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The Downbeat #1973: Utah Jazz offense needs to step it up

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The Utah Jazz should be beasts on defense. They shouldn’t be lambs on offense though.

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Team USA is going to win the Gold, right? I mean, they have to, right? We take a final look at what France did, and hope to cheer on the Australians. The NBA DL is a place to make a name for yourself, and you have a chance to do it in Utah. We get a little more hyped up for the 2016-2017 Utah Jazz season, and look at the offensive woes of late.

Beat 1

Okay, the Utah Jazz defense seems to be okay. With Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors handling thing in the paint, and with Jeff Withey (possibly) filling in if need — there should always be a rim protector on the floor. Boris Diaw can absorb contact and penetration both. (I guess #UDQM HOF right there.) Most of the wings are either strong (Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson), athletic (Alec Burks), or long (Chris Johnson). And the point guards are all quick (Raul Neto) or long (George Hill) or both (Dant Exum) or Shelvin Mack. I again state that the defense seems to be okay. The problem will possibly be on the other side of the ball.

There are a few offensive specialists on the team, namely Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles, and Tibor Pleiss. But I don’t know if Pleiss makes this team. And I don’t know if those two guys, along with the all-arounders can transform this team into an offensive juggernaut. Quin Snyder, however, is. The last two training camps have all been about defense. And defense was a huge problem under Tyrone Corbin — so I’m fine with fixing the immediate need. But now, I conclude, the need is on offense.

Behold:

Seas W L % W L % Playoffs PPG RK PACE RK ORTG RK
1 2006 2007 51 31 62.2% 9 8 52.9% West Finals 101.5 7 91.6 15 110.1 3
2 2007 2008 54 28 65.9% 6 6 50.0% 2nd Round 106.2 5 93.2 10 113.8 1
3 2008 2009 48 34 58.5% 1 4 20.0% 1st Round 103.6 7 93.1 9 110.1 8
4 2009 2010 53 29 64.6% 4 6 40.0% 2nd Round 104.2 4 93.8 9 110.7 8
5 2010 2011 39 43 47.6% 99.4 14 91.0 19 108.1 13
6 2011 2012 36 30 54.5% 0 4 0.0% 1st Round 99.7 4 91.4 12 106.8 6
7 2012 2013 43 39 52.4% 98.0 13 90.9 21 106.7 10
8 2013 2014 25 57 30.5% 95.0 29 91.4 26 103.5 25
9 2014 2015 38 44 46.3% 95.1 26 90.4 30 105.1 17
10 2015 2016 40 42 48.8% 97.7 28 91.0 30 105.9 16

We go from Jerry Sloan (and Phil Johnson) and a great offensive system to, well, something quite bad. Objectively you can argue that things are getting better, but by looking at the games we see way too many close losses. And in the last decade of data the mightly have clearly fallen.

The first part of picking up the pace is getting stops. Pat Riley said it best, “no rebounds, no rings.” A huge part of what Stockton and Malone were able to do in transition was a product of Mark Eaton getting stops and quickly moving the ball to the point guard. The last two seasons the lack of easy points has really made this team less than it should be. Hopefully we get more transition baskets this year — after all, the defense is going to get enough stops.

But outside of pace, which does not correalate to winning as well as defense does, this team just has to be better on offense overall. An easy way to do this is to get to the line more. Get some easy buckets. Put the other team in the penalty, meaning they have to play less aggressive defense. (It’s a debuff spell.) Fewer 20 foot jumpers please, more passing to cutters. This is really all I ask. There are so many potentially great finishers on this team. There should be no excuse not to be better than 16th in offense. (Bottom half of the league, below average.)

Beat 2

So and then there were only four teams left contending for the Gold Medal down in Rio. To be honest, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been a joy to watch. The basketball? Probably a little less so. But beggars can’t be choosers, as the idiom goes.

