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The Downbeat: Utah Jazz have a distinct International Flavor

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The Utah Jazz are the United Nations of the NBA

The United Nations of the Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz are more international than ever, with players and coaches from all over the globe. Rudy Gobert is still a dominant force and a franchise player. Dennis Lindsey seems to be taking a money-ball approach to building a winning team after the loss of Gordon Hayward.

As a quick refresher on Utah’s offseason thus far, KSL recently broke down Utah’s June and July, including draft night, trades, and free agency. The video includes some shade thrown Former Player’s direction, and is worth the watch (start it around 29 seconds, and watch through 3~ minutes):

With Dennis Lindsey at the helm, we can expect absolutely zero panic moves. He’s intelligent and calculated, and has doubled down on defense. Speaking of defense...

Rudy Gobert is an all-NBA center, one of the two best defenders in the league, and a top 10 player. Dennis Lindsey is so confident in Gobert’s ability and talent, that he refuses to go into rebuild mode - something he learned from championship owner Mark Cuban. Tony Jones broke it down at the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Jazz took a few days to develop a strategy in the wake of Hayward leaving for the Celtics.

But Lindsey met with his staff and delivered a strong message: The Jazz weren't going to feel sorry for themselves. They weren't going take a step back. The organization describes the last two weeks as a pivot more than a restructure.

"We just felt like we had too much talent to tear it down to the foundation," Lindsey said. "The main thing with Quin and Rudy is what do we stand for? We feel like we have a great player in Rudy, and we want to showcase his ability."

Read the whole article here: http://www.sltrib.com/home/5511103-155/utah-jazz-refuse-to-back-down

No surprises here, but the Jazz are going to be a really good defensive team. Dennis Lindsey couldn’t replace all of the offense lost by Gordon Hayward’s exodus, but he could double down on defense. One of the more intriguing signings has been that of Ekpe Udoh, a former 2010 lottery pick who has been playing in Europe for a few years.

Udoh was chosen as the Final Four MVP after an unstoppable pair of games: he had 18 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks in the semifinal against Real Madrid, and posted 10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks against Olympiacos in the championship game.

The previous excerpt was pulled from one of the articles on eurohoops.net. There are a number of Q&As with Udoh here (all well worth reading through): http://www.eurohoops.net/en/interviews/481179/udoh-two-years-brought-back-love-game/

In case you missed it... Donovan Mitchell is really good at basketball. He’s played so well in Summer League, he’s given people no choice but to #takenote. Despite playing for a team in an undesirable market, he already has a shoe deal, he’s been interviewed on ESPN Sportscenter, and he’s put twitter in a frenzy (highlighted by a couple of “interactions” with fellow lottery pick Jayson Tatum).

Zach Harper of fanragsports.com broke down one example of the chemistry and communication Dante Exum and Donovan Mitchell have quickly developed.

With under a minute to go in the second quarter of a Utah Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Exum had an idea for a counter to an inbound play Utah had been running. Prior to heading over to the sideline for a timeout, Exum called Donovan Mitchell over to him on the other end of the court. He motioned with his hands to move one way before crossing back to the other direction. Exum then made a passing motion with his hands and Mitchell’s eyes lit up. They both nodded in agreement and walked to their coach.

As Exum received the inbound pass on the right wing, Mitchell set up his defender. He started moving toward the top of the floor, where the pindown screen would free him to receive the pass.

This is where the hand motions crossed from Exum’s instructions. As Mitchell’s defender tried to cut corners around the screen, Mitchell doubled back toward the rim. Exum lofted a high-arcing lob pass to the heavens, targeting the 6-foot-10 wingspan and 40-inch vertical catapulting into the air. Mitchell’s elbow cleared the plane of the rim as he tried to corral the lob pass and create a Summer League highlight to remember.

Even though Mitchell missed the dunk attempt (a Philly big man disrupted the pass), it was a great example of Mitchell’s freak athleticism, Exum’s passing, and the two players’ ability to read a defense on the fly and trust each other to make the right play. Read the whole article here: https://www.fanragsports.com/nba/jazz/harper-jazz-hope-donovan-mitchell-energy-need-stay-afloat/

Watch this great scene from Moneyball (NSFW language warning). I’ll wait here.

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I imagine Dennis Lindsey is a bit more tactful than Brad Pitt’s Billy Bean, but Lindsey seems to be taking a Moneyball approach to building an NBA team. We can’t replace the offensive output of Gordon Hayward, so what did Dennis Lindsey do? On draft night, he aggressively traded up for Donovan Mitchell, who has freakishly long arms and a good nose for steals. He traded for Ricky Rubio, who has freakishly long arms and a good nose for steals. He signed Thabo Sefolosha, who has freakishly long arms and a good nose for steals (noticing a pattern yet?). Nearly every player on Utah’s roster has a wingspan of at least 6’8”, and nearly every player on Utah’s roster is a plus defender. Utah has three players on their roster that were in the top 20 in STL% in 2016-17. No other team has more than two.

The Jazz may not score in bunches, but they’re going to suffocate opposing offenses. The Jazz were already top 5 in total rebounding percentage and top 3 in defensive rebounding percentage, and they added more rebounding to the team. Utah was already good at protecting the rim and the three point line, and they added more plus defenders. They needed to get better at scoring in transition, and Lindsey added speed and quickness to the roster, including a point guard who happens to love pushing the pace.

Lindsey can’t replace Hayward. But he’s looking at the problem in a new way, and figuring out how to beat a system when the deck is stacked against you.

#TakeFnNote