The season is almost half over Utah Jazz fans. No, I mean it, tonight is game 39 / 82. The season is almost half over and the team is finally healthy. I don’t know how long the team will be healthy, but we really have to take advantage of this rare situation. And man, it’s really been rare:
First time in 174 games the Jazz have not had an injury report— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) January 8, 2017
Because of all of the injuries Quin Snyder has had to use 15 different starting line-ups (in again, 38 games). And as a consequence, we’ve seen a lot of different line-ups. Some have been successful, some have been products of desperation. Here are the Top 10 most used line-ups so far this season:
The first thing to notice is that the presumed starters (George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert) don’t show up here as a full unit. The other thing to notice is that 8 out of 10 of these units are on the positive side of things. So even if the ideal hasn’t been around much, what Quin Snyder has been left with has been successful.
Gobert is the rock of this team this year, clearly. Hayward is in 8 of these 10 line-ups as well, and Hood in 7 of 10. A surprise? Boris Diaw and Shelvin Mack both have been in 5 of 10. Clearly this is because of injuries to Hill and Favors.
Some of these line-ups have been quite good, but none of them are excellent. There doesn’t appear to be an huge micro-managed bonuses either. (#GameTheory) I am all over that type of stuff, so here are five line-ups that I want to see:
1 - The Actual Presumed Starting Line-Up:
George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
This line-up is going to quickly climb up the ranks of the Top 10 most frequently used line-ups by the Jazz this season. Great defense. Great rebounding. Okay outside shooting. This is pretty much what we Jazz fans want to see on the court as much as possible. It’s hilarious that the Jazz are possibly a Top 4 team in the Western conference and our starters have played a grand total of 37 minutes together (rounding up). At the start of last night’s game (94-92 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves) this unit didn’t look crisp. That’s because of the inexperience as a unit. Over the years some of these guys have great on-court chemistry, but they have to do it on the court this year. I think that with Favors getting more comfortable hitting baseline jumpers there will be enough space for everyone on offense. Defensively the other team will try to take Gobert out of the paint on high pick and rolls — but Favors is one of the stud rim protectors out there as well. You’re going to maybe beat one, but not both.
2 - The Actual Alternate Bench Line-Up:
Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, Jeff Withey
While the Jazz have 37 total minutes of their starters together they have zero of this potential bench line-up. (Joe Johnson in here instead of Trey Lyles, Jeff Withey in instead of Boris Diaw.) This line-up also exists in a situation where Shelvin Mack isn’t The Way and The Light. So we never see this line-up this year. The “hockey sub” line-up change isn’t something you see in the NBA, but seeing five bench guys on the floor at the same time is somewhat mitigated by the fact that some of these guys could start in the NBA on other teams. Withey is a rim protector who is efficient around the rim, in a way he’s someone who can keep the defensive Xs and Os in tact when Rudy (or Derrick) isn’t in the game. The four out aspect of this line-up with everyone being able to handle the ball or spot-up makes this fun. High screens from Jeff would open up the paint for people who are willing to drive and/or draw fouls. Boris Diaw made the bench line-up slow and his inability to pull the trigger on open shots broke plays. Three of these guys have hair triggers when open. Playing Dante with four guys who can finish makes his life easy. Also, this is the “Iso-Joes” line-up mixed with two guys who can drive on anyone. For three minutes in the second quarter this isn’t a horrible look.
3 - Giving Hayward and Gobert rest at the same time:
George Hill, Alec Burks, Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, Derrick Favors
Also, this is giving time off the court for not just Hayward and Gobert, but also Hood/Ingles. If three of those four guys are finishing games this is a way to get them some third quarter rest. The defense isn’t their best, but Hill and Favors are fundamental defensive units. Lyles is sometimes an average rebounder, and can block a shot or two. But his offensive abilities mixed with how open Favors is going to be in this line-up means our guys can score some points in the paint here. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Joe Johnson this year. He was great in the first game of the season, but hasn’t really found his speed on this team. With the Miami Heat he was a reliable offensive force. With the Utah Jazz that has not been the case. I think with this line-up he’ll be able to do more with the ball as well. (Compared to when he’s on the court with Hayward or Hood who dominate the ball.) Hill and Burks are both willing passers, drivers, and shooters. If these guys could finish the third quarter (last 4 minutes) that could make sure the good guys aren’t playing from 10+ behind going into the fourth every night.
4 - G-Hyper Ball:
Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert
At some point you don’t want to be a slow paced team that has to set everything up. This group can run. Against some of these East teams that play SFs as PFs (I see you LeBron James) you can’t guard them with the traditional Jazz PF/C force inside. At times we’ve seen Quin use Ingles or Johnson at PF. I’d like to see Gordon do this more. With the added health right now at guard, Utah can actually do this — without having to rely on Shelvin Mack and give George Hill some rest. Gobert is still in the middle to lay down the law of the jungle on offense and defense. Going a little faster helps the natural playmaking abilities of Exum and Burks, while getting a trailing Hayward (who is rebounding like a Man this year) a lot of dunks.
Of course, this does exist only in a world where Snyder isn’t crazy for Mack.
5 - 4th Quarter Garbage time Line-Up:
Raul Neto, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Boris Diaw, Jeff Withey
The Jazz are up by 15. It’s the fourth quarter. The game is over. Joel Bolomboy is assigned to the NBA-DL. Shelvin Mack is on the inactive list. Let’s watch these guys for the final 5 minutes. You know you want to see this.