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The Utah Jazz are preaching patience, but even patience has a shelf life

At this point last season, Utah was only 10 days away from a roster shakeup due to a slow start.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Jazz second loss in a row—the second game in a row in which they had two days of rest prior to the game—many Jazz players said that aspects of the Jazz’s game were good, but they just didn’t play a complete game. Those comments ranged from Donovan Mitchell’s “We played defense, but offense is what hurt us today” to Mike Conley’s “I felt like we kind of got out of that [execution] a little bit for those last eight or nine minutes” to Quin Snyder’s “We competed. We’ve got to play better.” From the quotes, you would have sworn Utah’s offense was firing on all cylinders and the effort was there every quarter until the fourth. That is until the voice of reason came along.

“I don’t think we did [get the shots we wanted],” Rudy Gobert said when asked about the Jazz’s execution in the loss. “We can play much better. We can execute better. We can play for one another better. Also, defensively, we can do a much better job.”

Right there, very starkly, Rudy Gobert reminded everyone why this Utah Jazz team is Rudy Gobert’s team. Full stop. While some felt their effort on the defensive end was satisfactory, the seven footer who is tasked with covering their six was there to remind them, “No.”

“But I think it’s up to all of us,” Gobert explained, “To stay in front of our man, be more physical and get those rebounds.”

He’s not wrong either. When Jeff Green was the primary defender, his man shot 72.7%.The Timberwolves averaged 1.72 points per shot whenever they were guarded by Jeff Green. Green himself only scored 1.375 points per shot. Green gave up 19 points in only 17 minutes while scoring 11. When Bojan Bogdanovic was the main defender his man shot 71.4%. Royce O’Neale allowed his defender to shoot 63.6% for the game.

Meanwhile Rudy Gobert defended 31 shots in the game, whoever he was guarding in that possession shot 38.7%. Rudy Gobert defended as many shots as Green, Bogdanovic, and O’Neale combined in last night’s game.

As far as the good looks, the Utah Jazz only had 45 shots that were uncontested compared to Minnesota’s 55. Utah also took 44 contested shots in the game compared to Minnesota’s 33. Utah didn’t get good looks last night. I even mentioned this on twitter last night when comparing the Utah Jazz over the past few years under Quin Snyder. This year, the Utah Jazz are FAR below prior Snyder teams in manufacturing open looks.

Part of that is Utah having better shooters and not having people give Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors, and Ricky Rubio space for days on long twos and threes, but that’s something that only requires an adjustment, it shouldn’t break the system. The Golden State Warriors—prior to this season—averaged the highest amount of wide open looks per game despite having three ungodly good shooters on their team. People were trying to stay glued to these guys, but still were able to get a lot of open looks.

The other part is Utah went out to improve their shooting and despite the trade for Conley and signings of Jeff Green and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz are sitting at an average (ranked 14th in the NBA) shooting percentage on open looks (57.1% eFG%). Last night wasn’t any different. Utah shot 36.4% on uncontested shots last night. Lest you think they were making it rain from deep, they only had a total eFG% of 42.7% for the entire game and only made 12 of 31 from deep. In the 4th quarter they went 1 for 8.

While I commend Quin Snyder for rallying the troops and saying the effort is there on nights like last night, that’s not the effort Jazz fans were hyped for nor promised. The type of effort that Jazz fans have seen to start this season are right in line with what they’ve seen from season’s past. Poor shooting, subpar bench production, and an inability to escape close games. This is Groundhog’s Day for all of us. We’ve seen this script before, only with a different starting small forward and point guard for the last four seasons.

If anything this year is different in that the offense is somehow worse with Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic than it was with Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors. This year’s Utah Jazz has more in common with the 2009-2010 Charlotte Bobcats that brought the hammer on defense and disappeared on offense.

Those teams unfortunately mirror each other. While the season is still young, we’re approaching the point of the season where small sample size is no longer a valid escape route. We’re approaching a time when patience must shift to urgency. It was about this time last season that Utah had a 32.8% 3PT%, the Jazz offensive efficiency ranked 24th at 105.9 (+2.2 better than this season), and the Jazz’s eFG% was 51.9% (14th). Utah was 8-9 at this point last season vs 8-5.

Fans were told to be patient.

But that wasn’t what the front office was thinking.

Dennis Lindsey and his staff only waited four more games—the Jazz went 1-3 in those games—and pulled the trigger on a trade for more shooting when they acquired Kyle Korver on November 28th, 2018. They didn’t even wait until December.

Right now Utah’s offense is worse at this point than it was last year. It has a lower offensive efficiency, it is missing a higher percentage of wide open shots, it’s at almost at a Quin Snyder-Jazz All-Time low of assisted field goals at 53.8% despite having a max player at point guard and better shooting, and they’re getting less wide open shots per game than any other time under Snyder.

Jazz fans were told to look forward to a deep run in the playoffs. 13 games into the season, Jazz fans haven’t even seen a deep offensive run in a game. Last season, it only took 10 days from now under better conditions for Utah to make external changes to their early season experiment. Quin Snyder and most of the Jazz roster are preaching patience, but even patience has a shelf life.