Quin Snyder faces a few hurdles this season for the Jazz to have a legitimate shot at the conference finals. Even marginal improvements to the offense would make a huge difference, but that’s much easier said than done. The tenacity and efficiency on the defensive end needs to continue. And even though it’s out of his hands, some damn health for once would be pretty great (basketball gods, please).
The most obvious problem for Q is to figure out how to use all the depth this team has, particularly at the guard and wing positions. With a wealth of quality guards and wings behind Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles, coach Q will have to get creative.
Quin needs to find minutes for Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, Thabo Sefolosha, Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, and Alec Burks.
Going small is the most obvious solution. That frees up about 30 minutes per game while one of Gobert or Favors rests.
Quin could also slightly decrease the playing time of all the starters by a couple minutes a game. Fresh legs mean faster pace, which could boost offensive efficiency without sacrificing defense.
Resting starters on back-to-backs or using caution with minor injuries could give opportunities to bench players. Resting Favors for 10~ games this season opens up more small ball opportunities. The handful of inevitable minor injuries should open up a few hundred more minutes for guards and wings.
A crazy solution would be to go ultra small, the way the Golden State Warriors do with Jordan Bell or Draymond Green playing center. Both players are right around 6’8” in shoes according to their combine measurements. This could only work against teams that will play minutes without a traditional big man on the floor (or a “big” that’s under 6’8”). But a lineup of Rubio, Mitchell, O’Neale, Ingles, and either Crowder or Sefolosha would be a lot of fun to watch. Or it could be a complete train wreck.
No matter what Quin does with rotations this season, some players will get fewer minutes than they want.
Maintaining defensive efficiency shouldn’t be too difficult this season. The only notable change to the roster was swapping out Jonas Jerebko for Grayson Allen. If a player doesn’t play defense, they won’t play. Quin has made that pretty clear.
The offensive side of the ball is where this team has the most room to improve. As a team, the Jazz weren’t bad on offense, but they weren’t good, either. The team’s 107.2 offensive rating put them at 16th in the NBA. For comparison, the Milwaukee Bucks were the 10th ranked team with an ORtg of 108.8. Even minor improvements on offense would help Utah immensely. Utah’s already elite defense will amplify all those improvements and be gravy for net rating.
A good way to improve the offense is to decrease the inefficient play types and increase the efficient ones. The worst offender last season was PnR ball handler. Utah was #1 in the NBA in frequency of that play type (21.9%), but ranked 4th worst in the league in efficiency behind only the Lakers, Hawks, and Kings. Utah also ranked 3rd worst in turnover rate and 5th worst in effective field goal percentage for this play type. Reducing turnovers and shot attempts out of the pick and roll would make a significant difference with how often Utah runs the PnR.
Ingles (27.9%) and Rubio (19.9%) need to reduce their turnover rates here. Mitchell (43.1%) and Rubio (42.3%) need to improve their eFG% out of the PnR. Surprisingly, the team’s best option in the pick and roll last season was (small sample size alert!) Dante Exum, who ranked #1 on the team in PPP, eFG%, and score frequency for that play type. Shout out to Exum Island residents.
Reducing isolation and hand-off play types would also give Utah’s offense a boost. The Jazz ranked 11th worst in the league in both categories, with a combined frequency of 11.6%. Rubio (80th percentile) should run isolation more often. Mitchell (52nd percentile) would be better, but the off-the-dribble jumpers kill him here. In hand-offs, Mitchell ranked below league average in efficiency, and had a 14.5% turnover rate. Since this play type made up more than 10% of his offense, even small improvements here would boost the team’s offensive efficiency.
Utah as a team was great in transition (6th in NBA) and good in spot ups (9th) and cuts (12th). Turnovers were a problem for these play types. The team ranked 3rd worst in transition, 5th worst on spot ups, and 9th worst on cuts. Rubio, Mitchell, and Exum all have high turnover rates in transition (especially Rubio, at 25.9% - yikes). Finding Ingles (96th percentile) in transition more often would help here. Favors, Sefolosha, and Gobert also boast high efficiency in this play type. Especially Favors, who shoots 84% in transition (not a typo), and ranks in the 98th percentile.
As it stands, Utah is already one of the NBA’s great teams. They are on the edge of elite. The defense is there. The depth is there. Against all odds, the offense is effective enough to keep the Jazz in most games. An adjustment here. Minor tweaks there. Further development from Donovan. Improved chemistry, familiarity, and comfortability for Ricky. Gobert continuing to eat freaking with humans. Further trolling from Ingles. And an army of pissed off, pesky defenders to throw at opposing offenses.
This team is ready to make the leap. And Quin Snyder is ready to lead them there.