48 Minutes In: What We Know So Far About the Young Jazz

October 31st, 2013 | by Dan Clayton
With Gobert defending, OKC scored 0 paint points in the 2nd half. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

With Gobert defending, OKC scored 0 paint points in the 2nd half. What else did the Jazz show us in their first 48 minutes of basketball? (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Have you heard the phrase about “knowing just enough to be dangerous”? That’s where we as a Jazz community are right now.

We finally have real basketball to dissect, with the first 48 minutes of the new-era Jazz behind us. This is potentially dangerous ground because, hungry to find meaning, we ought not draw hasty conclusions based on a single evening’s worth of data points. I try to avoid pulling anything too specific from a solitary game, but there were some general themes on display last night.

1. This team has enough talent to compete.

They might not win a whole bunch of games, but Utah’s young core is going to go for it and, particularly at home, they’re going to be in a lot of their games. The final outcome might have been a let-down, but the first night of real 2013-14 Jazz basketball was fun, encouraging and competitive.

Let’s take a look at a couple more general themes reiterated by last night’s game.

2. This Jazz team can score… if they share the ball.

After an entire summer of people wondering out loud whether the Jazz would be able to find offense, the team answered with six players in double figures and a 98-point outing.

But be careful about getting too excited. They did that largely because four different players had 5+ assists, which won’t be the case every night. In fact, the second quarter saw them stagnate quite a bit, with an offensive rating of just 79 for the quarter. They hit an even worse (albeit shorter) dry spell in the decisive fourth quarter that probably cost them the game (more on this 4Q funk in a minute). Both stretches involved a lack of ball movement.

If the Jazz could have kept their turnover total in the teens and hit a few more of their free throws, they would have broken the century mark and likely won the game. So I think the worries about where the points will come from, while not unfounded, will largely be answered by committee.

3. The Jazz could use some help from Brandon Rush & Marvin Williams.

I’m sincerely happy for Mike Harris (13 points in 22 minutes for his Jazz debut), but I’m confused at the praise he’s getting for defending Kevin Durant. Yes, Durant had a rough spell in the fourth quarter, going 0-for-4 with two turnovers from the 9:51 mark to 4:01, mostly while being guarded by Harris. But he still scored 15 of OKC’s 20 points in the quarter, and nobody should be doing a celebratory dance after a guy goes to the line 24 times, tying a Jazz opponent record for freebies.

The other area where Utah could use from help from their tandem of injured wings is from deep. After a rough preseason from behind the three point line, Utah netted just 27% of its triples last night.

4. Derrick Favors & Gordon Hayward will play as much as their foul count will let them.

Corbin seems ready to stick with Favors & Hayward pretty heavily. Favors got 43 minutes against the Thunder and rewarded his coach with a nice do-it-all line of 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and a couple of blocks.

Hayward saw significantly less time because of foul trouble, but Corbin played him as much he dared. This was made obvious by the fact that he kept him on the floor with two fouls early, brought him back to end the half despite having three fouls, and inserted him into the fourth-quarter lineup even at the expense of a hot Alec Burks.

We’ve heard that these two are going to the leaders, and if game 1 is any indication, I think the “minutes played” column will bear that out.

5. How good Jazz can be will depend a lot on Jamaal Tinsley’s role and Trey Burke’s healthy return.

That’s a polite way of saying that the Jazz didn’t get a ton of encouragement from John Lucas III in the opener. Corbin didn’t have a lot of options given that Tinsley is limited by his conditioning; Burks saw a few minutes at point, but right now this team is relying on Lucas as its floor general, and I’m not sure that’s his ideal role.

I’m not anti-Lucas at all, and I actually think he is a nice value pickup if all you’re looking to do is give Burke a back-up that will give the team a different look without really challenging the rookie’s minutes (which is what he was hired to do). But the situation has changed now, and I think the team is biding its time until a purer point is available, especially down the stretch.

Lucas’ fourth quarter against OKC was pretty underwhelming: 0/2 with 0 assists and a turnover. The team performed better during Tinsley’s short stint, too. It was a 12-point OKC lead when Lucas sat down in the third quarter, and 14 by the time Tinsley took point guard duties from Burks. Over the next 6+ minutes with Tinsley in, the Jazz went on a 15-7 run. When Tinsley handed the reins back to Lucas, the Jazz would come up empty on five of their next seven possessions.

To be fair, Lucas was a net 0 in second-half +/-, which is precisely why extrapolating too much out of a couple isolated stretches is a shaky proposition. But I think for the Jazz to close games effectively, they need either Tinsley or Burke to be ready to serve as floor generals for the bulk of games so that JL3 can return to his role as the change-of-pace bench guard.

