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What Happened to the Utah Jazz Defense?

What once was a strength is gone

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz built an identity. With the best defensive player on the planet down at Center, the Jazz had one of the best defenses in the NBA for several years. Quin Snyder took that strength and built a culture around it. Dennis Lindsey recognized that strength and tried to maximize it.

That focus gave the Jazz the #3 defense in 2017, #1 in 2018, and #2 last year. Utah won a lot of ball games because they could be absolutely dominate on that end of the court and prevent opposing teams from making a field goal for minutes at a time.

But that style reached its ceiling. I think everyone recognized that. So the Jazz leveraged some of their defense and depth for more offensive firepower at the top of the roster. The thought was that if the defense dropped from the top 3 and was simply a top 10 defense, that was worth the sacrifice if the offense was brought up to top 10 as well.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

On the season as a whole, the Jazz have done just that. According to NBA’s offensive and defensive ratings, the Jazz possess the #9 offense and the #10 defense. Goal achieved, right?

But if you look at the monthly splits so far this season, things aren’t looking near as rosy.

  • October: #25 offense, #1 defense. 4-1 record.
  • November: #20 offense, #14 defense. 8-6 record.
  • December: #10 offense, #12 defense. 9-5 record.
  • January: #1 offense, #10 defense. 11-2 record.
  • February: #15 offense, #23 defense. 4-4 record. (before last night’s game)

Per usual, Quin Snyder’s offense took some time to be learned and executed. January came and it was absolutely humming, but it’s taken a significant dip as of late. However, that’s a downbeat for another day. I’m not as worried about the offense. It’s the defensive fallout that has me concerned. And I’m not the only one.

In my opinion, those defensive collapses have absolutely impacted the offense as well. Guys aren’t locked in on defense and when things go south then everything goes wrong. Then they start worrying more about the next bucket instead of locking up their defensive assignment. All of a sudden a tied game in the 3rd quarter turns into a 7 point deficit, which careens into a 15 point deficit in a matter of minutes. I don’t even want to know how many runs of 15-0 or worse this team has given up this season.

Now, is it all doom and gloom? Of course not. Ultimately the Jazz still have a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense. That’s nothing to scoff at. The talent and potential is there. Something mentally seems to have changed and the guys just need to right the ship and get back on track. There’s still plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles and work out the kinks before the playoffs roll around. However, for ideal playoff positioning, let’s hope they figure it out sooner rather than later.

Because it’s getting late.