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The Jazz Defense hasn’t Skipped a Beat

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Despite an offensive minded offseason, they’re still the best defense in the league

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

This summer the Utah Jazz front office decided to address some offensive issues that were facing the roster. The lack of a legitimate secondary and tertiary scorer next to Donovan Mitchell had run its course. Due to shooting and spacing constraints, the ceiling of the roster as constructed had reached its ceiling.

Enter Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. Out go Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio.

These were the biggest moves made in the offseason. Another roster slot seemingly swapped was Jae Crowder for Jeff Green. Understandably, there were some voices of concern worried about how Utah’s defense was going to be losing that group of players.

Utah has built a reputation of being one of the best defenses in the league. That elite defense has won a ton of ball games the past few years. What would happen to the culture and identity of the team if some defensive talent was replaced with offensively-focused players? This is something we’ve wondered for a while, and now we got the chance to find out.

Well, as it turns out, apparently it doesn't matter.

Utah’s defense is once again right at the top of the league and are just choking teams out at times. Here we see that they are holding every single team to a worse offensive night than their season averages. The overall average of these offenses would be 14th in the league. But their offensive rating against Utah would be the worst offense in the NBA. Yes, even worse than the New York Knicks with 18 power forwards.

Rudy Gobert is the best defensive player on the planet. Honestly, I think he might be the best defensive player this world has ever seen. His influence is just that resounding. The defensive rating of Derrick Favors, Ricky Rubio, and Jae Crowder the last 2 seasons was 102.1, 102.7, and 100.9 respectively. Bogdanovic, Conley, and Green on the other hand were at 105.4, 105.4, and 109.7.

Three key contributors were replaced by 3 worse defenders. And the Utah defense just continues to grind. Gobert has already started his case to 3-peat as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Quin Snyder deserves credit as well. Obviously, having Gobert makes scheming a defense a lot easier for any coach. But Quin recognizes how to maximize the talent in front of him and puts his team in a position to succeed more often than not. There’s a reason someone like Emmanuel Mudiay came to Utah specifically to play under the great development of coach Snyder’s staff. In fact, all of the newcomers this year have benefited significantly on the defensive end.

Mike Conley

  • Career average Defensive Rating: 104.9
  • Last season: 105.6
  • This season: 98.7

Bojan Bogdanovic

  • Career average Defensive Rating: 107.9
  • Last season: 105.8
  • This season: 97.6

Jeff Green

  • Career average Defensive Rating: 106.6
  • Last season: 113.2
  • This season: 99.7

Ed Davis

  • Career average Defensive Rating: 105.0
  • Last season: 102.2
  • This season: 87.0

Emmanuel Mudiay

  • Career average Defensive Rating: 111.9
  • Last season: 114.8
  • This season: 85.5

Donovan Mitchell having help on the offensive end has also made him a significantly better defender as well. He doesn’t have to exhaust himself just to get the team a few buckets this year. His defensive rating is down to 95.7 this year, 8 full points lower than last season. His steals, DWS rate, and defensive box plus-minus are all at career highs. That was an additional benefit from Bojan and Conley that I wasn’t expecting.

Were we justified in thinking that Utah’s defense might take a step back? Absolutely. But has that actually happened? Not even close. So the Jazz defense, aka the world’s worst dentist, continues to wreak havoc on NBA offenses.

Stats used were found on stats.nba.com or basketball-reference.com and were prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors on November 11th, 2019.