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Utah launched 3’s with reckless abandon in the preseason, will it continue?

Bogdanovic: “That’s the style we want to play”

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 season was arguably the best 3-point shooting season in Utah Jazz history. Their 38.0 percent mark from downtown led the NBA and is third in franchise history behind the 1999-00 season (38.5) and 2000-01 (38.1). However, the ‘19-20 Jazz attempted 831 more triples than both of those two years combined (2,537 vs 1,706) so the argument to be the best is fairly solid for ‘19-20.

But despite having the league-leading percentage, Utah was barely in the top 10 in the NBA in 3-point attempts at 35.2 long-range shots per game. However, This preseason may suggest an even greater shift towards 3-point shooting.

Utah shot 52 threes in its preseason finale against the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s an absurd number of attempts, a mark only reached 62 times in NBA history (and 14 of those were overtime games). In Jazz history it’s only happened once — last year in a double-overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets in the bubble where the team went 22 of 55 from deep.

In the glorious sample size of three preseason games, Utah attempted 44.0 threes per night, a number that, if it held, would represent a 25 percent increase in attempts from last season. Even when accounting for the fact that the 52-attempt outing is a major outlier, the Jazz were jacking up triples at a higher rate anyway — 41 in game one of the preseason and 39 in the next.

“It’s just the preseason” you may say, BUT the preseason numbers, at least in terms of 3-point attempts, have been consistent with Utah’s regular season numbers during the Quin Snyder era.

Utah Jazz preseason vs regular season 3-point attempts

Year Preseason 3PA Regular Season 3PA Difference
Year Preseason 3PA Regular Season 3PA Difference
2020-21 44.0 ? ?
2019-20 34.4 35.2 -0.8
2018-19 36.6 34.0 +2.6
2017-18 27.4 29.6 -2.2
2016-17 19.0 26.0 -7.0
2015-16 20.1 23.9 -3.8
2014-15 20.9 21.7 -0.8

The only year where the rate was seriously off was 2016-17 and that was a significant undershoot of what the regular season average became.

Obviously with the crazy shooting night, the Jazz players and coach were asked about the increase in downtown attempts after the game. The response was simple: it’s been a major emphasis for this season on offense.

“Coach has been stressing that to us since we were in the Bubble,” Jordan Clarkson said. “We were just coming into this preseason trying to find an identity and emphasizing that on the offensive end. Those shots are good for us.”

In the eight regular season games in the bubble, the Jazz attempted 42.1 threes per game. However, that rate didn’t continue into the playoff series against the Nuggets as Utah attempted *only* 37.3 triples per game in the seven-game series.

“It’s a mindset for one,” Snyder said. “They need to take them. It’s been something we’ve tried and we want to do. We feel like, if they’re catch-and-shoot, even if they’re early in the clock they can take them.”

Snyder wants the guys who can make threes to take them, and the players are all willing to go along with it. Bojan Bogdanovic outright said “That’s the style we want to play” and this team is fully equipped for that style. Shooting can be found at every level of the roster.

Of the roughly 10 players expected to be in the main rotation, the only players who weren’t above the league average in 3-point shooting last year are Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Three players — Bogdanovic, Georges Niang and Joe Ingles — shot at a rate of 40 percent or above (I rounded Ingles’ 39.9 percent up, sue me).

2020-21 Jazz players 3-point percentage in 2019-20

Player GP 3PT% 3PA/gm
Player GP 3PT% 3PA/gm
Bojan Bogdanovic 63 41.4 7.3
Georges Niang 66 40.0 3.4
Joe Ingles 72 39.9 4.9
Royce O'Neale 71 37.7 3.4
Mike Conley 47 37.5 5.4
Juwan Morgan 21 37.5 0.4
Miye Oni 10 36.8 4.9
Donovan Mitchell 69 36.6 6.9
Jordan Clarkson 42 36.6 6.0
Shaq Harrison 43 38.1 1.0
League Average -- 34.1 --

It should be noted that Harrison shooting 38 percent last year represents quite the outlier. Prior to 2019-20, Harrison shot just 26.1 percent at the NBA level and had never gone a full season shooting above 30 percent in college or NBA.

This 3-point shooting is the key to unlocking the door behind which sits the prize of true playoff contention. Being able to make such a volume of threes makes Utah a dangerous team on offense, something they’ve never truly been in the Snyder era. If they get hot at any point during the 48 minutes of a game it could significantly change the landscape of the contest; flipping a big deficit into a close game or turning a close game into a near blowout.

Even the threat of 3-point shooting will create offense thanks to the 2020 word of the year on Jazz Twitter: “spacing.” Gobert will have ample room to work down low or plenty of options to pick from in kicking out for an open triple. Favors too, will benefit from this spacing.

If Utah is able to re-capture the defensive mojo they lost a bit last year, get back to being one of the top defensive teams in the league and shoot the way they have this preseason, this will be a special year for the Jazz.