To win in the NBA, there’s a winning formula that all teams need to follow. The rule of 2. Get you two hall-of-fame calibur guys and build around them. It’s mac and cheese.
Whether it was Jordan and Pippen, Kobe and Shaq, Stockton and Malone, winning teams would always have two super stars and would build around them with complimentary players that enhanced their skillsets.
There are exceptions to that rule here and there. There was the 2004 Detroit Pistons who upset the Lakers without a clear top 5-10 player on their team, but had a group of 5 players that meshed incredibly well.
There was the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals where Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry overcome the “BIG 3” in Miami. In reality this was a team that all complimented their best player, Dirk Nowitzki, who carried them to victory with one of the most incredible upsets we’ve ever seen.
Speaking of the BIG 3. Some would say that’s the new formula. Examples would be the Warriors with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green or Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers who beat the Warriors had Lebron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Even Stockton and Malone had Jeff Hornacek.
The important thing to remember is that the two lead guys have to compliment each other and the third guy’s skillset can’t interupt their chemistry. If that happens then it doesn’t work.
The same thing happened in Cleveland where Kevin Love, who had broken the record for consecutive double doubles in Minnesota, became a complimentary three point shooter and rebounder to allow Kyrie Irving and Lebron James to handle the ball.
Right now the Utah Jazz are messing with that formula. They’ve got perfect soft noodles and a creamy, rich cheese in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. It’s a combination of defense and scoring that is the core to a winning franchise for years to come. They’ve also found really nice complimentary pieces in players like Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale. Those are like a nice salad on the side and a cold coke to wash it down.
When the Jazz added Mike Conley they threw hot dogs into the cac and cheese.
Now, I like hot dogs with my mac and cheese. It’s pretty solid. And a hot dog on it’s own is one of the best things out there. But hot dogs in my mac and cheese isn’t something I’m putting out for when the neighbors come over. The neighbors probably aren’t coming back after that. Instead I’m going to focus on that mac and cheese and make it the best you can imagine.
I’m going to do a baked mac and cheese with strong cheddar and sprinkling either parmesan cheese and bread crumbs on top. If I’m being adventurous I might even used crushed cheetos.
Wait, I’m getting off track here.
The moral of this is the Jazz have a dynamic duo in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and they need to put their trust in them. When the Jazz traded for Mike Conley, it showed a lack of trust. Maybe they felt like it was just the box mac and cheese and they needed to do something more.
When Mike Conley went down with injury and the Jazz went on that big winning streak, we found out that it was the good stuff.
Donovan Mitchell was proving to be the primary playmaker the Jazz likely hoped he would eventually become. Rudy Gobert was completely dominant on defense and as a devastating roll man on offense.
Now the Jazz are completely out of wack and, having made no moves over the trade deadline, they’ve got to make things work.
Mike Conley is too good not to play. He’s a great playmaker with the ability to score. The only issue is that every possession the ball is in his hands, it’s one less possession for Donovan Mitchell and you’re getting diminishing returns. But on top of that, because the Jazz are having most possessions going to both Conley and Mitchell, it means less possessions for Joe Ingles who has disappeared during the Jazz 5-game losing streak.
To keep with the food analogy, there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
The other issue is that with Conley on the floor you’re missing out on size on the perimeter. With Mitchell surrounded by Ingles, Bogdanovic, O’neale and Gobert the Jazz had enough size and length to be a top-10 defense in the league. Now the Jazz are smaller on the perimeter and it’s showing in their ability to defend.
So how do you fix it?
First, Quin Snyder really needs to work on his rotations. The rote-ations (I’m very proud of that one) have to stop. The Jazz need to make decisions based on matchup and chemistry. If Utah is going into a game with the same rotation plan night after night, it’s not going to work. The well-coached, talented teams are figuring out the Jazz and Utah has to be proactive night to night. Instead of being reactive, be aggressive. Attack the weaknesses of the other team night after night. Put them on their heels. If the Jazz continue to roll out rotations that regularly get beat, things are not going to get better.
Mike Conley needs to start. He’s too good not to have on the floor. But he can’t close games. This is Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s team. In the final minutes of the game, Mitchell and Gobert have proven to be CLUTCH to finish games. With Conley on the floor there’s no clear hierarchy of possessions.
With a close game on the line, give the ball to Donovan. Don’t mess with that.
The Jazz likely could have made some moves during the trade deadline that could have put all their trust in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert but it’s clear nothing worked out. Now, the Jazz need to figure out how to make mac and cheese with hot dogs work. Can Quin Snyder soup this meal up and take it over the top? We’ll see.