The Utah Jazz are 2-2 right now against the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams were devastated by injuries all season long, but most of LAC’s injuries were to their scrubs during the season. Utah missed mostly rotation players, including playing most games without 2 starters to start this season. It’s the NBA Playoffs now. Both teams are approaching health - but in different directions. LAC is getting Austin Rivers back, but will play the rest of their games without starter Blake Griffin. UTA is now only without Alec Burks.
Utah was under water all season long, but now they are emerging.
I wrote about it a while back, but now it is happening.
The line-ups Quin Snyder has used in the Playoffs so far were still a product of injuries - losing Rudy Gobert in the first heartbeats of Game 1, not having Raul Neto until Game 3, losing Gordon Hayward in Game 4. All-in-all, 47 line-ups have been used in the post season. Some of them worked. Some of them did not.
But with most of the cards on the table, Snyder may be out of tricks. You can only shuffle the cards you have in hand so many times, and at this stage of a series you may need to think of something new. What have we seen so far? Here are the Top 4 line-ups (according to NBA.com playoff minutes played together), +Omega Project:
One. [37 mins]
George Hill | Joe Ingles | Gordon Hayward | Boris Diaw | Derrick Favors
These have been the de-facto starters for Snyder. Favors had to play big, and Diaw afforded some great passing, but has not done much else. Hill, Ingles, and Hayward have been great though. But this team is the most scouted line-up by now. There are few tricks to play from this hand.
Two. [31 mins]
George Hill | Joe Ingles | Gordon Hayward | Joe Johnson | Derrick Favors
This replaces Diaw with Johnson, and this has been a fantastic success for Snyder. Johnson finishes as the alpha scorer, and there are plenty of guys to space the floor. Tactically it is sound, even if it’s still missing that Gobert guy.
Three. [19 mins]
George Hill | Rodney Hood | Joe Ingles | Joe Johnson | Derrick Favors
This is a remix of what we’ve already seen, but it adds Hot and Cold Hood to the fold. Hood came up big in Game 4. I fear for his ability to actually defend someone like Austin Rivers though. Once again, no Gobert.
Four. [16 mins]
George Hill | Rodney Hood | Gordon Hayward | Joe Johnson | Derrick Favors
And this is yet another remix that doesn’t go as big as Utah can be. And that’s because of injuries. And thus, we move onto . . .
Omega Project [Classified]
George Hill | Gordon Hayward | Joe Johnson | Derrick Favors | Rudy Gobert
This line-up has NEVER played together on the court this season. Not in the playoffs, nor in the regular season. This was my desire for the Jazz starting line-up this year if everyone was healthy. (I found it unfair to not start Johnson after all he had accomplished.) Sure, we don’t see Joe Ingles here, but we shouldn’t need him with Omega Project.
Omega Project does not need to play small ball. There is always going to be a top of the three point arc screener, and one bigman close to the paint for offensive rebounds. The problem with Iso-ball is that if you miss, the other team can break out in transition. We’ve seen Gobert and Favors work miracles together on the offensive glass. This really puts the pressure on the other team . . . especially if one of the three remaining ball handlers gets a double screen, it’s pretty much game over.
Hayward could get exactly that in this example, and see that there are no shot blockers in the paint and try to dunk it on LAC. If there’s a rotation, the ball can be reversed to a cutting George Hill, who then has the court vision to attack or dump off to a big. The death option is that in the ensuing chaos there will be a mismatch that favors Joe Johnson. He’ll either take a big off the dribble, or back in someone smaller.
Omega Project guarantees that you are taking away one more good player who could possibly defend him, and puts him on the bench.
Against a non-Blake Griffin LA team that still needs to play Marreese Speights (and/or Brandon Bass; and/or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at PF) this line-up can more than handle themselves on defense. There is some level of predation to pick and roll savvy ball handlers, but that’s only ONE of the bigmen. The other should be around to patrol the paint.
All rebounds will be Utah Rebounds. Heck, G-Time — the SG in this line-up -- almost had a 20/10 game in Game 1. If the Clippers can’t rebound the ball, they better hope they put it in on the first try. Expect some DeAndre Jordan techs against Omega Project if we see it in this, or any other game for the rest of time.
The real benefit of Omega Project is that no opposing head coach has seen Omega Project this year. If anyone has seen it, only the Jazz head coaches have.