The Utah Jazz (11-8) are rolling right now. And everyone is noticing. We take a look at their defense, how it is fueling this run, but also how the offense is finally catching up. It’s a scary time for the rest of the Western Conference for sure. Also: beats, bigmen taking threes, and YouTube videos!
Use all of the #Hashtags you have, fellows!
The Utah Jazz are doing things right now. Good thing. The words people and the numbers people agree. Despite all the challenges (roster turnover, injuries to rotation guys) people are #Tak(ing)Note:
Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney writes:
“Even after four straight losses, Utah has managed to outscore opponents by 2.6 points per 100 possessions in the aggregate—all while being so far from fully operational. That's the margin of victory of a team racking up wins in the high 40s. Better play in the interim would help to temper the wild swings in that kind of data, but even now Utah's bigger-picture indicators largely suggest that things are fine. Not great, and on some nights not even all that good. But fine within the scope of what could be reasonably expected and in light of how much time a healthier version of this team should have left to work with.
“We've yet to see the full, additive function of Utah's best players building chemistry and working together. We've yet to see how even the lesser lineups might be lifted by reserves returning to more comfortable supporting roles. We've yet to see just how Quin Snyder, when given the luxury, might regulate the Jazz's playing time for the long haul. Depth isn't only a tool in case of emergency. It is an active boon meant for everyday use, provided that a team is forward-thinking enough to see the full extent of its value.”
That article was published on November 22nd, 2016. Since that four-game losing streak the Jazz bounced back and won four in a row. And these were big wins, 108-83, 95-68, 112-103, 120-101. And the numbers people show exactly what we’re seeing out there on the court.
The teams with the best offense and best defense are found in the top right quadrant. The Golden State Warriors have an unbelievable offense and are at the head of the class here. The other teams that are making some noise here are the reigning champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the re-loaded Boston Celtics. The Charlotte Hornets and the Utah Jazz look to be the newcomers to this ‘elite by numbers if not also by casual fan opinion’ group. And Utah, as expected, is ahead of the curve on defense. BUT WHAT IS NOT EXPECTED IS QUIN SNYDER’S OFFENSE FINALLY COMING ON LINE!
Furthermore, the Jazz are elite overall.
Here's a closer look at the top NBA teams in O & D efficiency. Gap from 1-2 = gap from 2-5 in efficiency differential as of today. pic.twitter.com/faaV3o6v73— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) November 30, 2016
May I remind you that this battle station is not yet fully operational. If Utah is ever healthy and in sync, the rest of the Western Conference will be blown up like Alderaan.
Ask and ye shall receive
You like beats. You love the Utah Jazz in-house DJ, The Snack Lord. Get some of his beats.
Where we learn Amar has a previously undiagnosed personality disorder
The game has changed. For reals. And I’m having a personal crisis as a result. Excuse the Karl Malone -like diction here, but here be my whole deal:
“You get the bawl. And you go and score — or try to score — in the paint. That’s first. If you miss you get the rebound, and do it again. Sometime though, maybe the three is the right play? But now, lots of teams run plays all game long for the three. Not - Not just at the end of the game. And we all here know three is more than two. But that’s just not the game the way I know how to play.”
Indeed, Stereotypical Karl Malone voice in my head. Indeed. The Utah Jazz have just won four in a row — and done so with Boris Diaw (a guard growing up), Trey Lyles (a small forward in college), and Joe Johnson (a former combo guard) playing power forward for the most part. The games finish with an average score of UTA 108.75 - OPP 88.75. Blowouts. A 25 point win, a 27 point win, a 9 point win, and a 19 point win.
I used to laugh at other teams who were forced to go small because they didn’t have the power inside to play the ‘man’s game’ in the paint. That’s my team now. Furthermore, it’s not just a spacing issue (Mark Eaton used to spend a whole lot of time at the three point line to give Karl room to deliver). It’s a tactical issue. Going small and playing a wing at PF is one thing. But actively using your center to pin down defenders on the perimeter is a whole new ball game.
Perhaps more than anything else that isn’t rule change related (#RIP Handcheck), it’s the barometer to how much the winds of change have eroded the game I love. (Or evolved it?) Centers are three point shooters. And it’s not by accident either.
Yes, our very own Mehmet Okur is on the left hand side there, a 6’11 big who did damage from deep. But Utah was still conventional under Jerry Sloan by having Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, and Matt Harpring all be paint scorers to off-set the one guy out there standing in that Eaton / Greg Ostertag flex offense floor spacing spot.
The ability to have bigmen step out and shoot threes (and make them) is just another aspect of the cumulative evolution of each generation’s skill set. So I can’t fight it. Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw can hit the three. They don’t hit the three enough for my liking right now (Lyles 3.7 threes a game at .268; Diaw at 1.5 threes a game at .200). But they seem to be deft enough to switch on defense and guard other three point shooters.
And this is where conventional thinking meets the cutting edge. Going small gives you versatility. Going big — a luxury — gives you match-up mismatches. If Derrick Favors and return to full health and step out and guard perimeter guys and/or hit the three himself then there’s no problem. If he cannot do one of those two things then we’re only going to see him and Rudy Gobert on the floor for spot minutes. Snyder will sub one out for the other as we’ve seen so far as a result.
Rudy is proving himself to be able to handle most of the paint duties by himself, but he clearly can’t do it all by himself. I think the Jazz, as a defense first team, are better with Favors and Rudy on the floor at the same time. But more and more of the league will adapt to that and adopt going small as the counter.
And me, and the version of Karl Malone that exists in my brain, do not like it.
So many words. Here are some moving pictures to break the monotony!
I don’t think enough people realize that G-Time can straight up rise and dunk on people.
Ridiculous. But few things are more ridiculous than Rudy right now.
Jazz fans want the D
At the end of the day, defense is what wins. And that’s the cornerstone of this Dennis Lindsey created team, one that overlooks the “what’s defense” Jazz of Mo Williams, Randy Foye, and Al Jefferson. Even guys like Chris Webber know where this Jazz team’s bread is buttered. Even Houston Rockets fan have to write about it now. Behold:
Here’s an excerpt:
Rudy Gobert is putting his mark on the Defensive Player of the Year award early this season. On the back of his play on the defensive end, the Jazz are 11-8 even with missing key pieces of their rotation for multiple games already. We know the story with the Jazz: a really good defensive team that is well-coached but can never stay healthy. Well this season Gobert may just anchor a Jazz team that is good enough to make the playoffs regardless of how many times the injury bug bites them.
Let’s take a step back and truly appreciate what Gobert is doing for the Jazz this season. Gobert is averaging 10.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg, and 2.5 bpg. The scoring and blocks averages would be career highs if they hold up (and there’s no reason to believe they won’t). However, when looking at the advanced numbers on Gobert, it’s even more clear that he is the leading candidate for DPOY.
Gobert has a 96 Defensive Rating, 3.33 Defensive real plus-minus, and a 5.0 Defensive box plus-minus. The Jazz as a team have a 99.1 defensive rating, good for third in the league. Just to throw in some other numbers, Gobert also has a 20.7 PER and a career high WS/48 of .235. Gobert is not only anchoring one of the best defenses in the league, he’s doing a dam good job of doing so.
This is worth the read, and it’s not just about Rudy either, but the entire team and the Xs and Os a bit. Check it out!