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Utah Jazz Mailbag! Answers to questions about Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio and more!

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Today, we answer loads of Utah Jazz-related questions from Twitter.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Welp, the Utah Jazz lost again.

This time to every Jazz fan’s favorite opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers.

So, with Utah sitting at 8-11, tied for the second-worst record in the West and performing well below preseason expectations, what better time than now to do a mailbag?

Without further ado, here are your questions, and my sure-to-please answers...


Utah’s had the most difficult schedule in the NBA so far, if we base that on nothing but ESPN’s basic Strength of Schedule (it’s just opponents’ win percentage).

TeamRankings has the Jazz in 18th for remaining Strength of Schedule. So, maybe there’s some light at the end of this tunnel.

But there are still plenty of tough games between now and the January 9, the date in Josh’s question. So, after scanning the upcoming schedule, I’m going to guess eight games below .500.

Of course, Utah was nine games below .500 on January 24 last season. It still made the playoffs. But expecting a closing run like that two seasons in a row is dicey.

I think it just depends on Washington’s objective behind making everyone available. If it was me, I’d be after clean books. And I think there may be enough expiring contracts around the NBA for them to be able to pull it off.

Now, if the goal is to move forward with the best player, they should probably hang onto Bradley Beal. He’s the toughest get of the three. And reality for Washington might be moving everyone but John Wall, because that contract is bonkers.

So, again, if Washington just wants to clear space, Utah could send two or three of its expiring deals, a draft pick (or two) and maybe Grayson Allen (if Washington has any interest in him).

Ricky Rubio has been dreadful at the rim his entire career. Coming into this season, his career field goal percentage in the 0-3-feet range was 48.5. Again, awful.

But 2017-18 offered some hope. He shot a career-high 53.5 percent from there. That’s still not good, but it was a career high and at least felt like a bit of progress. This season, he’s at a career-low 44.1 percent (if you throw out the 22-game season in which he shot 33.3 percent).

Defenses don’t really have to worry about Rubio’s shooting anywhere on the floor. Not even the moneyball spots.

Right now, he’s scoring 5.8 points per game on 6.2 moneyball shots (attempts from 0-3 feet and three-point attempts), or 0.94 points per shot. League-wide, the average output on a moneyball shot is 1.17 points. The league average for all points per field goal attempt (minus free throws) is 1.04.

I still think they can get homecourt advantage. The schedule will get easier. There’s hope that adjustments will be made. And Utah, even sitting in 14th right now, is only 4.5 games out of first place with over 60 games to go.

If only there was a better answer than “They need more shooters.” for this one.

Here are the career three-point percentages of every Jazz player with at least 200 2018-19 minutes.

  • Joe Ingles: 41.2 (great)
  • Alec Burks: 35.7 (slightly above average)
  • Royce O’Neale: 34.8 (below average)
  • Jae Crowder: 33.8 (below average)
  • Donovan Mitchell: 33.2 (below average)
  • Ricky Rubio: 32.5 (well below average)
  • Dante Exum: 30.4 (and it’s gone down every season)
  • Derrick Favors: 21.8 (on over 100 attempts now)
  • Rudy Gobert: 0

I think legit stars are pretty much out of the question if we’re talking about free agency. Utah has to land players like that in trades or the draft.

They already have one in Mitchell (current struggles notwithstanding), but adding someone else in a trade almost feels critical at this point.

If they keep losing at this rate, the front office may have no option but to jump into the Beal market.

I mean, Zion (Williamson) in Zion would be amazing, but Utah’s probably just not bad enough to tank. When you have Gobert, Ingles and Mitchell, you’re just not going to be able to roll far enough down the standings to catch teams like the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, etc.

So, Utah missing the playoffs, or even intentionally tanking, probably just results in a late-lottery pick.

I don’t know about bipolar, but there does seem to be a lot of in-fighting in this fanbase. I was just wondering about that last night, actually.

It’s starting to feel like the Ty Corbin era, when there were two contingents of Jazz fans: those who feel you have to be ra-ra, pro-team, pro-management at all times, and those who want to point out issues with the Jazz.

Honestly, it should be fine for fans to be in either of those camps.

Media, though, should probably be willing to call the team out.

I think that excuse maybe has a few more weeks of shelf life. The schedule will definitely get easier, but digging yourself a hole in a conference with 14 competitive teams could be real tough to climb out of.

I’m fine with not passing inside to set up post-ups. Gobert just isn’t a post player, and that play is terribly inefficient leaguewide.

