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Utah Jazz defense is going to improve with added responsibility for Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert

Improvements with the Utah Jazz defense, challenges, protecting the paint, and Dante Exum's game to game improvements. A bonus downbeat for the best fans in the world!

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Because I missed the Friday #UTAatLAC recap, and had nothing posted up on the site all Saturday I am putting out another Downbeat this weekend. For you, the loyal readers of SLC Dunk. Without you all visiting here and contributing as often as you do this season will be a failure, no matter what the Utah Jazz do on the court. This site has always been about the community and the strength of this site is the community. So I want to always make sure that I keep you all happy!

A group of guys who are keeping us all happy right now are the Utah Jazz. They are 4-1 right now and will play the Los Angeles Lakers tonight to cap off their extended California trip. Yes, it's preseason, but these games are a good indication of where teams are right now in their norming / forming stages. You can't say a 4-1 record 'means something' for the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors (actually 5-1) -- but doesn't for the Jazz. In an internally consistent world their starts are just as meaningless as ours, or ours is just as indicative of the season to come, as theirs are.

I don't think we care about wins and losses this year. And we know that Dennis Lindsey didn't care last year either (you can't say he cared if his go-to free agent signing was John Lucas III). But I think wins are going to happen here. And not by accident like they did last year, but by design. So far what we're seeing with the Jazz is a strong rebounding club that plays functional defense that tries to take advantage of the other team on offense. This is a far cry from the square peg into a round hole of previous seasons.

First, the Jazz try to take advantage by counter-attacking after a defensive stop. They have the horses to run (just like last year) but are getting the stop which leads up to the transition opportunity. Second, the three pointers are now coming more and more from the wing and corner, instead of the top of the arc. This is because the team is using central dribble penetration to cause a defensive reaction into the paint. This allows for guys who spot up to actually be open now. Last season the Jazz took a lot of guarded threes (rip Synergy Sports). This season they are open again, and form as a consequence of ball movement -- not a rushed attempt to beat the shot clock. And third, probably most important, the team really is looking for advantages this year. If Gordon Hayward is beating his man on a back-cut he'll get the ball. If Rodney Hood can take his man off the bounce, he will. And so forth.

The good play so far from our club is that simple. Better defense. Faster offense. Floor space, and a game plan that gravitates to advantages. It's dynamic and adaptive. Like a child learning how to solve problems, or, uh, the Ebola virus. Or both. We are a very cute but deadly organism that is learning and could be a big problem in the future for people overlooking us in the present.



TazzJazzFan , you may remember him being that awesome guy who used to live in Hobart, brings us this awesome piece from Fox Sports Australia about Dante Exum. They focus in his play so far in Cali, and chronicle the game-by-game improvements and adjustments made by the Rookie. It's a multimedia piece with videos, words, and and you may already be following some of the people they quote (via Twitter) in this piece.

Exum again combined brilliantly with the Jazz's towering centre Rudy Gobert, connecting for a second alley-oop in as many games and generally troubling the Lakers with speed and ball movement.

- Fox Sports Australia, 2014

It's also refreshing to see that people half-way around the world are able to identify that our bench play of a Dante Exum oop pass to Rudy Gobert is going to be deadly going forward. It's well worth the click, even if it's just for their crazy Moon-man accent in the videos.



In the last Downbeat we looked a little at the raw defensive numbers of the Jazz. I am not alone in finding that our defensive performance is worth mentioning early this preseason. HoopsHabit's D'Joumbarey A. Moreau breaks it down here. D'Joumbarey identifies key building blocks for the team, and serious obstacles for the team, but recognizes the changing culture here. When discussing where to start he takes a look at our max player Gordon Hayward:

Snyder needs to get Hayward on board first because of Hayward's combination of length, athleticism, strength and quickness, he should become a member of the All-Defensive Team.

Hayward has the physical tools and has more than enough potential to become one of the best defensive stoppers in the NBA. The sooner he gets close to becoming the All-Defensive player that he can become, the quicker the Jazz will become an [actual] contender for a playoff spot.

- D'Joumbarey A. Moreau, HoopsHabit, 2014

When have you read a piece about the Jazz defense that starts off with G-Time? Was it never? Yeah, check it out, and not just because it's another guy talking about defense. Check it out because it's a well written piece which describes defense. And that's the difference with the team this season. It's not just talking about basketball, it's actually playing it. There are details and nuances. And this year Jazz fans are going to be happy with what they see.



Speaking of defense, I think with the Jazz this year it really starts with reclaiming the paint. One guy who knows something about that is two-time Defensive player of the year Mark Eaton. He is also very vocal about being available to speak to your company about teamwork and execution. He knows what's up. Check him talking about protecting guys' backs, and in specifics, the paint.

Rudy Gobert, listen up! Also, "Dat workplace safety talk. Hawtt."



The Jazz play tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, then have two more preseason games: @ Oklahoma City Thunder, and then vs. the Phoenix Suns at home. What's the Jazz final record after 8 preseason games?