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The Downbeat #1286: The Four-Pointer Edition

Longer-range shots, shooting slumps, shot selection, shot stopping...lots of shot-related items. Also FanPosts.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Despite shooting an increased number of three-pointers in the month of February (as has been discussed here previously), and despite giving big minutes to two of the better-shooting players in the NBA in Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams, the Utah Jazz still sit just 22nd in the league in three-point percentage for the season.

So when ESPN broached the possibility of introducing a FOUR-point shot to the game, and NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn actually entertained the notion, my first thought was this: Crap, we haven't even figured out how to use THREE-pointers effectively yet.

Here's ESPN's Tom Haberstroh with more detail:

With better spacing, a 4-point line would create more real estate for post-up players to work efficiently. Not unlike the interaction between bees and flowers, a symbiotic relationship exists between long-range shooters and post-up big men. Want to leave your guy at the 4-point line and double-team a big man in the post? Good luck getting there in time. If anything, big men would be big winners with the improved spacing that would come along with the 4-point line.

There's statistical backing here. According to Synergy video tracking, which team is the most efficient in post-ups this season? The Miami Heat -- the team that predicates itself on carving out space wherever possible. It's no coincidence that the Heat fire up the most corner 3s in the league and also have the most efficient post offense, generating over a point per post-up play according to Synergy. More spacing, more room for post-up work.

Looking across the league, you'll find that efficient post offenses tend to come from 3-point-slinging teams. The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers boast two of the most 3-point-happy teams in the league, and they both rank top-three in post-up efficiency. Using corner 3 rates as a proxy for spacing, we find that of the bottom 10 teams in corner 3 attempts, six also rank in the bottom 10 in post-up efficiency (New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit and Utah).

Haberstroh's whole article is interesting (though unfortunately Insider-restricted), but the fact that he picks out the Jazz as one team that isn't using the three-pointer effectively does not encourage me.

I'm not sure the Jazz have any players currently on the roster who could take full advantage of a 28- to 30-foot four-point shot. RJ and Marvin may be shooting at near or above career highs in percentage, but would that extend to a longer shot? Would the Jazz be able to move the ball fast enough to take advantage of the extra space? I really don't know.

It's a moot point for now, since the four-point shot isn't coming any time soon. But worries me. The Jazz are already behind the curve in offensive efficiency. I'd hate to lose even more ground.

Of course, I didn't even mention Gordon Hayward in regards to a possible four-point shot, because he can't make many twos or threes at the moment. While his college coach, the Celtics' Brad Stevens, told Utah media not to worry about G-Time's prolonged shooting slump, the Trib's Aaron Falk reports that the Jazz coaching staff is working hard to reverse the trend -- with little success:

Gordon Hayward was on the practice court early Tuesday morning, working with Jazz player development assistant Johnnie Bryant, watching film and trying to hone a shooting touch that has failed him all too often of late.

In what has been a disappointing season as a whole when it comes to his shot, the last six games have been particularly rough for the fourth-year swingman, who is converting just 30 percent of his attempts - and only 19 percent from 3 - in that stretch. For Hayward, advice on how to fix things has come from all over.

"I have people telling me all kinds of things," he said.

Jazz coach Ty Corbin, who has praised Hayward for contributing in other ways when his shot hasn't fallen, does not believe it's a matter of mechanics.

"He maybe rushed a couple," Corbin said of Hayward's 4-of-11 night against Boston, which included a pair of missed layups. "But mechanics-wise, other than not being ready and rushing when he gets it, his shot's good and his form up top is good. ... He's just rushing. It's just a little something that clicks and you've got to get it click back. That's all."

I'm no shooting coach. I have no idea how to break a slump like Gordon's. I agree with Ty Corbin that -- as far as I can tell from watching games -- Hayward's shot mechanics look fine. But I do think he's trying too hard. And I'm wondering if his impending (restricted) free agency has anything to do with it.

This is pure speculation on my part, so take this with as many grains of salt as you need. But I have to think that Hayward's contract situation has played a role, however small, in his performance this season.

The Jazz front office has assured us over and over, from the initial negotiations until now, that the team is very happy with Gordon and has no intention of letting him escape. And I believe them. But the fact is that the team was not willing to pay the price Hayward's agent sought before the season. And even if that didn't have an effect before, it has to weigh on him more heavily with each poor performance.

What do you think? Would G-Time be playing better without his contact uncertainty? Or is this just an anomaly that will eventually correct itself?

I should hasten to add at the end of this point that I do think Hayward is playing hard and finding other ways to contribute, like his 10 assists against Boston. But at some point, a player seeking more than $10 million a year needs to prove he can do more than Hayward has done. Or at least do it more consistently.

This Downbeat's been a bummer so far, huh? Well, let's brighten it up with some FanPosts!

First, Aged Fan examines the validity of a few common "narratives" as he sees them:

Narrative: The Jazz as an organization (perhaps even DL if recent quotes are to be trusted) don't understand young player development. This season has been ruined because we refuse to trust the youngsters and develop.

