Jazz Defensive Scheme Causing Collapses

The collapse of Utah against the Clippers last year and Mavericks in game 2 is based off a faulty defensive scheme.

Our defense is predicated on driving the ball off the 3 point line into Gobert. In simple terms, it makes sense to have our best defender (Gobert) involved in as many plays as possible. However, from an offensive perspective, the counter is very simple: drive towards the basket so Gobert helps. However, instead of taking a difficult shot, pass the ball to the open man. If Utah were to be on offense, they refer to this as "starting the blender" to try and gain an offensive edge. Under the current defensive scheme, the other Jazz players are told to stay on their player and not "help." Only Gobert should help. Essentially, this is what allows whoever Gobert is guarding to be open. For example, Brunson (or anyone on the Mavericks) drives to the hoop which Utah wants so Gobert can help. Gobert comes to help leaving his man open. Gobert's man has a wide open shot. This is what allowed Maxi Kleber to hit 7 UNCONTESTED 3s. Quin justifies this as saying the other players shoot a higher percentage from 3 than the opposing center - hence, playing the odds. However, the odds he is referring to don't compare a playoff contested shot vs a wide-open uncontested shot which is where he is wrong. In the process, the scheme makes Gobert look like a poor defensive player as he can't guard both the drive and the 3 simultaneously (which it is impossible to guard two areas at once - national pundits sometimes incorrectly say Gobert can't guard in space. Gobert can guard the rim and in space. However, he can't do both at the same time).

If this is looked at from an offensive perspective, to maximize offensive efficiency, put Kleber or whoever Gobert is guarding in the corner 3 position and space the other offensive players out. By putting the center in the corner 3, it gives them the highest percentage shot that isn't at the rim (which Gobert would influence). From the perspective of who has the ball, take what the defense gives and drive towards the hoop. Once Gobert helps, pass to your Center who is guaranteed to be wide open which requires no thought and very low likelihood for a turnover or forced error (Mavericks had ONLY 7 turnovers in game 1 and ONLY 3 turnovers in game 2. For reference, Utah in Game 1 had 15 turnovers and Bucks in their game had 21). Because the momentum of the person driving the ball is going forward, the pass is very easy compared to passing out or across court. It is also a short pass to the corner which means the ball arrives quickly minimizing time to help. Essentially, it is a very easy offensive scheme that is highly reproducible.

Utah needs to adjust their defense. A very easy adjustment, which should have taken place long ago, would be that as soon as Brunson or whoever beats their man and Gobert starts to help, the closest Jazz defensive player rotates (technically called pre-rotates) to cover Gobert's man. Which people refer to as "help the helper." If all Jazz defenders are on a string, then all technically all players would rotate. In truth, for all defenders to rotate on a string well, it is difficult. However, even just one person rotating to Gobert's man makes the defense better than the current. By just 1 rotation to cover Gobert's man, it doesn't allow the offensive person who is driving the ball to easily know where the pass would be, thereby increasing turnover rate. Next, it forces the pass to be a longer pass to add to recovery time for Jazz players. If the pass is out front, then the pass would be difficult to make as its against the natural direction of the drive meaning more difficult to add velocity to the pass. If they try and pass cross-court, the passing window is smaller and again its a longer pass allowing more time to recover. If we were advanced, then the Jazz could technically partially rotate the defender at the top of the key and minimize the pass window at the top of key and still cover both wings for possible corner 3s.

With the current Jazz defensive scheme, the opposing team takes what the Jazz gives them by driving towards the hoop and then passing it to the known open man in the short corner for 3. Then repeat. This is extremely easy to perform offensively as we are giving it to them. Very simple and highly reproducible which is why the opposing team keeps breaking us.

It's past time to update our defensive scheme. Otherwise, the other team will beat us on uncontested 3s, AKA practice shots. Can we please "help the helper?"

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