I was first introduced to the NBA game back in the early 80s, where a three point shot happened almost by accident. Sure, some players could hit that shot, but most NBA playbooks were right to shun it. Even a guy like Larry Bird could play a whole season and finish it with fewer than 20 made threes back then. But times have changed. For a long time it looked like the Utah Jazz resisted this, like all changes, poorly. We've seen everything from the player's general skill levels to the lines on the court change over the last few decades. The evolution of the game happens around league wide trends and unstoppable players. The smartest players stay ahead of the curve. And the smartest teams do too. I argue that the Utah Jazz are doing just that.
My first Utah Jazz head coach was Frank Layden, and I've been in love with the franchise every year since then. I've seen the rise of the Jazz to contender status, the slow fall, another rise, another fall, a record scratch, and now the present day team. Convention dictated that if you were building your offense around inside scoring you would do it around a center. Utah did not, they did it around forwards Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, and then later on, Carlos Boozer. In order to do that the team would be very easy to defend against if there was a center still roaming the paint, at the ready to help out on defense.
The key, then, was to draw that bigman out of the paint. In the old days the previous illegal defense rule made that possible by parking Mark Eaton or Greg Ostertag out around the three point line to graze and generate FTA for the team because of this rules exploit. The rule changed though, and the offense stagnated until floor space could be maintained by the addition of Mehmet Okur. Now the offense that had persisted for decades could continue to run, and there was someone out there to draw defenders away from the paint.
But the game keeps changing, and the nerfed rules for hand checking, and the growth of the wing oriented slashing game (far from the forward oriented post up game of Dick Motta) meant that a new halfcourt geography had to be invented.
Basically, everyone had to be able to move, and be capable of keeping the defense honest.
This is a shift from the solar system post approach, where one giant star has the rest rotating around him (think the Houston Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon and all their three point shooters) to one where comets fly through the sky and you better get out of the way (watch some early LeBron James in Cleveland). A new order was needed.
Quin Snyder consulted his NCAA star charts and figured it out. And on a team where Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Dante Exum, and Derrick Favors can all face up around 15 feet and drive to the rim this evolution was necessary. What is it?
It's the rule of the three.
Over the last thirty years (29.x because this one just started) the Utah Jazz have taken approximately 24,718 three pointers in the regular season. They have made about 8580 of them, for a success percentage of 34.71%.
But for the most part, the Jazz playbook didn't even look at the three point shot. Furthermore, out of the shots that were taken, threes were very invisible minorities. Back in '85-86 only 2.4% of all the FGA where from downtown. But we've come a long way, baby.
|Season||Head Coach||Win %||FGA/G||3PTM||3PTA||3PT%||3PTA/FGA%||Top 3PTA||2nd 3PTA||3rd 3PTA|
|1||1985||1986||Frank Layden||51.2%||86.4||0.4||2.1||20.7%||2.43%||Bob Hansen||34.0%||Pace Mannion||19.0%||Rickey Green||17.2%|
|2||1986||1987||Frank Layden||53.7%||91.6||1.7||5.5||31.0%||6.00%||Darrell Griffith||33.5%||Dell Curry||28.3%||Kelly Tripucka||36.5%|
|3||1987||1988||Frank Layden||57.3%||86.5||1.6||4.9||31.9%||5.66%||Darrell Griffith||27.5%||Bob Hansen||33.0%||Kelly Tripucka||41.9%|