I’m with you on passing inside on pick-and-rolls more often, though. The Ingles/Favors pick-and-roll looks deadly at times. And I’d like to see more lobs to Rudy (shoutout to Exum for being able to throw that pass).

See the answer to @prodigal_punk’s question above. I just don’t think the current roster has enough shooting.

Continuity working out depended largely on improvement from the guys on the team. So far, that just isn’t showing up.

Oh, heavens, yes.

If no moves or adjustments are made, maybe the second half of the season. But again, hoping for a 29-6 finish in back-to-back seasons is bold.

I absolutely think there should be more adaptability. Eventually, the starting five of Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles, Favors and Gobert started working last season, but it still wasn’t as good as that lineup with Crowder at the 4. And traditional alignments feel even more prehistoric this season, as more and more teams embrace shooting, space and position-less basketball.

Missing out on Nikola Mirotic hurt. Heck, even Nemanja Bjelica would’ve fit really well. Otto Porter’s a popular name now, but none of those guys are really “bucket getters.”

I’ve thrown out the idea of helping the New York Knicks create the cap space they need to sign Kevin Durant by taking back Tim Hardaway, Jr.

And listen, I get that he’s been kind of a punchline since the Knicks gave him that contract. But he’s averaging over 23 points per game and is currently 12th in Offensive Real Plus-Minus.

Just one extra option on offense could make a world of difference for Mitchell. And a backcourt pairing with him and Hardaway would be tough to stop.


Now, for some rapid-fire answers...

Why is this happening? No seriously why?! - @joneyre

Continuity just seems like a tougher path than anticipated. I’m starting to wonder if Utah is a little like the Suns or Miami Heat teams that had those great closing runs only to look more like their first-half selves the next season.

Has Igor Kokoškov leaving led to the stagnant offense and poor guard play? The sets they run look way simplified compared to last year. - @3_Kel_S

I’ve actually thought Quin Snyder’s sets took way too long to develop in years past. I’m fine with simpler stuff. I’d be cool with even more pick-and-roll. I just think not having much shooting would really hamper any offense.

Who is more realistic as a trade target, Beal or Hardaway Jr.? - @jaredpage45

Hardaway...

The best defensive teams in the league are: BOS, OKC, MEM, MIL, IND. All of them have players with elite athleticism and great length.

With the new rules as they are, are these tools more valuable than the actual scheme? Do the Jazz need an upgrade in these areas to defend? - @Jabber_Jazz

Rubio routinely gets blown by at the point of attack. That sure seems to be an issue. So yeah, I wouldn’t mind more minutes with the starters for someone who has above average speed and athleticism at his position. If only there was such a guy on Utah’s roster!

Was Karl actually great or just a byproduct of Stockton’s greatness?

I’ll hang up and listen - @TwoMorningPoops

They had the ultimate basketball symbiosis.

Why do we keep the same starting 5 when it clearly hasn’t been working? #tanknote - @codypritchett3

I think the idea is that it eventually started working last season. It’s definitely not working right now, though...

Who is the most tradeable asset on the jazz. - @anothernbatwit

Utah actually has a bunch of great contracts for trades. Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh, Rubio and Burks are expiring. Favors is basically expiring because the second year is non-guaranteed.

Who starts in Mitchell’s absence? - @jazzed29

O’Neale has been Snyder’s default, but I’m not sure that makes sense.

Utah is +3.2 points per 100 possessions (67th percentile) when he’s off the floor and -11.4 points per 100 possessions (8th percentile) when he’s on.

What do you think has been the biggest reason for Mitchell’s so-so start to the year? - @markmausner27

Natural regression, no spacing in the starting lineup and pressing too much are all in the conversation. I’ll go with the lack of shooting, though. Slashers need teammates to pull defenses away from the paint.

How would you fix the Jazz current woes with one lineup change/realistic trade - @mattkunkel31

I like the idea of trading Rubio, Favors, Sefolosha, Udoh, Allen and picks for Beal and Porter, but that’s only realistic if Washington is really serious about a complete teardown. I also think the Hardaway deal I laid out above would help.

In the absence of something drastic, I’d say start Crowder and Exum. The Crowder/Gobert pairing is still working (+5.8 points per 100 possessions, 78th percentile) and Utah needs to see what Exum looks like with the starters.

He’s under contract for two more seasons after this one. Rubio’s expiring. If you’re going to have any level of comfort deciding on Rubio’s future this summer, you need to know what you have in Exum.


Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Cleaning the Glass or ESPN.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for SLC Dunk and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Dan Favale.