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The Utah Jazz offense can—and must—adapt

With a tough Thanksgiving road trip looming, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz made some significant moves this offseason. After being the team with one of the highest roster continuity from the year prior (92%), they recognized significant changes were needed to raise the ceiling of the team. And changes they made. They found themselves significantly lower in that roster continuity coming into this season at just 58%.

These are changes that we as fans wanted. But the results? Yikes. Now, ultimately the team is still at 8-5 and tied for 5th in the West. It’s not all bad. But the expectations were higher than that coming into the season. The defense is still there, thank you Rudy, with the 2nd best defensive rating through 13 games.

The offense? 25th. That’s not going to cut it. Mychal even reviewed that yesterday’s Downbeat. In the last few years the Jazz have had an average offense. They’ve been 16th, 12th, 16th, and 14th offensively. Then they make offensive minded moves and drop to 25th!? Not ok.

The question isn’t really can they figure it out, but when they will figure it out.

Our favorite Andy’s have actually both covered some of these issues quite well. Andy Bailey put together a nice article on Forbes that you can read here. To preface, when Bailey talks about ZWPGTD he’s referring to Zone Where Possessions Go To Die or the non-restricted area. The place the Jazz backcourt has LOVED to shoot a contested floater. Here’s an interesting tidbit:

In 2018-19, just 14.4% of the Jazz’s shots came from the ZWPGTD. Just under 40% of their shots were from three, and 11.8% were corner threes. This season, the ZWPGTD attempts make up 21.3% of Utah’s attempts. The three-point-attempt rate is down to 35.9% and the corner-three-point-attempt rate is 9.0%.

Are teams doing more to take threes away from opponents? Maybe, but there are a number of possessions in which Jazz players are turning down fine, or even good looks to dribble into bad ones.

Andy Larson had a similar sentiment over at SL Trib which can be read here. Once again, here was some important and interesting data that I actually already tweeted out:

Both make a very similar point. One that I’m hoping to drive home as well. The Jazz are just not taking good shots right now. The talent is obviously there, but the execution hasn’t been. Warning, several pictures coming. I looked back at the last 3 years of 13-game starts to compare how we’re doing now to then. I looked at our overall advanced numbers, scoring, and shooting. Here they are:




(in order of year 2017-2019)

All this tells pretty much the same story. The Jazz just aren’t taking the right shots this year. WAY too much in the midrange. They are up from 116.2% in the midrange to 23.4% this year. If they can make that simple adjustment, I think they’ll be meeting the expectations we had coming into the season. I’ll give some more data points looking at the shot selection this year. First let’s look at the number of pull-up or step back shots for the last 3 years:

  • 2017-2018: 137
  • 2018-2019: 127
  • 2019-2020: 199

Why? Honestly, I’m not sure. Quin’s offense is all about making the right read and right now guys are settling for poor shots. What about floaters you ask?

  • 2017-2018: 73
  • 2018-2019: 84
  • 2019-2020: 130

Again, floaters aren’t a terrible shot in and of themselves. They can keep a defender honest on the pick and roll. But Utah is just taking way too many of them right now and they aren’t dropping. They need to take advantage of the players around them and be more patient with the offense. Sometimes it feels like they are just taking what the defense gives us rather than exploring for a better shot. Sometimes they pass up a good look and then end up taking a worse shot. The decision making (and shot making) just isn’t there quite yet.

Why? No idea. The easiest answer is that the group changed so much that they still need to get comfortable with one another. That’s reasonable and hopefully resolves itself soon. Another interesting explanation might be the poor schedule to start the season. And I’m not talking about the difficulty of opponent, but the insane traveling. Here’s about how many miles the Jazz have traveled in the first 13 games of the season, including how many home games:

  • 2017-2018: 5,810 (9 home games)
  • 2018-2019: 6,884 (6 home games)
  • 2019-2020: 7,372 (7 home games)

So despite having an extra home game compared to last year, they’ve traveled significantly more. Our schedule has been so weird, with 1 game road trips and 1 game home stands that it’s not shocking guys haven’t found a rhythm yet. This time 2 years ago, the Jazz 2 home stands of 4 and 3 games each. Last year they had already had a 2 game and 3 game home stand. So far this year they’ve had just a single 2-game home stand.

Home. Away. Home. Away. Home. Away. That type of travel takes its toll. I absolutely believe that has impacted the team’s offense. This also really limits the number of practice days, which makes addressing these issues all the more challenging.

On a scale of 1-10, my worry meter is probably still only a 1 or 2. I’m definitely concerned and a little frustrated, but I’m not completely worried yet. Quin’s track record is too successful to get worried just yet. Rudy Gobert is too good of a leader to get worried just yet. Donovan Mitchell is making enough progress to get worried just yet. Mike Conley has been too good for too long to get worried just yet.

Let’s hope we see some adjustments starting tonight and the team can get on a roll.