One thing we know is that the Utah Jazz are not so hot on defense. But another thing is that under the direction of Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan the team used to have one of the best offenses in the land. Quin Snyder seems to be making strikes with the team, and the team game may not be as immediately impressive as an isolation based game that ran, the dividends are paying off. What are the Jazz doing today that is different from the previous decade? How has the Jazz offense changed? We can take a close look at this because of Synergy Sports Tech data. And we should.
I have data from the 2004-2005 season (somehow only 73 of 82 games), but all the data from every season since then. I did strip mine all of this info from their database before the Spurs game, so this is for 40 games. The one thing you see is that while the team has changed over time, the constant is that the team has been effective on offense.
The last few seasons under Tyrone Corbin were not that great, but anything is a far cry from Jerry Sloan running a team on offense that boasts , , , , and . Snyder has the team running with a higher PPS (points per shot) and PPP (points per possession) value this season (2014-15) than the previous three seasons. So there is immediate improvement in the overall performance. But the team is still an average offensive team. What has changed with the plays run?
1. Following NBA Trends:
Quin's playbook runs in the same direction as the rest of the NBA. Players (all players, from point guards to bigmen) are better shooters today. His playbook allows for more players to get open via spot up attempts. Also, more different types of players are spotting up. This also goes with the shift in offense from a point guard dominated club to one run from the wings.
Spot Up performance is very important. Sadly, the Jazz of today are below average in completing this necessary part of the game plan. Spot ups are almost 1/4th of what the Jazz do on offense. So the sooner this gets fixed the better.
Furthermore, transition attempts seem to be swinging back towards higher pace across the league. We're out of the dirty 90s of Ugly Ball where the Cavs would try to win games 86-83, and teams like the Pistons and Knicks would foul you three times every play.
Sadly, transition play is not happening with Utah as much as it should. By performance no team is better than the Jazz at scoring in transition. There are great athletes on the team now, a number of solid finishers at the rim, and a handful of players who can trail for an open three. The team just isn't getting in transition enough because their defense does not yet cause turn overs or, well, stop the other team. One foot before the other, though, Jazz. Once the D gets better the transition game will explode. (And for the record, every single player on the Jazz who qualifies is average or better in transition aside from. Three of our players are excellent, and four are very good.)
I feel like these two parts of the offense are organic. The playbook tries to get guys open for spot up shots, which is what most teams run by former Spurs assistants run. Running the break makes a lot of sense too. It's how the game is played again. The Miami Heat used to destroy teams with great defense leading to easy buckets.
2. Reduction of Flex Elements:
The offense the Jazz ran for years was a strange remix of an offense Dick Motta popularized years ago, that was heavily put into rotation by Frank Layden and Phil Johnson -- and then remixed again by Jerry Sloan. A team without super stars could compete with it by passing the ball, setting screens, moving, and getting layups. That was the point of the game, get close shots. Quin's playbook is about getting open shots. The movement is by passing, yes, but more on progressive dribble penetration. In the Flex you moved your players around and got a shot. Snyder is trying to move the defense around, and get an open shot.
To parts of the flex offense are cuts and off-screen motion.
The Cut has made a small come-back, and the Jazz are very good at it this season. However, it has been De-emphasized for a while now in Utah.
There are almost no plays on offense that finish off-screen. In fact, the progressive ball movement offense uses players getting the ball off-screens on almost every play, but then they become parts of other offensive elements.
No more- curl. No more cut. And as a result, this is a brand new offense -- though, please, bring back the cut. The team is really good at scoring off of them. (9th best in the NBA) The Off-screen as a terminal part of an offense play can keep moving, the Jazz are 29th at it.
3. One on one Play is reduced:
Do you remember the Alfense? Do you remember #MOLO ? Of course you do. Those were never efficient offenses. You need star ability to get it done, and whileis becoming one, he does not rely on it. It's not a one trick pony. The Jazz never moved around without the ball (he would have been great in the P&R or off of cuts if he could move). While the Jazz had a recognizable offense with the one on one play or post ups, it was predictable, and easy to stop when the games matter -- and they mattered in the playoffs. I am glad Snyder has thrown these out, like the money-lenders, from the Jazz playbook.
