This Utah Jazz’ recent, red-hot run has shined national attention on the Jazz defense, largely responsible for the team’s 10-2 record since Feb. 20.
Partly due to increased minutes for one freakishly athletic Frenchman, Rudy Gobert, and partly due to a steadily improving team defense, the Jazz have enjoyed a season-long shift from one of the NBA’s worst defenses to one of its best.
This clear and compelling trend is at the heart of the Jazz’ late-season success. The Utah Jazz in February and March have been a defensive wonder, suddenly battling the likes of Indiana, Golden State and Memphis to be the league’s best.
But, of course, there’s a whole other part of the game: Offense! In this post, I’ll look at whether the Jazz scoring in 2014-15 has kept pace with its defense. And I’ll dive into some specific numbers to get a feel for which areas the team can improve in as it builds towards 2015-16 — and the playoff run we all hope is coming.
Let’s look at the raw numbers for this year’s Jazz offense:
Those numbers tell a different story: not one of improvement, but one of consistency. Leave out October (only a two-game sample size) and the team has been, well, average. A less kind term would be mediocre, but either way, offense is clearly the area where the Jazz need to improve heading into next year.
So let’s get more specific. How can they improve? Where are they already doing well? How do they rank poorly?
First, the good news:
In related news, the Jazz are a pretty productive team in the paint overall. They score a high percentage of their points in the paint — fifth highest in the league. They shoot a high percentage from within five feet of the basket — sixth best in the league. No surprise.
One final bit of good news: As I suspect everyone reading Salt City Hoops knows, the mid-range jumper is the least efficient shot in basketball. And the Jazz take the seventh fewest in the NBA.
Now, the OK news:
Now, the not-so-good news:
Let’s do one last thing — look at specific Jazz lineups to see which are doing particularly well and poorly this year. We’ll look only at those lineups that have played at least 50 minutes this season.
Let’s look at the team’s seven best offensive lineups. Each of these is above average and would rank in the NBA’s top 11 if they represented an entire team:
|Booker,Trevor – Burke,Trey – Favors,Derrick – Hayward,Gordon – Hood,Rodney||51||124.9|
|Booker,Trevor – Exum,Dante – Favors,Derrick – Hayward,Gordon – Ingles,Joe||51||118.4|
|Burke,Trey – Burks,Alec – Favors,Derrick – Hayward,Gordon – Kanter,Enes||328||114.4|
|Exum,Dante – Favors,Derrick – Hayward,Gordon – Ingles,Joe – Kanter,Enes||79||113.9|
|Booker,Trevor – Burke,Trey – Gobert,Rudy – Hayward,Gordon – Millsap,Elijah||61||111.3|
|Exum,Dante – Favors,Derrick – Gobert,Rudy – Hayward,Gordon – Hood,Rodney||50||107.3|
|Booker,Trevor – Burke,Trey – Burks,Alec – Favors,Derrick – Hayward,Gordon||59||106.9|
|Burke,Trey – Favors,Derrick – Gobert,Rudy – Hayward,Gordon – Millsap,Elijah||72||105.3|
|Burke,Trey – Favors,Derrick – Gobert,Rudy – Hayward,Gordon – Ingles,Joe||121||104.1|
Hmmm. Almost too much information there, but one thing jumps out: Every single above-average Jazz offensive lineup includes Gordon Hayward and eight of the nine feature Derrick Favors. Those two are clearly the team’s rocks on offense. And the great news? They’re signed to long-term deals and are young and improving.
I was pleasantly surprised that four of the nine feature Rudy Gobert. Gobert is of course a work in progress on the offensive end — a fierce dunker, a surprisingly good passer and a terror on the offensive glass — and not much else.
One final point: The clearest area for improvement for the Jazz for 2015-16 clearly comes from the team’s guards. Each offers something to the team, but it’s worth noting that as of right now, every single guard the Jazz are playing regularly — Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap and Rodney Hood — is shooting under 40 percent from the field.
Those numbers improving as those players mature, plus the return of a healthy Alec Burks, plus — hopefully — the addition of at least one proven wing scorer will be the single biggest key towards an improved Utah Jazz offense in 2015-16.