The Utah Jazz have had an up and down start to the season that has led to (as of writing this article) an 8-8 record.
Here are a few things the Jazz have had to overcome so far.
Donovan Mitchell is scoring, but his three point shot hasn’t been consistently falling ... yet.
Before the Celtics game, Donovan’s three point shooting percentage had fallen to 27%. When it’s falling the Jazz are incredibly hard to beat (like when the Jazz destroyed Gordon Hayward and the Celtics twice this season). But when it’s not falling, it’s tough for the Jazz to overcome an offense that doesn’t have a lot of scoring threats.
Ricky Rubio has had the worst start in his career.
After a better shooting performance in Philadelphia and his best overall game yet against the Celtics, the Jazz may be looking at a turnaround from Rubio. Regardless, the Jazz have had to overcome some incredibly poor shooting from Rubio so far this season coupled with 4 turnovers per game. It’s very hard to play well when the point of attack is such a net negative. But, just like we saw with Donovan Mitchell’s shooting against Boston, when Rubio is playing under control and shooting a reasonable percentage, the Jazz become the elite team everyone was expecting.
Spacing for the starting unit has been bad.
Derrick Favors has played really well this season. But when he’s on the starting unit it causes spacing issues that may be at the root of all these problems. Rubio doesn’t have room to get tricky, Donovan faces multiple defenders at the rim and the offense sputters.
This isn’t Favors fault, he’s improved his game by adding a corner three that has been falling with surprising consistency. As impressive as that is, he’s only taking 1.2 a game and shooting that corner three takes away one of his biggest strength in offensive rebounding and putbacks.
Of all the changes the Jazz need to look at doing, it’s using Favors when Rudy is on the bench to destroy second units.
Joe Ingles went through a prolonged slump.
Ingles is back to shooting 39%, but after the Golden State game he went on a 9-game stretch where he shot 28% from three. Ingles is a huge part of this offense and when his shot isn’t falling, things go south quickly.
There have been games this season where literally no one can score (see: the Mavs loss). When no one can score, it’s tough to score. This is the content you came for!
But through all of this the Jazz still have a .500 record.
Well thanks for asking! On the Jazz there has been a dominating presence, something that has kept them in games and just outside the playoffs when things could have gone very bad, very quickly.
In the last week look at the different players he’s gone up against.
11/17/18 - Al Horford - 4/7, 9 points, 6 rebounds. Season Average? 11 points, 6 rebounds.
11/16/18 - Joel Embiid - 7/20, 23 points, 9 rebounds. Season Average? 27 points, 12 rebounds.
11/14/18 - Deandre Jordan - 2/3, 4 points, 10 rebounds. Season Average? 10 points, 13 rebounds.
11/12/18 - Marc Gasol - 7/13 (0/4 from three), 16 points, 5 rebounds. Season Average? 16 points, 9 rebounds.
11/9/18 - Al Horford - 6/10, 13 points, 4 rebounds. Season Average? 11 points, 6 rebounds.
These statlines just ooze with the frustration of being guarded by the undesputed DPOY of the league. Having Rudy Gobert as your center means that the opposing team won’t score efficiently at the rim while your center will score at their season average or worse. A lot of times, much worse.
Gobert has also proven a false narrative wrong this season that lazy national writers have been claiming for years, that Gobert can’t be effective when a three point shooting big is on the floor.
This season the starting center of opposing teams is shooting 13/41 against the Jazz which comes to 31%. If you take out the Minnesota game and Karl Anthony Towns, it’s 28%.
But Gobert hasn’t just improved defensively, he’s finally being more featured in the offense. Every play Gobert has become a lob threat for the Jazz. This season he’s leading the league in dunks which is helping him have a league leading field goal percentage of .705%, two percentage points higher than second place!
Have you also noticed just how nicely the offense flows with Gobert on the floor? That can be explained by him being the league leader in screen assists per game at 5.4 (per nba.com). This right here is the reason the Jazz do so well with a stretch four and why the Jazz need to have a stretch four with Rudy on the floor at all times. The more screens from Gobert, the more your offense will succeed. Just ask Gordon Hayward how good Gobert screens are now that he’s in Boston.
People will say things like Gobert isn’t a scoring threat. Sure, Gobert does not possess handles like Kyrie Irving or a shooting stroke like Karl Anthony Towns, but what Gobert does well, he has perfected to the point of being the best in the league.
The Jazz will make the playoffs this season because all the trends are pointing to the team improving, but the reason the Jazz never bottomed out is because Rudy Gobert has been dominant from the beginning.