For a half decade, the most feared situation in the NBA was being on the wrong side of a Golden State Warriors barrage.
In a matter of minutes, Curry-Klay-Durant and company could detonate for 15-20 points and leave a team heading for a team timeout with their head spinning.
With the departure of Kevin Durant and the subsequent injuries to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, the “barrage baton” was never passed. For season, the NBA lost the likes of GSW’s tidal wave potential...but are seeing it again this year.
Instead of a tidal wave, the league is now facing an avalanche, a downpour that is just as brutal as the Warriors of old. Except, it is now off the hands of the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz performed a thorough dismantling of the Golden State Warriors Saturday night. Scoring 77 points in the 1st half, the Jazz lead by 30 points at the break, ballooning the lead to 40 points at the start of the 4th quarter.
The Jazz shot 53% of their shots as 3’s compared to the Warriors’ 42% (11 percentage point advantage). The Jazz made 40% of those 3’s compared to the Warriors’ 36% (4 percentage point advantage).
As crazy as it sounds, the Warriors even outpaced their 34.7% 3P season number while the Jazz had a “ho-hum” average efficiency night from deep (season 3P% 40.0).
How sweet it was to deliver the type of beat-down to the Warriors they became accustomed to giving!
Before thinking this is hyperbole, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr alluded to this very fact in his post-game remarks to Warriors Beat Writer Connor Letourneau:
Steve Kerr on the Jazz: "They're where we were three or four years ago."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) January 24, 2021
As Michael Scott of “The Office” would say, “Well, well, well, how the turntables...”
Steve Kerr isn’t wrong. The types of runs the Jazz go on definitely FEEL Warriors-esque. Given the Jazz defense ranks #2 in the league per CleaningTheGlass, Utah is uniquely setup to dominate an opposing team with stops and made shots.
While the eye test and gut check certainly confirm Coach Kerr’s assertion, what do the numbers say? (after all, it wouldn’t be an “Adam Bushman” article without numbers)
Let’s take a look.
3P Frequency Advantage
Shot distribution and shot frequency are all the range around the league right now, with the Utah Jazz at the heart of this revolution.
Historically, the Jazz have worked to bend an opposing offense to take less efficient shots at a higher rate than they are used to. This gave them a nightly advantage.
Since revamping the offense with Conley and Bogdanovic, Quin has sought to bend opposing defenses to giving them more efficient shots at a higher rate than they are used to.
The idea was to build a composite (net) advantage on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. It’s one thing to just take better shots or force worse shots; it’s another thing to do both.
The Jazz are doing so in record form on the 3P line.
Take a look at the above chart, which measures the advantage of 3P frequency by team.
The calculation takes the percentage of shots as 3’s a team generates versus the percentage of shots as 3’s the opponent generates. A positive number will mean the team takes more 3’s than the opponent.
As you can see, the Jazz are #1 in the league in 3P frequency advantage at +6.9%. The #2 team is the Brooklyn Nets at +3.5%. The difference between the Jazz at #1 and the Nets at #2 is the same difference as the Nets at #2 and the Wizards at #15.
An absolute avalanche. But it isn’t just this season.
If we compare the Jazz this season with teams since the 2017-18 season, we can see where the Jazz come out in 3P frequency advantage (the chart displays the top 30 teams by season of the past 4 years):
Over the past 4 seasons, the 2020-21 Jazz advantage in 3P frequency is still #1. Only the Houston Rockets in 2017-18 and 2018-19 generated an advantage above +6.0%.
You can also see on this chart that Utah made the top 30 teams every year in the sample. Here are their ranks:
Two Warrior teams and four Rockets teams also made the list of top 30 teams, but the 2020-21 Utah Jazz remain at #1. Their defensive execution and offensive strategy are generating the biggest advantage in 3P frequency seen in the last 4 seasons.
Now let’s look at efficiency.
3P frequency advantage is all about volume. Volume has a very important place in this league since efficiency is hard to control as a defense and is fluky night-to-night offensively.
Good teams can survive on elite volume and decent efficiency. Great teams, however, need both. We can look at efficiency advantage similar to a volume advantage.
The calculation takes the 3P% a team generates versus the 3P% the opponent generates. A positive number will mean the team makes a higher rate of 3’s than the opponent.
Take a look below at the 3P% advantage so far this season:
The Utah Jazz are tied for #2 with the Los Angeles Lakers at +5.7%. Only the Clippers (at +6.7%) are ahead of Utah.
A +5.7% advantage means that the Jazz aren’t just averaging a higher rate of made 3’s than their opponent, but are doing so at the 2nd highest clip in the league.
How amazing is that? Utah is not only getting a bigger 3P volume advantage than anyone in the league by a wide margin, they are getting the 2nd biggest 3P efficiency advantage in the league.
How do the 2020-21 Jazz compare in 3P% advantage over the past 4 seasons? Check it out below (again, we took the top 30 teams by season in 3P% advantage):
Jazz again are tied with the Lakers for the 2nd highest 3P% advantage over the past 4 seasons.
Remember the GSW tidal wave? Well they ranked 6th and 8th in the sample. Remember the Rockets? Only one season did they rank in the top 30, and they came in 2nd to last.
The Jazz only made the list twice. Here are their ranks by season:
This jives with our memory. Prior to the Conley and Bogdanovic acquisitions, Utah relied on volume alone. It wasn’t until last year that Utah was able to generate a sizeable efficiency advantage.
In short, the Utah Jazz are generating a massive advantage on the 3P line, in volume and efficiency. In fact, their performance this year has been so amazing that they rank #1 in volume advantage and #2 in efficiency advantage from deep over the past 4 seasons.
There are many metrics suggesting the Jazz are a great team, not just a good one. This is just one of such perspectives that point to the Jazz belonging in the elite tier.
We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the 72 game season. While still early, there’s enough to suggest the Jazz could keep this up to excite Jazz fans.
For now, enjoy the ride the Jazz are on. Let’s ride this avalanche as the Jazz prepare for a difficult February slate.
Take pride in the GSW officially passing UTA the “barrage baton”, the right to rain (reign) from downtown.