Jazz fans are in territory they haven’t been in for a while.
For the last few years the Jazz have been lopsided, and for the most part it worked. Anchored behind 2X (soon to be 3X) DPOY Rudy Gobert the defense alone was so dominant that it would win them around 50 games for 3 seasons. Although, whether the offense was lead by Gordon Hayward or Donovan Mitchell, the lack of offensive firepower around them would fail to get them over the top.
But just like in life, if you only focus on one thing and let other things drop off, you’ll fall short of the ultimate happiness that comes with finding balance.
To fix that, and find that balance they were looking for, the Jazz made some hard decisions. They traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency. This meant letting Ricky Rubio go in free agency and trading Derrick Favors.
For Utah it has had some interesting results.
First, the defense looks better than it was last year. Right now on NBA.com the Utah Jazz have the second rated defense behind the Los Angeles Lakers with a defensive rating of 99.7. Last year, over the entire season, the Jazz were also second in the league in defense but with a defensive rating of 105.3.
Now, it’s early in the year and there’s tons of noise comparing the first ten games to an entire year, but I don’t think anyone expected the defense to be this good coming into this season. Rubio, when he was healthy and willing, was a solid defender and we all know what Derrick Favors can do on the defensive end.
On the other hand, the thing we all predicted was the Jazz offense to be better than the defense, and one of the best in the league. The problem is that it hasn’t been.
Currently the Jazz are holding the #23 spot on NBA.com’s offensive rating. Last year over the course of the season they ended with the #14 rated offense.
Again, small sample size but still surprising. Comparing last year’s net rating the Jazz were at 5.0 and are currently at 4.7. I think personally I would have expected this year’s net rating to be higher so far.
So why should we be excited? Over the course of most of last season, the Jazz were sitting in the mid 20’s in offense and around #10 in defense. When their nightmarish schedule eased up the last third of the season they went on a roll. They were playing a lot of low level teams that had little desire to hurt their draft spot by upsetting the Jazz and it showed in Utah’s huge upswing in performance.
What the Jazz are doing now has been against some of the best teams in the league, with Mike Conley not quite comfortable and with a few injuries to start the year, albeit with mostly ancillary players.
Now that we see Mike Conley finding a groove (in his last 7 games his statline is 18.7 PPG, 3.9 AST while shooting 45% from the field and 43% from three) and the schedule evening up, the Jazz should see an even bigger uptick in production.
Finally, the Jazz saw in the playoffs last year that their #14 rated offense might have been mostly fools gold as they were handled pretty easily by the Rockets. In the short span of the season Jazz fans have seen the team come up huge at the end of games with big performances by key players getting difficult buckets.
Those type of performances won’t show up on basketballreference.com if you’re just checking box scores, but the place they will show up is in the playoffs when the Jazz earn themselves a spot in the Western Conference finals.
Right now we’re seeing the balance that Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik have been building towards for years.
Sit back and enjoy this, Jazz fans, it’s not often teams find this level of basketball nirvana.