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Could Utah’s win over Brooklyn be a sign of things to come?

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Reviewing the past two weeks to try to find a silver lining for the Utah Jazz.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After taking a hiatus for Week 3, we’re back for a recap of Week 4. Week 3’s problems ran into Week 4 so it’s good to talk about them together. With Rudy Gobert out of the Jazz lineup for 4-6 weeks as Utah faces its most difficult schedule in December, the Jazz front office could find this team out of the playoff race by the time Rudy returns to health. Let’s recap the past couple weeks.

Summary

W/L: 2-1

vs Dallas Mavericks: Win

Vs Portland Trailblazers: Win

Vs Toronto Raptors: Loss

The Triad

The Triad stats are Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, and Pace.

The Utah Jazz’s Offensive Rating went up in Week 3, thanks to strong performances from Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert. But there are some worrying signs. Once again the starting lineup has struggled mightily. The starting lineup for the entire season has posted a -8.6 +/-. We’re now 9 games into the season and this trend held for the entire preseason as well. Something is due for a change.

As much as the starting lineup has struggled, Donovan Mitchell has shined. When he’s on the court every player has a positive net rating. He’s the secret sauce to any successful lineup. There is another worrying trend. No, it’s not Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert playing together. It’s Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert playing together. When they’re on the court together every player has a negative net rating. Every single player but one ... Rodney Hood.

Unfortunately for Rodney Hood when he’s on the court every player has a negative net rating. Now this isn’t a causality type of correlation. This could merely be that the starting lineup is so overwhelmed by opposing teams that it’s REALLY skewing the data. Either way, the Jazz need to find some better combinations. The Jazz’s two most used lineups (which coincidentally have both Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Rubio, and Ingles) both have negative net ratings of 8 or more. The only difference in those two lineups is Donovan Mitchell and Rodney Hood. They both are getting overwhelmed.

The good news is Quin Snyder found a new lineup that has yielded great results. It’s a lineup of Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Thabo Sefolosha. It’s only played in the last two games, but has posted a net rating. With the Jazz finding this new lineup, Derrick Favors’ minutes have taken a dip. Will be something to watch.

In Week 4 Utah’s offensive rating improved but that speaks volumes about much their offense was able to breath without two bigs suffocating the spacing on offense. Before Rudy Gobert’s injury the Utah Jazz’s offense looked like it was on life support. For all of the improvement in Offensive Rating, the Utah Jazz are 27th in the league. Utah’s offensive explosion against Brooklyn was, well, against Brooklyn who was on the back end of a back to back on the road.

Utah’s pace without two bigs sped up as well. The lineup will Thabo Sefolosha at the four looks to be very promising as it allows Utah to retain some of their defensive identity while adding spacing to the floor. Derrick Favors will have to produce big in Rudy’s absence. The Jazz go on the road after their next home game against Minnesota and it could get very dicey after that.

Triad

Stat Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Stat Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Offensive Rating 105.1 99.8 102.4 100.9 104 105
Defensive Rating 99.5 99.1 100.2 102.3 104.3 104
Pace 94.8 94.7 94.7 96.6 96.1 96
Net Rating 5.6 0.7 2.2 -1.4 -0.3 1

Offense

The Utah Jazz’s offense improved a tiny bit in Week 3. That’s what happens when you average less turnovers a game. The problem is everyone in the league started to get their turnovers under control. While the Utah Jazz averaged less turnovers a game, they still turned the ball over on 18% off all possessions. That’s good for last in the league. What helped Utah was this time they weren’t dead last in opponents points off turnovers. When Utah turned the ball over, points weren’t a gimme. The Jazz were 16th in just the last 3 games when it came to points off turnovers. That helps.

Still there are so major warning signs. As teams tighten their offense and aren’t coughing up the rock as much, Utah’s high turnover % is cause for concern. It appears Quin Snyder is taking that into consideration as he’s messing with lineups more. The pairing of Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert is troublesome when it comes to turnovers and offense. That seems surprising when you see that Ricky Rubio had 30 and 21 point games this past week.

There is hope on the horizon the lineup of Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Thabo Sefolosha appears to be a winner and could allow the Jazz to get out to early leads. That lineup also allows Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors to come off the bench and abuse bench lineups. But that also requires Quin Sndyer to have two guys in contract years come off the bench. Tall ask.