Fact: The fact I'll present here is a bit more complicated than the others. But if you follow the logic of the statistic I've created, I think you'll agree that it fits the SLCDunk narrative about the value of playing time for young players' development:

I've created what we might call a Franchise Development Index. Thus it incorporates both what front offices (through player acquisition) and coaches (through playing time) achieve in providing for young player playing time. Basically it's based on the idea (which I don't wholly agree with, but seems to have some power here on SLCDunk) that a young player benefits from playing time and that the developmental returns from playing time diminish as a player ages. In other words, for development, the more playing time at younger ages, the better.

Be sure to click through for the rest of his explanation; it's certainly thought-provoking.

15,806 assists has compiled a list of advice he would give to a new Jazz head coach (assuming one may be incoming in the near-ish future):

To get it started, here are the points I'd like to emphasize:

Please don't listen to the Jazz PR department. Listen to your stat sheets and basketball eyes/instincts. Just lay down the law in this regard, and trust in your impressive basketball-coaching skills to lead this team to victories.

Ignore whatever you've heard about Kanter and Favors playing together. You're a smart guy (presumably), so craft an offense and defense that cater to their different skills and deficiencies, and for goodness' sake play them together. They both have elite skills, but those skills are very different from each other, so us fans are counting on the coach to devise a system that puts them to good use and rides that duo to victories.

He lists several more bullet points, so check 'em out and add your own in the comments of the post.

Finally, christonrigby sends us a question all the way from the Netherlands:

Hi Jazznation!

I have a simple question for you:

Do you guys think Kanter can defend the opposing 4?

It would be nice to play him alongside Favors, with Fav being our rimprotector,
but could he guard (stretch) 4's? Offensively they could complement each other quite well I guess,
I really love the shooting touch of Enes, there's a little Memo in there don't you think? ;-)

Answer Christon, won't you, kind Dunkers?

Speaking of people in shooting slumps, Salt City Hoops' Laura Thompson has taken a look at Trey Burke's shooting and its impact on the team's success:

In the 41 games since Trey Burke has been a starter, the Jazz are 19-22, for a 46% winning percentage. That's obviously a significant increase over the Jazz's record when Burke was injured. But as we've been hearing about Burke's shooting slump over the last couple of months, I wanted to see if there was a pattern of his field goal attempts versus his teammates' field goal attempts and the Jazz's record. How good can a team be when a point guard-one who doesn't shoot particularly well-is second on the team in field goal attempts?

So, to break it down, I looked at how many games in those 41 games did Burke lead the Jazz in field goal attempts? How many games was he second, or third, or fourth in field goal attempts? And what's the Jazz's record in each of those categories?

Led the team in FGA: 17 times; record 8-9

Second on the team in FGA: 9 times; record 3-6

Third on the team in FGA: 7 times; record 5-2

Fourth or lower on the team in FGA: 8 times; record 3-5

Laura goes on to say (and you should read her whole piece) that, despite the decent win-loss record with Trey at the helm, he really needs to either improve his shooting percentages or take fewer shots if he wants to succeed long-term.

I'm not sure what to think, myself. Obviously, 37% shooting for the season is absolutely not what you want from a starting point guard. But Trey absolutely makes his teammates better when he runs the offense. (Remember that first 15 games without him? I wish I didn't.)

I'd almost say Trey should just be more careful about his shot selection and not take so many long-range attempts...except that the threat of his three-point shooting is important for the Jazz's offensive spacing (such as it is). We need him to challenge defenses on the perimeter...but we need him to make those shots.

He's got lots of time to figure it out, of course. Let's hope he does sooner than later.

I haven't mentioned Zach Lowe in this space for a while, but he made a brief reference in his Tuesday column that's worth mentioning:

The Jazz early in the season wisely embraced a more conservative style of defense in which their big men drop down toward the paint in containing pick-and-rolls. It hasn't really worked, but the Jazz are young and poor on talent.

And Kanter, to his credit, has had a string of well-rounded offensive games of late. But he's struggling even in this scheme, often dropping back so far as to give both participants in a pick-and-roll too much space to build a head of steam:

Tyrone Corbin at the end of games often has to instruct Kanter to venture out further, and Kanter's happy feet don't function well in space. The game still looks a bit too fast for Kanter on defense, and he's often just a beat late on weakside rotations near the rim. Kanter's clearly an NBA talent, but his ceiling is a mystery.

This is where someone is likely to throw Kanter's 1-and-gajillion record as a starter out there, even though that "stat" is absolutely meaningless since he's never started a single game where the Jazz were at full strength health-wise. (I'm more interested in the 0-9 record the Jazz have posted when Derrick Favors does NOT play. That's significant.)

Anyway. I feel like we've talked a lot about what Enes can and can't do. And I still don't think he's had enough on-court time with the Jazz's other young players. (The fabled Burke-Burks-Hayward-Favors-Kanter lineup has still only tallied 32.5 minutes all season, which is crazy to me.) But there's no question that Kanter has lots of work to do on the defensive end. And it may, as Lowe suggests, limit his long-term ceiling if he can't get it figured out.

...never mind. All is forgiven.