So much has been made of Rudy Gobert's effect on the Jazz's defense since the All-Star break. But it takes more than one player to create an effective defense in the NBA, even when that one player is the Stifle Tower.
Enter CBS' Matt Moore, who has researched the NBA's best defensive duos:
Rudy Gobert & Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz -- Utah Jazz: Gobert is the most influential interior defender right now. He swats away everything inside. Straight-up, weakside, fadeaways, hook shots, everything. Hayward is the underrated part here. He holds opponents to just 40 percent shooting in isolation, and he and Gobert absolutely swallow up pick and roll attempts (the Jazz are 11th in pick and roll defense via Synergy Sports).
Utah, despite how young they are, have the 11th best defense in the league, and since the All-Star break, the best defense in the league. With a sound perimeter defender in Hayward and a monster underneath in Gobert, Utah should be under consideration.
I'm glad Gordon Hayward is getting a little more attention for his defense. He's improved a lot on that end since entering the league, and even when he's clearly worn out at the end of a long season, he can have a dramatic impact on a game. Quin Snyder has wisely taught this team that defense will lead to offense, and I can't wait for next season to see how a fresh Jazz team with a new start puts that into action.
Speaking of Jazz offense: Remember the early-season offensive mantra, "play with the pass"? Seems like that was all we heard about from every player and coach for the first 10 or 20 games. I haven't heard as much talk about it lately, given the rise of the Jazz defense. But even at the team's slow pace, and with continued room for offensive growth, the Jazz pass the ball an awful lot.
ESPN's Bradford Doolittle, sparked by the comparison between the Spurs' high-pass motion offense and the Thunder's comparatively static, iso-based brand, compiled this chart to examine whether more passes lead to more efficiency:
The lowest standard deviation goes to the middle group, which suggests that while margins are relatively small, ball movement is a dish best served in moderation. Teams that don't move the ball much at all do indeed own the highest degree of inconsistency.
We know that from the second column, BRK%, which counts the portion of games in which a team outperformed its season offensive rating by at least 15 percent. The stagnant teams were most likely to have such a breakout contest, while the middling ball-movement teams were quite a bit less likely. However, the stagnants also were the most likely to have an offensive collapse -- COL% -- the portion of games in which the team's offensive rating fell short by at least 15 percent.
The high ball-movement teams, on the other hand, were only a little less consistent than the middling group, but were almost as likely as the stagnant group to break out, and were remaining nearly as unlikely as the middlings to suffer a collapse. That seems like the best of all worlds.
In other words: Passing the ball more seems to give teams a safer potential to have a more efficient offensive game, while mitigating the risk of a low-efficiency relapse. So, unless the Jazz somehow acquire Russell Westbrook, it's probably a good thing they pass the ball as much as they do.
FanPosts! Lots of good ones, including a few that were posted late Tuesday. I see all y'all, but I'm gonna promote a few slightly older posts first.
Here's TB!@#'s advice for the rest of the regular season:
By sitting every player with more than 2 years in a Jazz uniform for the rest of the season, the Jazz could make this opportunity/injustice a large win. Call it "developmental tanking", if you like. Because the Eastern Conference teams (with similar records to Utah's) are fighting for the last 2 playoff spots they won't try to "out-tank" the Jazz, which drastically increases Utah's chance at the 9th pick. Plus, it gives the younger players more real-game experience; and provides the coaches more opportunities to evaluate the talent of our young players.
Beeblebrox42 has some great observations on ways the current Jazz roster can improve:
My guess is that we're all pretty happy with the way the season has gone. Sure, it started out a little rough, but for the most part, everyone has shown some improvement. We still have quite a way to go, even to be a threat to make the playoffs, so I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on what our rotation guys needs to work on this offseason.
And hansenjames has given a Mighty Morphin' tour de force. To tell you more would be to spoil it. Please click through. Because it's Morphin' Time.
I enjoyed this piece at KSL from 1320 KFAN's Ben Anderson, who has identified the combination of models that Dennis Lindsey has liberally borrowed from to create this Jazz roster:
It should be no surprise that Lindsey has cherry-picked his favorite elements from these three team-building examples, seeing that he worked for the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets while working with the members of Oklahoma City's front office in San Antonio.
What the Jazz lack that these other teams have accomplished is success over a long period of time. The Thunder, despite poor luck with health, have been perennial Finals contenders. The Rockets should have home court advantage in the playoffs through at least two rounds this postseason, while the Spurs won their fifth championship with Tim Duncan in 2014. If the Jazz's 16-8 record since the NBA's trade deadline is an accurate representation of the team's future, a deep playoff run may be within striking distance, and the Utah Jazz model will be born.
We should be so lucky, of course, to recreate even a fraction of the Spurs' success. But it's important to remember that the Jazz of the '80s and '90s were the team these current contenders emulated. If anyone knows how to do longevity, it's Utah.
We know which Rudy Gobert nickname we prefer, but WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN:
@utahjazz @DJJazzyJody @slcdunk I asked my students which name for @rudygobert27 was best. Results to follow. pic.twitter.com/SINQQJo4L6— Dustin Melbardis (@RealMelbardis) April 7, 2015
Click through to Dustin's Twitter profile to see how the votes turned out.