In Week 4, the Jazz stuck with their terrible starting lineup until an injury to Rudy Gobert forced them out of it. Before then they looked absolutely inept on offense. They only scored 8 points in the 3rd quarter against Miami and have looked every bit a lottery team. The Jazz had a great showing against Brooklyn, but they needed huge games from Rodney Hood, Donovan Mitchell, and Derrick Favors just to beat the Brooklyn Nets.

Offense - League Ranking

Stats Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Stats Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Offensive Rating 15 26 24 27 24 22
FG % 2 7 17 28 25 22
3P% 13 20 12 22 13 8
AST 3 10 20 22 21 17
eFG% 3 8 16 26 21 18
TOV% 28 30 30 27 28 21
ORB % 27 24 23 25 24 26
OPP PTS OFF TOV 22 30 27 25 24 21

We’re now 4 weeks into the NBA season and the Utah Jazz are beginning to rest as a bottom 5 team on the offensive end. That could slightly improve as the Jazz gain spacing without Rudy Gobert, but any improvement on the offensive end is going to be lost on the defensive end.

Defense

The Utah Jazz’s defense is just flat out elite. It gets almost no help from the offense yet still makes sports car offenses in the NBA look atrocious. The Utah Jazz’s defensive rating improved to 3rd in the league, and there’s a case to be made that when adjusted for pace it’s the 2nd best. The Utah Jazz improved in every single category this week and it showed with a win against Portland and sticking with a very good Raptors squad until the offense for Utah just ran out.

Utah’s defense keeps them in games and if just 2 out of 5 things go right for Utah’s offense, it results in a win. The problem is it’s just SO HARD for Utah’s offense to be clicking. They’ve been relying on a shooting anemic point guard (Ricky Rubio), a DPOY candidate (Gobert) who’s now hurt, last year’s 4th leading scorer on the team (Hood), and a rookie (Mitchell) for scoring. On any given night only one out of the four has produced. When two out of the four show out, it’s a win.

Until Utah’s offense figures it out—or there’s a trade for more offense—Utah’s team defense is going to be the key to eeking out a win, but even that’s about to become more difficult.

Rudy Gobert’s injury to his knee that is slated to keep him out for 4-6 weeks is going to test this defense. He is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate anchoring the 3rd best defense in the league. With Rudy out last night against the Nets, Brooklyn put up 106 points against Utah’s Rudy-less defense. Utah was able to make up for it on the offensive end, but the Nets were without a true center in some of their lineups. Can Favors and Udoh keep Utah’s defense in the top 10 in NBA? That will be a tall ask.

Defense Ranking

Stats Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Stats Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Week 26
Defensive Rating 8 4 3 3 6 7
DRB% 9 20 19 15 11 10
Opp. TOV% 3 5 3 2 2 2
Steals 2 4 2 1 1 2
Blocks 5 3 3 3 2 4
OPP PTS PAINT 1 7 2 1 2 5

Worst of the Week

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

This honor actually goes to the entire Utah Jazz starting lineup. For the entire season they have a net rating of almost -10 when they’re on the floor together. The combination of Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert is just not working. Rudy Gobert’s injury removes that lineup possibility from Utah as if the basketball gods had had enough of 90s NBA offense. We won’t see the comeback of this lineup until the end of December (Merry Christmas!).

Best of the Week

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Donovan Mitchell is a special player. He’s already notched four 20 point or more games in his first 13 games as a Jazzman. Only one player had more in their first 13 games: Darrell Griffith. Donovan Mitchell has more 20 point games in his first 13 games than Karl Malone, John Stockton, Adrian Dantley, Deron Williams, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, and Paul Millsap.

Donovan Mitchell overtook Rodney Hood in the starting lineup fair and square in only game 12 of the season. Only two rookies have scored 20 points or more four different times this season: Kyle Kuzma and Donovan Mitchell. Donovan Mitchell is doing big things. So far for the season he is averaging 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal per game.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Rodney Hood’s outing last night. The last two nights, actually. He has been more aggressive and looks to be adjusting quite nicely to the scorer off the bench role. This actually fits Hood perfectly, and we look forward to Hood getting the green light off the bench.