defense, that's 15.8 times a game, which is good. It is good enough for 15th best in the NBA. But if you put the two together as a frame of reference the team is -22 in the +/- take-aways spot. And if you average that, that's being on the wrong side of things for -4.4 times a game.
Getting a guy like Jamaal Tinsley to steady our team has helped in this regard, but the primary culprits for turn overs this season are Derrick Favors (16), Enes Kanter (14), Gordon Hayward (12), and Alec Burks (12). These are our "young" core (as Harpring and others called them during the Boston game, somehow forcing the issue not to refer to them as the "core" four), and one thing you routinely can't lose your head over as an NBA observer is how many turn overs a young player makes when they are young. It's like an infant soiling a diaper -- it is bound to happen. But with more experience, understanding, confidence, and capability they eventually learn how to do things with pooping all over the place.
The chronic things that need housebreaking are usually things like taking bad shots (look at Nick Young's career), if you don't break them early they'll never improve. This team is turning the ball over a lot, but these four guys have never had this much collective ball responsibility before at the NBA level. They'll figure it out. Well, usually third and fourth year players already have it figured out by this point; but our guys were on the slow development plan where you get DNP-CDs in your second year to mercenaries who leave the team, or get pulled from games when you're on your way to getting the team a win with a near 20-20 game.
Oh, and having an actual point guard on the floor will help this out as well, so yeah, Trey . . . we miss ya buddy.
5. We are seeing small improvements all over the place, and this is a good thing
Not everyone here can be classified as a neurophysiology specialist. Within the brain we have something called a brain cell, or a neuron. These cells communicate with other brain cells through chemo-electric stimulation. But it doesn't ever happen "a little bit", it's an all or none proposition. Either something is sent or not. The improvements we see with our 2013-14 Jazz are quite the opposite. It's not like a lightbulb turns on, or some other power switch, which activates better play. The better play happens incrementally. Every pick and pop jumper Kanter takes and sees goes in increases his confidence in taking that shot, and reduces his time to catch, set, and fire. He becomes a better maker with the more makes he sees. If this was all or none we'd see him miss and miss and miss until he starts making 60% of them. That's not reality.
Our entire team is going to level up slowly like the Kanter shooting example all season long. And not just our C4 (Core Four: Favors, Hayward, Kanter, and Burks) or F5 (C4+ Trey Burke)or N7 group (F5 + Rudy Gobert and Ian Clark), but guys like Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Brandon Rush are all going to end up having improved seasons as we get out of November, and December, and move towards March and April. Our point guard play will also improve as players find their legs in this season.
Another example of seeing a small improvement will come in more exposure for Derrick Favors. He will play more, and do great things on the floor. Eventually the idea of who he is will move from "a guy with potential" to "a guy who makes plays" and the refs will respond accordingly. He's not going to get jobbed so much on judgement calls/fouls as this season progresses. It's not a light switch thing either, but by the time the All-Star break rolls around a lot of the shots that used to be called goaltends will be registered as blocks for him.
I could go on and on about the small changes we see and should appreciate. We're seeing some good things from Tyrone Corbin as well. But I have a longer post on that coming up in the works, so I'll just save that for another time. (Really, I've already written 2k words here -- seriously Amar, don't you have any work to do?)
This season is a season of some challenges, but we are getting better. These are just five notes on how the team knows itself better. And as the season goes on we'll go to 10 points, to 20, and eventually, by the end of the season our team and fans will know exactly where we stand in this development and discovery year!