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What’s next for the Jazz after these brutal defeats?

Evaluating the first 15 games of Jordan Clarkson and the Utah Jazz this season

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

After suffering their biggest loss of the season, the Utah Jazz followed it up with another stinker against the lowly Portland Trail Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back. A defeat that definitely stings and should make you feel rock-bottom as a Jazz fan.

Set the record and standings aside, the first 15 games of the season for the Jazz has been an adventure of sorts. There’s delight seeing Lauri Markkanen play at an all-star level again this season and the emergence of rookie Keyonte George as the guard of the future. But the lows have been excruciating to watch, which probably was encapsulated by the performance they had last night.

Let’s face the harsh reality, this Blazers game is most likely circled in the calendar as a winnable game. To see how the game panned out makes it even more painful to say the least. Although the glaring loopholes were already present in prior games, we all knew the Jazz could’ve played better versus a struggling squad.

It was a dreadful watch, since the issues that the Jazz had the whole game somehow stemmed from one another. So instead of dividing each problem into different sections, we’ll go through them and look how interconnected were those deficiencies, using this outing as a gauge.

Just like a broken record for the 2023-24 Utah Jazz team, the lack of playmaking was their biggest plague once again. The assist numbers of the squad won’t indicate that because they rank eight (26.9) among the league in this category. George has shown enough flashes to be bullish in his table-setting, but the concern is which player can replicate or show some semblance of it in the Jazz roster?

Zooming into the guards of the Jazz second unit, we can say that both Talen Horton-Tucker and Collin Sexton are not primary ball handlers in nature. Unfortunately, the current team construction has forced head coach Will Hardy to give them playmaking reps, which has been messy overall. To see them have a hard time against the 19th rated defense should lower your confidence even more.

Here’s a simple mishap from Horton-Tucker, where he fumbles pass. For fairness sake, the stunt of Matisse Thybulle might have affected the indecision to share the rock, but it’s inexcusable to throw an errand of a pass if we’re being honest.

Meanwhile, Sexton has always been known as a scoring guard, rather than a playmaking one. When tasked to do decisions and reads on the fly with the Jazz, it doesn’t produce good results. The loose handle is evident in this dribble penetration, leading to a fastbreak opportunity for the Blazers.

Their pairing in the backcourt has the Jazz lose by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in the 127 minutes they’ve shared on the floor, per PBP Stats. Not ideal.

With the aforementioned poor playmaking, the other problem it creates are careless errors AKA turnovers. The Jazz lead the NBA in most turnovers per game at 17.5, and last game, they had 21 turnovers where the Blazers converted 31 points from it.

No need to rocket science everything because the solution to this dilemma of the Jazz is plain and simple: take care of the basketball to prevent easy buckets. According to NBA Advanced Stats, they give up the second most points in transition at 24 points per contest. It was basically evident the whole game that the Blazers took advantage off.

What hurts more in these instances is that they are live ball turnovers, which enables the opposition to run while the defense isn’t set properly. Assess how easy the Blazers capitalized on a Jordan Clarkson mishandle. I’ll leave it to your subjective mind.

Even after a made basket, the Jazz still have a hard time going back on defense and still allow the same early offense looks for the Blazers. That’s purely unacceptable and has to change as soon as possible if they want to win games.

Another challenge for the Jazz this season has been defending in the half court. They really don’t have the luxury of having good point of attack (POA) defenders, which is compounded with the absence of Walker Kessler at the paint.

The Blazers were able to convert 64.7% of their shots at the rim. Those makes that came from downhill drives in the half court felt unchallenged, as the opposition barely cared if there was any deterrence. In short, Kessler is being greatly missed by the Jazz at the moment.

Good example is this Malcolm Brogdon basket out of a dribble hand-off. After George failed to keep the ball in front, John Collins was ready to show help and contest the drive on time. Ultimately, Brogdon just didn’t care.

s of this writing, the Jazz is 27th in defense, 20th in offense, and 26th in net rating. These are absolutely brutal and would place them in the upper echelon for the 2024 lottery.

The question now becomes what route will they choose. Lauri Markkanen is good enough to lead the Jazz to a respectable finish if he’ll be around the right pieces. On the other hand, there are tradable assets that the team possesses, which will further improve the draft capital moving forward.

For now, it’ll be intriguing to keep track of the process, how Will Hardy will develop and improve the gaps of the Jazz in the coming games. Win, lose, or draw, my hope is that our support to the team will not waver.