It was okay with a Karl Malone. It's much less effective when you're using anyone else. The team isn't good at it right now, the players can't do it by themselves with their back to the basket -- and it's simpler and easier to score moving to the basket. Which is what Corbin never did with Jefferson. (Oh, by the way -- the one year in Minny when BIg Al was amazing . . . he did.)
The one on one play through face up isolations are something I wasn't crazy for; but Synergy tells me that Gordon Hayward is excellent at it, andis average. And the Jazz, as a team, are average at it.
It's happening more, but mostly by Hayward; and this is a natural progression of his own offense suit of abilities. But overall, less one on one play means the defense can't easily focus on one player. And thus, an engaged team is a harder team to stop.
4. A return of the Pick and Roll
Remember that we have the All-Time leader in assists, and the #2 All-Time leader in points? And John Stockton and Karl Malone used to use this thing called the pick and roll. Deron Williams used it well with Carlos Boozer, but today with so many ball handlers and a variety of men to set screens there are so many variations of what the team can do with this most simple of fundamental plays.
And you know what? The Jazz are doing it again.
The P&R Ball handler + P&R Screen, as a cumulative proportion of the plays the Jazz run this season is at an 11 season (well, 10.5 season) high this year at 24.1%. Thank you. This is how you get good off-ball action for spot up shooters and a great way to use the fact that this team actually DOES have very good athletes now.
Early this season Alec Burks was getting Dante Exum play pick and roll from day one will help him in so many ways. And I'd rather this than iso / #MOLO / Alefense any day.lots of open baseline jumpers. Trey Burke continues to find where he can score from. Gordon Hayward knows when to call his own number or squeeze a good pass in. And, well, is such a great roll target that you just need to throw it up in his vicinity sometimes. Making
5. Woah, what is this thing?
Dribble what now? Dribble hand off.
This looks specifically like the type of play that would get Jerry Sloan to fireout of a cannon into the Atlantic Ocean. But Snyder understands the game in a little different way than Jer did. No Jazz team in the history of this decade plus data set shows the Jazz using this at all. This team is running these at a 3x rate than the 11 season average. It's not paying off yet, but used as a 'set up' move that you have to run enough to make the defense commit to the receiver on the dribble hand off frees EVERY ELSE up. If you never punt a fake punt play isn't going to work. If you don't try to score off of a dribble hand off, setting up a complex play that is a double dribble hand off weave to a guy coming off of an off-ball screen, who then gets into a pick and roll with a big, only to pass to a cutter, who then passes it to a guy who is spotting up will never work.
And really, that's where this offense is heading. The Dick Motta offense worked for centuries because it made sense and got the job done. Like the catapult. Snyder's offense is like an orbital weapons platform that can destroy things from space. And while the offense doesn't look great every day, it's getting there.
Handy Table that illustrates the change:
I didn't talk about the Jazz dominance on offensive rebound plays / put backs. There's no need. The team is great, and always has been great at it since getting a/ Enes Kanter on the team. I also didn't talk about Misc plays, broken plays, where the Jazz score anyway.
They don't matter. What matters are the big pieces of the puzzle. The large building blocks for this offense either run with the rest of the league, remove parts that were bad from our previous offenses, or bring back the bread and butter that countless playoff games have been won with.
Thank you to SB Nation for giving me the opportunity to add so much to the Utah Jazz community. I love having access to the full database of Synergy Sports Tech, and love using it in conjunction with the available data and media I get through the NBA Media Central page. (If you aren't actual media you don't get in, and the NBA decides if you are or are not.) There are great resources out there like Basketball-Reference.com , FindTheBest.com , RealGM.com , BasketballInsiders.com , HoopsHype.com, DraftExpress.com , and others. And having earned the right to give our readers the best info from the best sources is forcing me to be my best as well.
And Jazz fans deserve nothing but the best.
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