|4||1988||1989||Layden / Sloan||62.2%||80.4||1.4||4.6||30.0%||5.72%||Darrell Griffith||31.1%||John Stockton||24.2%||Bob Hansen||35.2%|
|5||1989||1990||Jerry Sloan||67.1%||80.4||2.8||7.7||35.9%||9.58%||Darrell Griffith||37.2%||Bob Hansen||35.1%||John Stockton||41.6%|
|6||1990||1991||Jerry Sloan||65.9%||79.7||1.8||5.6||32.3%||7.03%||John Stockton||34.5%||Darrell Griffith||34.8%||Delaney Rudd||27.9%|
|7||1991||1992||Jerry Sloan||67.1%||83.7||1.9||5.6||34.5%||6.69%||John Stockton||40.7%||Blue Edwards||37.9%||Delaney Rudd||23.4%|
|8||1992||1993||Jerry Sloan||57.3%||83.3||1.6||5.0||31.4%||6.00%||John Stockton||38.5%||David Benoit||34.7%||Jay Humphries||20.0%|
|9||1993||1994||Jerry Sloan||64.6%||82.1||2.2||6.8||32.0%||8.28%||John Stockton||32.2%||Jay Humphries||39.6%||David Benoit||20.3%|
|10||1994||1995||Jerry Sloan||73.2%||77.3||3.7||9.8||37.6%||12.68%||John Stockton||44.9%||Jeff Hornacek||40.6%||David Benoit||33.0%|
|11||1995||1996||Jerry Sloan||67.1%||78.3||4.6||12.4||37.2%||15.84%||John Stockton||42.2%||Jeff Hornacek||46.6%||Chris Morris||32.0%|
|12||1996||1997||Jerry Sloan||78.0%||75.8||4.1||11.0||37.0%||14.51%||Bryon Russell||40.9%||Jeff Hornacek||36.9%||John Stockton||42.2%|
|13||1997||1998||Jerry Sloan||75.6%||74.5||3.0||8.2||37.2%||11.01%||Bryon Russell||34.1%||Jeff Hornacek||44.1%||Howard Eisley||40.7%|
|14||1998||1999||Jerry Sloan||74.0%||72.4||2.8||7.8||36.1%||10.77%||Bryon Russell||35.4%||Jeff Hornacek||42.0%||John Stockton||32.0%|
|15||1999||2000||Jerry Sloan||67.1%||77.8||4.0||10.4||38.5%||13.37%||Bryon Russell||39.6%||Howard Eisley||36.8%||Jeff Hornacek||47.8%|
|16||2000||2001||Jerry Sloan||64.6%||76.7||4.0||10.4||38.1%||13.56%||Bryon Russell||41.3%||John Starks||35.2%||John Stockton||46.2%|
|17||2001||2002||Jerry Sloan||53.7%||77.7||3.4||10.3||33.3%||13.26%||Bryon Russell||34.1%||Scott Padgett||43.4%||Andrei Kirilenko||25.0%|
|18||2002||2003||Jerry Sloan||57.3%||75.5||2.7||7.8||34.9%||10.33%||Matt Harpring||41.3%||Scott Padgett||33.8%||Andrei Kirilenko||32.5%|
|19||2003||2004||Jerry Sloan||51.2%||75.3||3.1||9.6||32.1%||12.75%||Andrei Kirilenko||33.8%||Raja Bell||37.3%||Carlos Arroyo||32.5%|
|20||2004||2005||Jerry Sloan||31.7%||76.8||3.0||9.3||32.8%||12.11%||Raja Bell||40.3%||Gordan Giricek||36.2%||Howard Eisley||26.2%|
|21||2005||2006||Jerry Sloan||50.0%||75.7||3.8||11.3||33.6%||14.93%||Mehmet Okur||34.2%||Deron Williams||41.6%||Devin Brown||33.1%|
|22||2006||2007||Jerry Sloan||62.2%||78.9||4.3||12.9||33.5%||16.35%||Mehmet Okur||38.4%||Deron Williams||32.2%||Derek Fisher||30.8%|
|23||2007||2008||Jerry Sloan||65.9%||80.4||5.0||13.4||37.2%||16.67%||Mehmet Okur||38.8%||Deron Williams||39.5%||Kyle Korver||38.8%|
|24||2008||2009||Jerry Sloan||58.5%||80.8||4.8||13.7||34.9%||16.96%||Kyle Korver||38.6%||Deron Williams||31.0%||Mehmet Okur||44.6%|
|25||2009||2010||Jerry Sloan||64.6%||80.2||5.4||14.7||36.4%||18.33%||Deron Williams||37.1%||C.J. Miles||34.1%||Mehmet Okur||38.5%|
|26||2010||2011||Sloan / Corbin||47.6%||80.4||5.3||15.3||34.6%||19.03%||C.J. Miles||32.2%||Deron Williams||34.5%||Raja Bell||35.2%|
|27||2011||2012||Tyrone Corbin||54.5%||83.8||4.1||12.8||32.3%||15.27%||Devin Harris||36.2%||Gordon Hayward||34.6%||C.J. Miles||30.7%|
|28||2012||2013||Tyrone Corbin||52.4%||81.8||6.2||16.9||36.6%||20.66%||Randy Foye||41.0%||Gordon Hayward||41.5%||Marvin Williams||32.5%|
|29||2013||2014||Tyrone Corbin||30.5%||81.1||6.6||19.2||34.4%||23.67%||Trey Burke||33.0%||Richard Jefferson||40.9%||Gordon Hayward||30.4%|
|30||2014||2015||Quin Snyder||41.7%||77.7||7.7||23.0||33.3%||29.60%||Gordon Hayward||32.8%||Trey Burke||27.1%||Dante Exum||35.3%|
