Over the last five games the Utah Jazz have defeated the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder, while losing to the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors. During this period we've seen some great games on offense by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and a pulse from Trey Burke. The starters for this season, the much maligned F5, seem to be dominating what happens on the court for the Jazz.
While it is true, Hayward is approaching All-Star level play, the rest of the starters are either hit or miss. Seriously, who is the second most consistent scorer on the team? Is it Enes Kanter? Still, the Jazz are getting a lot of points from those five starters so far this season. As a group they have scored 869 points, and taken 694 field goal attempts (shots...). If you factor that into the entire seasons' worth of Jazz offense that's 74.2% of all the points, and 74.5% of all the FGA. Effectively 3/4ths comes from those five guys. (Who start, and play the most minutes, and make the most money.... but still.) Let's compare this distribution to a handful of previous Jazz seasons.
- The very first Jazz team, the 1974-75 New Orleans Jazz, started Louie Nelson, Pete Maravich, Aaron James, E.C. Coleman, and Mel Counts. They accounted for 54.5% of all the points, and 54.3% of all the shot attempts.
- The first Jazz team to make the playoffs back in 1983-84 started Rickey Green, Darrell Griffith, Adrian Dantley, Thurl Bailey, and Mark Eaton, and their numbers were 66.6% of all the points, and 65.9% of the FGA.
- My first Jazz team was the 1987-88 team that took the showtime Los Angeles Lakers to 7 games in the second round of the playoffs. That team started John Stockton, Bob Hansen, Karl Malone, Marc Iavaroni, and Mark Eaton. The starters were just 58.3% all the points, and 55.0% of the shots.
- The first Jazz team to make the NBA Finals, back in 1997-98, started John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, Karl Malone, and Greg Ostertag, and were 71.6% of the points and 67.8% of the shots.
- After John and Karl retired Head Coach Jerry Sloan drove the 2003-04 Jazz to a 42-40 record. Their starters were Carlos Arroyo, DeShawn Stevenson, Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko, and Greg Ostertag. And they accounted for 52.8% of all the points, and 50.8% of all the field goal attempts.
- The next Jazz team to make the Western Conference Finals was in 2006-07, and their starters were Deron Williams, Derek Fisher, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur. What was their percentage of all the points and shots? A very healthy 68.0% and 67.9%
- And the last time the Jazz made the playoffs was in 2010-11, when the starters were Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson. They were only 60.0% of all the points and 58.1% of all the shots for the team.
Clearly this year's 75%/75% is much larger,and as a result, there's a much larger offensive dependency upon the starters. And yes, I think these are the five guys who should start because they are the five best players. They work well together (Hayward and Favors, Burks and Kanter, Hayward and Burks, and Burke and Favors in particular). But there is something missing. And it's bench scoring. If you take a deeper look into the last five games the Jazz current starters (Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors) have accounted for a WHOPPING 80.3% of all the points, and 79.5% of all the FGA.
Over the last five games the team has scored 477 points. A grand total of 383 of them have been from the starters. Seriously, 80%. Here's a breakdown of their points, shots, and of course, PPS, PPG, and FGA per game. (You know, because this is the best non-Moni Utah Jazz blog on the internet)
No one is pointing fingers, we're just observing that in the last five games the bench has scored a grand total of 94 points. (18.8 ppg) That's not bad, is it? Well, collectively that's okay . . . but you kinda get the idea that we would have gone better than 2-3 in our last five (or better than 5-5 in our last 10) if the team was getting a little more punch off the bench. That doesn't mean bench Alec Burks either, that's a band-aid. The solution is to groom a designated scorer off the bench. Perhaps someone who will be more reliable than the 4.8 ppg the team is getting from our top bench scorer over this time (a tie between Trevor Booker, and Rudy Gobert). It's most likely never going to be Dante Exum or Joe Ingles, the two rookies from down under are pass first players all the way. They can hit spot up jumpers and drive, but are more likely to create for others. And really, Booker and Gobert can go off at times when they are fed, but I don't see either of them being an offensive game changer. (Booker is close, but asides from that great game against the Phoenix Suns we haven't seen a lot of that.)
Ian Clark, Steve Novak, Jeremy Evans, and Toure' Murry will never play the minutes necessary (when the team is at full strength) to help tip the scales back towards something lower than the 3:1 starters to everyone ratio in terms of offensive production.
It's gotta be, and will be, Rodney Hood. In the smallest of sample sizes we've seen Hood be some sort of Volcano Avatar spitting fire and threes like no one on the earth can check him. And we've also seen him do more than just be a spot up shooter as well, as someone who can drive, get to the line, and create for others. Sadly, we haven't seen a lot of Rodney at all this year because of injuries. When he comes back and gets into the groove of things again look out.
The team will be able to maintain leads or get back into more games with his offensive abilities as part of the regular rotation. The bench will have a designated scorer. And most likely, there will be just so many 5 man combinations that will help this team devastate opponents. (For the record, in my books Rodney can play the 2, 3, or 4 against the right team.)
But what about the starters? Is it wrong to have our starters average 75% of the points this team scorers? Compared to Jazz history it is odd. But if you compare our five man unit against that of previous years shouldn't his particular squad not have the most balanced offense, and thus, have a collection of guys who will (as the season progresses) have 15, 20, 30 point games? I can actually see each of the five Jazz starters this year be a threat to drop 30 on any given night depending on a) the variety of looks this amazing offense produces, and b) the way some of our guys can heat up.
Gordon Hayward dropped 30 this year twice in the first three weeks of the season. Derrick Favors did it earlier this season as well. Alec Burks dropped 30 last year twice, and he has precisely the type of efficient game (spot up threes and lots of free throws) that can rack up points in a jiffy. Enes Kanter is knocking down shots from all over the court and is on a hot streak right now. And Trey Burke, by the law of averages if not the law of the universe itself, is bound to catch fire sooner rather than later.
If you look over the other seven starting lineups from earlier in this post I don't think you can ague that each of those guys would ever be a threat to score 30, let alone someone that you could find it within the norms of their abilities. (Seriously, Aaron James, Rickey Green, Marc Iavaroni, Greg Ostertag, Derek Fisher, and Raja Bell aren't dropping 30 on anyone.)
So what do we have here? A season where the undisputed best players to start right now are the ones who take the vast majority of shots and score the most points . . . and an anemic bench. No matter how the rest of the starters progress in the quest to have 5 guys each score 30 at least once in the season, Rodney Hood is going to be a valuable asset to this team's offense going forward. He adds a dimension that this team sorely misses -- he could be what the Jazz were sold when they paid for Chris Morris all those years. A big scoring wing who can change the outcome of games off the bench.
I believe in the Dukie, and hope that he takes as much time as possible in order to get well. The team will tread water without him. And when he comes back, our offense is going to take a quantum leap ahead.
Defense, well, that's a topic for another day . . .