Tonight the Utah Jazz start off their five games in seven nights Eastern Conference road trip (of Doom). The first game is a late afternooner against the Detroit Pistons. A lot of things have changed since these two teams played. Joe Dumars is finally out as the President of Basketball Operations, and Stan Van Gundy took over dual roles as the Head Coach and whatever it was Joe D was trying to do the last few seasons. (They did hire Jeff Bower as the GM) In the NBA Draft (one where they lost a coin flip and thus, a good pic), they were left with second rounder Spencer Dinwiddie. What other moves did they make?
- They signed Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martin as free agents,
- and traded Will Bynum for Joel Anthony. (Yes, that Joel Anthony)
So on paper it doesn't look like a huge change, but the change that counts is the big one, the one at the top. Jazz fans understand how important a coaching change / shift of emphasis from the front office can turn a team around 180 degree. This is what Pistons fans hope has happened with their crew under SVG.
His club is 3rd in the Central division right now, and they aren't amazing. They play at the second slowest pace in the league (90.4 posessions per game, eep, 29th), and as a result, look better on defense than they should, and look worse on offense than they should. (#29th in PPG, #7th in Opp. PPG) Their real rankings are 22nd in offense (100.9 OFF RTG), and 17th on defense (105.8 DEF RTG). They are a net negative any way you slice it. And are a slow team with a bunch of injuries (Luigi Datome, Cartier Martin, and Jodie Meeks are all injured).
Pounding it around for a slow game, they keep the emphasis on ball control, and are the 5th best team at it (Offensive TOV% is only 11.7%), and cough it up only 12.4 times a game on average. That's important because they don't really get to the free throw line (#24 in FT/FGA), don't make a lot of their shots (#29 in eFG%, at only .455), and are #30 in FG% (.412) . . . they have to at least tread water on offense somehow. They seem to do it on the offensive glass where they get their own miss 27.8% of the time (#12 best ORB%), which is 12.6 times a game. We know what that offense is like -- that was our offense the year the Jazz made the Western Conference playoffs.
It only makes sense when you take a look at their roster:
Yes, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe both average a double double with points and rebounds, and the rebounding is a product of a lot of misses. KCP, Josh Smith, and Butler (off the bench) all get about 5+ rebounds a game as well. But yeah, I guess there are rebounds to be had as their guards don't really help out that much.
Rebounding aside, I'm not frightened by their frontcourt depth. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond are all "name players", but if you get AD in foul trouble . . . who steps up? Joel Anthony? (Yes, that Joel Anthony.) It's not like they have a Rudy Gobert or Trevor Booker off the bench. As a result, this would be a good game to challenge their guys inside and try to get them to foul. If they are in foul trouble, this changes their dynamic quite a bit. It will mean more shots for their guards (*clang*) and fewer bigmen inside who can get the offensive rebound.
That's the overt point of attack. The other seems to be their wing rotation. I've never been a huge KCP fan myself, and Singler and Butler aren't scary at all. Butler can get his points (he's at that Matt Harpring level where he will somehow get 10 and 5 off the bench, and you don't know why), but it's not like he can defend Gordon Hayward or Alec Burks. Actually, none of their wings should be able to -- not even Josh Smith at this stage.
What Detroit does have is a two headed monster at PG with Brandon Jennings and D.J. August. They both play 25 mpg (obvious a part of this is because Jodie Meeks, Luigi Datome, and Tony Mitchell are all injured, and wing depth is small). It is possible that we get to see two PGs from Detroit at times. I would love for the Jazz to get more playing time with Trey Burke and Dante Exum, or really any combination of movable parts.
Turn overs were a problem for the Jazz in recent games, but the Pistons don't cause a lot of them, #29 in TOV% on defense, and they only cause 11.4 a game. In that case it could be a good time for the Jazz to go with some Trey, Dante, Alec line-ups to a) try new stuff, and b) up the tempo of the game.
Detroit is at home, and will want to grind it out because their game plan is basically offensive rebounds, because their outside shooting has been so much worse than expected. We were that team. As a result, we should know how to beat them.
Play faster, thus limiting their bigman strengths; coax Josh Smith to be a jump shooter and play in an up and down game, and Quin Snyder them to death because of our floor space and sharing.
The Jazz are going to be without Rodney Hood (injury explained here), be wearing home unis tonight, and Toure' Murry will play. It should be a fun game if Trey Burke and company can set the tempo. Hard for a young team with a rookie coach to do against one of the bests in the game -- but a Jazz fan can dream.
Also, Jazz fans, the Detroit Pistons have a live band at their home games who play Jazz music. Just food for thought.