  • Australia 90 - Lithuania 64: The Boomers played some great defense holding Lithuania to 30 points at halftime, and let off in the second half allowing 34 points. Australia started the game off with a 6-0 run, and never looked back. They also never trailed during the game either. Lithuania were forced into 17 turn overs and were witness to the Aussies shooting 52.4 FG%, 40.0 3PT%, and 82.4 FT% for the game. Lithuania couldn’t make up the difference by shooting only 26.7% from deep. Joe Ingles finished the game with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Patrick Mills led all scorers with 24, followed by 16 from Aron Baynes, and 15 from Matthew Dellavedova. No one really had a good game for Lithuania, it wasn’t a good showing for their talented bigs Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis. Oh well. I think we were all rooting for Australia, and they make the Olympic Final Four for the first time in 16 years.
  • Serbia 86 - Croatia 83: You don’t need a history lesson to know that these two nations have some beef. (Thanks to them we have a new word in the dictionary: Balkanization.) So this was a crazy game. Serbia was up by 1 after the first quarter. Croatia won the second quarter by 7, and took a 6 point lead into half. Serbia pushed back and dropped a 34-14 third quarter in the third, going up by 14. Only for Croatia to come back in the fourth and drop 31 points. Was it enough? No. But the last two minutes were bonkers. Miroslav Raduljica’s layup with 1:59 to go put Serbia up by 3. There was no scoring until about 0:27 left in the game when Raduljica’s free throw put Serbia up 79-75. Croatia’s Mario Hezonja hit two free throws to slim the margin down to two, and then hit two more to make it a one point game with 0:24 seconds left. Intentional fouling sometimes work, like when Serbia’s point guard Stefan Markovic made just one of two. Serbia was still up 80-77 with 23 seconds left. Hezonja? Somehow got to the line again, and made two more free throws, 80-79 with 19 seconds left. Mario Teodosic hit two free throws for Serbia, putting his team up by 3 with 18 seconds left. Serbian Luka Babic made one of two, 82-80 with 13 seconds left. Nikola Jokic made two more (Serbia), Hezonja made two more (Croatia), then Jokic (Serbia) made two more . . . if you like free throws you love this game. Serbia is up 86-82 with nine seconds left. Hezonja misses a three, they get the offensive rebound, and Bojan Bogdanovic gets fouled and makes one of two (on purpose), Dario Saric gets the offensive rebound, and gets his shot blocked at the buzzer. And we get the final score of 86-83. And maybe another war. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 for Croatia, and was helped by Mario Hezonja’s 16 and 8. Serbian baller Bogdan Bogdanovic led Serbia with 18. At the end of the day, the team Ante Tomic didn’t want to play for lost.
  • Spain 92 - France 67: This game wasn’t close at all. The last time France led this game was 8-6 in the first quarter, a Boris Diaw layup with 6:24 left in the quarter. Espania won the quarters +3, +10, +7, and +5. Meh. Boris Diaw finished with 8 points, 2rebounds, 5 assists, and was harried into 4 turn overs. Rudy Gobert finished with 7 points, 12 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. Spain was led by Nikola Mirotic’s 23 points, and Willy Hernangomez’ 16. Mirotic, you know, that guy born in Yugoslavia, isn’t really Spanish. But at least they didn’t somehow put Serge Ibaka on their squad (like they last did in 2014).
  • United States 105 - Argentina 78: This game was also not close at all. It was a thorough beat down that crescendo’d (not a word, but then again, I’m not a writer) into Manu Ginobili retiring from FIBA play. It’s thus the end of that era of Ginobili (14 /3 / 7 / 1), Luis Scola (15 and 10), Andres Nocioni (12 and 5), and Carlos Delfino (3 whole points) dominating teams. (They did win a Gold Medal a while back.) So there’s that. Kevin Durant finished with 27 points,76 rebounds, and 6 assists. Paul George added 18, DeMarcus Cousins 15, and Kyrie Irving 11. These have not been fun games to watch, but the overwhelming talent level disparity has kept the United State’s heads above water.

USA will play Spain for a chance at the Gold Medal Game. Serbia and Australia will do the same. Both games tip off tomorrow.

Beat 3

Even though the “worst” Team USA can do now is get 4th, while it’s still an overwhelming likelihood that they will end up with the Gold — The Onion isn’t afraid to ‘go there’.

NEW YORK—Already eagerly anticipating the team’s follow-up to their lackluster performance in Rio, basketball fans across the nation expressed their excitement to reporters Wednesday about the incredible U.S. men’s basketball team that will be put together in 2020 as redemption for the 2016 Olympics. “Oh man, that U.S. roster is going to be so stacked in Tokyo to avenge whatever embarrassing loss this team suffers,” said 26-year-old Connor Bardell of Emporia, KS, speculating that the powerhouse collection of NBA All-Stars will likely be nicknamed the “Redeem Team II.” “Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, maybe even LeBron—they’ll all come out next time to put the U.S. back on top as the best team in the world. And since they’ll have a huge point to prove, it’ll be a huge blowout every single game. God, I can’t wait to watch that.” Millions of fans also confirmed their eagerness to watch the 2020 team get revenge by beating the shit out of whichever nation ends up defeating the U.S. this summer. - Via. The Onion, 2016

Okay, so when that satire piece was written it may have seemed a little more plausible. After all the United States had to come from behind to beat Australia 98-88, beat Serbia 94-91, and France 100-97. It looked like the Americans were playing in games instead of playing around in games.

Their 105-78 thumping of Argentina — a team with NBA players Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, and Andres Nocioni — showed the world that playtime is over. That said, the exclusion of some of the best talent in the NBA from Team USA does at least give the fans something to look forwards to in 2020. And that may be the truth in the deep, back heart of The Onion. Of course, there were lots of reasons for stars to stay away from Rio. 2020 will be in the 1st world (are we still allowed to say that?) nation of Japan and I am certain that they will have things running very efficiently and under control.

For example, I don’t think Olympians will be getting kidnapped or robbed or stung by super-virus carrying mosquitoes or whatever. Sexually assaulted by octopus? Maybe. But not any of the other problems we’re seeing in Brazil.

Also, I guess LeBron James may be back. So there’s that. That’s something the writers at The Onion, and casual fans, may agree upon.

Beat 4

The Utah Jazz weren’t that serious about the Idaho Stampede (heck, SG/PG Toure’ Murray played power forward for them in some games), but seem to be all in on the Salt Lake City Stars. So much so that they are holding their open tryout!

Don’t laugh. All NBA-DL teams do that. But if you are confident enough in your game know that you need to sign up now. The try-out is scheduled for September 24th, and it’ll set you back $150.

Beat 5

Get hyped. I know I am. Bring on 2016-2017!