Quin has the Jazz using the rule of three and 30% of all FGA are from outside. The looks are coming every game, and are being made by design. The three pointer is no longer something that happens on accident, it's by direct design. If the defense follows along close enough to the ball movement they'll eventually fall into Snyder's trap.
And yes, I get it, the % hasn't been there yet this season for some of our guys, but it's early. When it normalizes the sheer abundance of open shots will provide a bounty of points. As it stands, the team was evolving towards this 30% nexus point anyway.
Is it a normal growth, or exponential? Whatever it is, it's shooting nearly three times more threes than when the team was in the NBA Finals. And it's making more threes than ever before -- and that's with Trey Burke slumping.
The real evolution of the Utah Jazz and the three point shot isn't just taking more, or incorporating it into the offense more organically. (The majority of the threes are by design, and happen within the normal flow, not because someone comes off of three downscreens like Reggie Miller or Ray Allen). The real evolution is that everyone (for the most part) is going to qualify as three point capable.
So far this season 10 different players have made at least more than one three pointer. One more player has taken a three, and missed all of them; and yet another (Toure' Murry) will take and make threes if he ever gets to play this year. That will be 11 of 14 players -- the three who we do not expect to make a bunch of threes this year are Derrick Favors (starting center), Rudy Gobert (back up center), and Jeremy Evans (career 0/5 from outside). Oh, and all 10 of the guys who have hit threes average at least one hoist from downtown a game.
If you add it up, 14.4 3PTA per game are coming from forwards this year. Guards are getting to the line more, and bigmen are still finding spots inside and out of the paint to score from.
This offense isn't unique, as we've seen Chris Bosh and other bigmen predate upon teams who get sucked into group defending a slashing wing, he has hit more meaningful three pointers in the playoffs than most guards in the NBA. But it is an evolution of the Jazz offense.
We may not have been the first species on land, but we're no longer drowning on air the moment we get out of the water, anymore. Part of that is personnel, but a bigger part has been Quin's encouragement of people taking the open three -- even guys like Enes Kanter and Trevor Booker. Before being paired up with Quin and his playbook they went a combined 2/13 from outside over their career. That 15.38% isn't encouraging. But that's precisely that Snyder did with them, and so far this season they are a combined 13/36, which is 36.11% from downtown.
And if they weren't doing that then a lot more Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke drives would end in a turn over, and Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert wouldn't be so open under the basket.
When the Jazz a) finally determine the pace they play at, and b) Trey Burke starts to make his open threes -- watch out.
Historically Utah didn't take a lot of threes. But this year's team looks to leave history in the dust as they bomb away. It's where the game is going. And it's where our team is heading. And like with the experiments years ago to run the offense and exploit the defense it's going to result in better scoring inside the paint as an intended benefit. Just not by one guy this time around, but from our bigs and slashers.
The old offense had each player be a different shaped peg that fits into only a similarly shaped hole. Quin Snyder is running an offense that is making his best players into interchangeable Swiss army knives. And even if the team is two games below .500 right now, and have an average age of 24, they ALREADY have the 10th best offense in the league.
I can't wait to see how good this team can be.