The sad truth about today’s NBA is that hero ball is a dominant factor. Players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony can make the game look awfully bad when they become ball hogs. Even the best teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers each have a few players who hog the ball most of their team’s possessions. The franchises that consistently play team ball like the San Antonio Spurs are rare.
That is why the recent success of the Utah Jazz has been so refreshing. The Jazz are riding a five-game winning streak on the back of a team approach to the game. They have no household names on their roster. They actually give minutes to all 15 men on the roster. Utah exemplifies the team approach to the game, and that is a delight to watch in today’s NBA.
Four games ago, the Jazz were in trouble. They had lost four in a row to drop to below .500 on the year. Since that time, they have become an unstoppable force with a season-best four-game winning streak. The biggest difference between winning four in a row and losing four in a row is the presence of George Hill.
When Hill and Gordon Hayward have played together this season, the Jazz have been perfect with a 5-0 record. It was no coincidence that Utah went on their four-game losing streak while Hill was sidelined with a thumb strain.
Hill has been one of the best scorers on the Jazz all year, but it is his ability to make the players that surround him better that is his greatest asset. He has been particularly valuable for Hayward’s performances. When Hill was out of the lineup during the losing streak, Hayward twice failed to reach double digits in the scoring column. Since Hill’s return, Hayward has been averaging 25.3 points per game, including a 31-point explosion in their win 120-111 last night over a good LA Clippers team.
Hayward hasn’t been the only Jazz player who has benefited from Hill’s return. His ability to stretch the floor with his ball-handling and shot-making prowess stretches opposing defenses. This allows Utah’s whole offense to work more effectively, which was evident in last night’s win against the Rockets when 11 different Jazz players scored with five reaching double figures. The Jazz held MVP candidate to a modest 26 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds on the night.
It will be exciting to watch what this young Jazz team can do over the rest of the year. The acquisition of Hill for the 12th pick in the draft seems like a genius move right now. He is the glue that this young roster needed to bring it together. If he and Heyward can stay healthy, the Jazz should be able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 when they were swept in the first round by the Spurs. Utah plays seven of their next eight games at home, and a healthy duo of Hill and Hayward should be fun to watch.