6. Rudy Gobert doesn’t want to wait.

Raw? Nah.

Gobert only scored a bucket in his NBA debut, but he made his presence felt. He grabbed a rebound for every 3.3 minutes played and, while he came up empty on blocks, he was absolutely a paint deterrent.

Gobert checked in at the 4:10 mark of the third quarter and checked out with 2:58 left in the game. In that 13:12 stretch, OKC did not score in the paint. In fact, OKC only scored 16 points over that 13+ minute stretch – 13 points off of jumpers and three points from the line.

Gobert shouldn’t get all of the defensive credit, but if the rim defense is that good when he’s on the floor, Corbin’s going to have a hard time giving the backup center minutes back to Andris Biedrins.

7. Utah will have to compete on the glass to compete on the scoreboard.

Enes Kanter had just one rebound at the half and the Jazz were getting a nine-point shellacking thanks in large part to a grundle of second-chance points by OKC. In the second half, Kanter and his peers stepped it up and the Jazz made it close. But Utah isn’t going to be good enough this year to win despite giving extra possessions to its opponents.

8. This will be a fun team to watch.

Enough said.

 

What else did you draw from Utah’s season-opening 98-101 loss to OKC? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
Dan Clayton

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10 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    Great find on the statistic showing the impact of Gobert in the paint. How aware do you feel the coaching staff is of these types of tidbits? i.e. is there someone on the staff that brings these things to the attention of the coaches?

    • Clint Johnson says:

      That Corbin played Gobert so much shows he was aware of the impact the guy was making. Maybe not the quantifiable evidence of it, but he knew Gobert was changing that game. That’s why Kanter played only 29 minutes while Favors played 43.

      • casey greer says:

        I think the worry for most of us Jazz fans is that Biedrins plays over Gobert in spite of the impact Gobert has. Remember that San Antonio game last year where Favors was altering seemingly every shot they took in the first quarter? He was having an AMAZING game, but still ended up w/ less than 20 minutes. What if we see Gobert having a lot of impact in games, but Ty opts to play Biedrins instead of him?

        • Dan Clayton says:

          Not sure how the AB thing will play out, but Corbin was clearly aware of Gobert’s impact – at least in a qualitative way- since he left Kanter on the pine until 2:58 left.

          Also as far as “it’s clearly in the org’s best interest to give more minutes to Gobert,” that’s probably true at the most general level, but there are some things to consider there… not the least of which is that Biedrins is a trade piece between now and February, so the best thing for the long term might be investing some short term opportunities to show the NBA that Biedrins can still play basketball so we could use his expiring contract. Just saying sometimes there’s an asset management piece in play, too.

  2. casey greer says:

    I’m really hoping Gobert continues to get minute ahead of Biedrins. Even if their production is a wash, it’s clearly in the organizations best interest to give more minutes to Gobert. I hope Corbin makes the right decision for the franchise, and not the decision that helps Biedrins get one more NBA contract.

  3. Clint Johnson says:

    Something else to watch: Hayward’s offensive efficiency off the ball as opposed to on the ball. In that first quarter, he scored 8 points on three assisted shots, and his only other basket was a dunk off his own steal. He missed his nine other shots, including all those he created off isolation. That isn’t surprising given his past play. If this team can get enough scoring from Favors and Kanter in the post to demand double teams, as Favors did at times against the Thunder, Hayward will be a much more efficient scorer.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      really great point. speaks to hayward’s ability (as of today) to be a true #1 guy. i’ll keep watching that.

      • babnik says:

        I hate to sound so negative, but Hayward cannot be a #1 option for a title contender. Not to take too much away from his talent. If he is the #1 option, I am sure his team could get strong and find some success in the play-offs. Title contenders have the likes of LeBron, Kobe, KD, Rose, etc as #1 options, but even then have the support of Gasol, Wade, Bosh, Westbrook, etc. I see Hayward falling well into a role supporting the super star and pick up the slack when needed.

        • Brent says:

          Yes, Hayward is a second banana. He’s a nice piece but not a superstar. He may still develop but this season will be telling.

  4. Tyler Cravens says:

    I love the fact that Jamaal Tinsley is with us again. and out of the 3 point guards that we have he should be the starter when he gets in shape again, Than Burk. I just hope at the point guard position we don’t forget we have an ace waiting for us in Spain (Raul Neto). and next year we can maybe afford loosing both Lucas and Tinsley and hand the reigns back to the “rookies”. Also i feel as though people maybe have forgotten on how well the game on the outside was being played… i do agree that we need a real 2 guard.

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