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Utah Jazz Downbeat #2051: The switch to offense over defense

Is Quin Snyder is making the Playoff Rotation known? Could Karl Malone put this team over the top? Where’s Dante? All this and more!

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are a defense first club that seems to be tinkering a bit with making the offense more fluid and dynamic, while sitting those who bust their butts on defense. We’ll see how this plays out. Also a trip down memory lane with The Mailman, a look at a summer promotion, and a deep dive into Dante!

Another day another day without a Utah Jazz game. That’s fine with me. Last night we did get two monkeys off of our potential backs: the San Antonio Spurs finally lost a game, and the Oklahoma City Thunder finally won one. Hopefully OKC ‘blew their energy’ (emotional and physical) getting out of that losing streak and are less motivated against our guys on Saturday night. But it’s really the big picture that matters. The egg heads over at suggest that the Jazz are now going to win only 50 games (down from 51), but are up to a 4% chance to win the NBA title! That’s the same % chance as the Houston Rockets . . . and Cleveland Cavaliers by the way.

With how off they were about the election, I don’t mind these odds at all. Prepare for the championship parade!

What’s your second favorite local market sports team? (I’m assuming that the Utah Jazz are #1) Okay, I mean, what’s your second favorite local market professional team? (I know a whole bunch of you guys and gals love NCAA football and basketball) From what I see on twitter it’s RSL. Which is strange, isn’t America’s past time baseball? Doesn’t the SLC area have a baseball team? One that’s been in the market since 1994? (A full ten years longer than Real Salt Lake has been around)

I guess the Salt Lake Bees do not have the market penetration that RSL has because RSL has a championship, and the Bees do not. One thing the Bees have over RSL is that the Bees are owned by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. And as a direct result, we get this:

Yes, hand-me-down uniform day! #GetHyped

So. The Utah Jazz are a strong defensive team. But not perfect. Not impenetrable. Which players have gone off on the Jazz this year? (Data via

  • Russell Westbrook (OKC) - 43 points
  • Damian Lillard (POR) - 39
  • Lou Williams (LAL) - 38
  • Russell Westbrook (OKC) - 38
  • Kyle Lowry (TOR) - 36
  • James Harden (HOU) - 35
  • Kyle Lowry (TOR) - 33
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) - 33
  • James Harden (HOU) - 31
  • Eric Bledsoe (PHX) - 31
  • Harrison Barnes (DAL) - 31
  • Kawhi Leonard (SAS) - 30
  • Kawhi Leonard (SAS) - 29
  • Isaiah Thomas (BOS) - 29
  • LeBron James (CLE) - 29
  • Isaiah Thomas (BOS) - 29
  • Carmelo Anthony (NYK) - 28
  • Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) - 28
  • Zach LaVine (MIN) - 28
  • Elfrid Payton (ORL) - 28
  • Zach Randolph (MEM) - 28
  • Goran Dragic (MIA) - 27
  • Russell Westbrook (OKC) - 27
  • James Harden (HOU) - 26
  • Stephen Curry (GSW) -26

Anything pop out? Yeah, most of these guys are point guards (or SGs playing PG this year): 17/25. The sooner you can trot out Dante Exum to play defense and get the respect of the refs the better. (Paul Millsap tells you not to hold your breath though.)

Karl Malone videos? Sure thing. Let’s first never ever forget that he was a two-sport athlete:

And secondly, Krispy Flakes tries to get him a ring by putting him on the current Utah Jazz squad and simulating the season in NBA2K. (Some NSFW language.)

The results are . . . mixed. But it’s a great thought experiment; however, the problem is that NBA skill sets are cumulative with era. Karl grew up learning the game in the 1970s and made the league in the mid 1980s. I feel like he does not have the ball handling ability or deep range that the top level power forwards of today have. He does have the inside game that would be without peer today; though the lack of the illegal defense rules from the 80s/90s would play against him now.

I think if you add Karl to this Jazz team you definitely have a contender team. And pairing him in the front court with Rudy Gobert gives him the best non- Shaq center he’s ever played with. Alas, I also don’t think that Quin Snyder’s offense is made for him. But that’s not the end of the world, there are a number of player’s on this team that the offense is not made for.

All that said, I do love the idea of Karl Malone playing with talented teammates again. He would give this team some nasty, something that it currently clearly lacks. But maybe ‘nasty’ isn’t part of the Xs and Os of this team.

A three point shooting guy playing the ‘4’ is. And that means Derrick Favors could be sitting more while Joe Johnson is out there on the floor.

As an aside, this then would be the first time the Jazz franchise are playing with a 6’7 guy in crunch time at power forward since Truck Robinson back in 1979. But he wouldn’t be a good fit for this offense either, just like Karl or Derrick.

...and speaking of guys this current offense isn’t made for, let’s talk about this great article by Tommy Dee about Dante Exum.

Here’s an excerpt:

The question becomes how do you value what Exum is now versus what he can be potentially. Have we seen enough offensively to determine that he can be a useful, 25-30 minute per game player even in the playoffs when rotations tighten? Will more minutes and offensive responsibility take away from his overall defensive game?

For the sake of the Jazz organization, the emergence of George Hill into one of the game’s better two-way lead guards has limited the pressure on Exum to step into the forefront. That’s a benefit for Exum, who will turn 22 in July.

Exum’s injury and Hill’s emergence has allowed him to, at times, blend in off the ball and it shows his feel for the game and the potential of finding different ways to score.

As illustrated by the shot charts above, Exum had a solid 2014-15 in terms of shooting left corner 3s (took 58, made 41 percent) but so far this year he’s shooting just 22 percent from the corners. The ability is there, but the numbers aren’t, yet.

Exum has shown flashes of having the ability to finish off cuts, where he averages 1.43 points per possession, which is in the same company as names like LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard.

With the ball, Exum can be a handful, especially going right in the high pick-and-roll with Rudy Gobert. His 0.79 points per possession mark scoring in the pick-and-roll, with a fairly high volume, on 24.2 percent of his possessions, has him among a group of solid rotational guards like Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon (0.78), Indiana’s Monta Ellis (0.78) and Toronto’s Cory Joseph (0.79), as well as the Bucks’ dynamic Giannis Antetokounmpo (0.79)

One potential positive sign that his knee is close to 100 percent, Exum has shown some burst to the rim at times and is finishing

This is where drafting Exum so high actually benefits the Jazz, despite the negative narrative about him potentially being a disappointment for his draft slot. Utah has him under contract through next year and can slowly develop him in their system, maintaining all the contractual leverage.

Tommy Dee, Fansided, 2017

First, yeah; I get it. It’s a long excerpt. But the deep dive into Dante is much longer and worth the full read. There are charts, quotes, links, evidence presented, and more. Dee is the man. I love his stuff. Read this article about Dante. You will too.

As for my ‘take’, I’ll have something up on Dante later on today. Personally I think he has the potential to be a solid starter on a team that wins a lot of playoff games. At the 5th pick you hope you get a star. Dante still could be one. But getting a starting guard on a contending team is far from being a bust.