After a tough five game week, the Utah Jazz have two games off. No time like now to take a look at the state of the Jazz after nearly 40 games. Personally, I think that the record is indicative of quality within this team, and a second half surge is probably in the books when you take a look at the schedule. Utah is also kind of stuck in the slow lane, but let's look at how that can be fixed, if at all. (Big hint: it relies on playing even better defense in the future now that Gobzilla is back in on the court.) Despite the tough schedule and tougher injuries, this team still has found a way to win big games. A big part of that has been the impressive play of both starters and bench guys alike in those games.
The Utah Jazz are 17-20 and to be within +/- 3.0 games from a .500 record after all the injuries is something to be somewhat proud of. In a season where the Golden State Warriors are 35-2, the San Antonio Spurs are 32-6, and 9 different Eastern Conference teams are above .500 it's easy to overlook what the Jazz are doing right now. What are they doing? They are holding onto a playoff spot in the West despite playing so much of the season without a full deck.
Only two players have played every game this season, Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke. On the other end of the spectrum, Dante Exum has missed 37 games, Rudy Gobert has missed 20 games, Derrick Favors has missed 11 games, and Alec Burks has missed 9 games. As you can imagine, many of them have been out of action at the same time. In ten of 37 games this season the Jazz had to play without three starters.
Yes, this all looks like apologetic prose, but it serves to establish why I'm still so happy about this team. If you look at the game data, it's likely that the team was just going to LOSE those games they already did lose with three starters out if they were at full strength. Very few of the projected wins really were filed as losses in reality during the last few weeks. Sure, there are SOME, but the brutal early schedule, one that was also road heavy at that, was to be filled with losses anyway.
What remains are home games, easy games, and a healthier team every single week going forward. I am encouraged.
The Utah Jazz remain very slow on the court. They are dead last in the NBA in pace of play (30th). I like to think that pace of play CAN improve with two very important defensive situations -- rebounds and turn overs. You're going to be a slow team if you have to inbound the ball every play. Right now opposing teams are averaging 45.1 FG% (18th "best'), 36.1 3PT% (23rd), 77.0 FT% (23rd), and 50.1 eFG% (18th) against the Jazz. Each of these values are bottom half in the league, and the average of those four ranks is 20.5th place out of 30. So you see why I think rebounds and turn overs are important.
If the opponent misses you can counter attack in transition if you get the rebound, or force a turn over. The Jazz are GOOD at rebounding. They get 76.4% (NBA Rank 13th) of the other team's misses on defense. That's good. With more Rudy Gobert (and hopefully Derrick Favors soon) back I can only imagine those values going skyward. The other factor is forcing turn overs. The Jazz are 9th best in the NBA at this, forcing a turn over 14.3% of the time (TOV%).
I think the pace of play has the potential to improve. I'm not asking the Jazz to get the other team to turn it over once in five plays (20%), but they could put the heat on a little more with more consistent health. It would be nice to force more misses though. But what would REALLY be nice is if the Jazz didn't send the other team to the free throw line so much. The opponent gets to the line 23.5 times a game. That is 15th best in the NBA, but remember that's pace related. The other team has a FG/FTA value of .231 (25th in the NBA). It's hard to pick up the pace and counter attack if you have to do it from a static free throw, one that usually goes in.
Better health will lead to better defense, I believe. Hopefully also fewer fouls called too!
The slow pace of play helps the defense, Utah is holding teams to 96.7 ppg this season, 5th best in the league. The slow pace, naturally, hurts the offense though, as Utah is only scoring 96.4 ppg this season. That 27th best in the NBA, and a net +/- that is below zero. Utah remains in the 11-20 range in ORTG and DRTG. With the big "scoreboard" factors all included, the Jazz are a middle-ish team.
Holding it together after 10 different starting line ups is commendable.
As a team the Jazz have had a few signature wins:
- Utah Jazz 97 - Indiana Pacers 76
- Utah Jazz 89 - Memphis Grizzlies 79
- Utah Jazz 97 - Atlanta Hawks 96
- Utah Jazz 93 - Toronto Raptors 89
- Utah Jazz 102 - Los Angeles Clippers 91
- Utah Jazz 122 - Indiana Pacers 119 (OT)
- Utah Jazz 110 - Phoenix Suns 89
- Utah Jazz 92 - Memphis Grizzlies 87 (OT)
- Utah Jazz 98 - Miami Heat 83
In many of them the common denominator was a star player taking control and taking over. Early on it was Derrick Favors, but lately it's been Gordon Hayward (duh, because Derrick is currently out). I don't think other teams want to see what this team can do if both are firing on all cylinders at the same time.
Which was the most impressive win of the season? And no, beating the Lakers doesn't count!
What about the players? Six different Jazzmen are playing at least half the game (24 mpg). But they aren't the only players producing out there when they are on the floor.
Who is impressing you the most this season?I think Withey needs more minutes, but I don't know where he'll get them.
Gobert has star power.
I'll never stop being amazed by the stories I hear about Jimmy. This is a very cool moment captured by Moni! If you could share a moment with any courtside celeb, who would it be?