Improving the O Through Advantage Basketball

September 26th, 2018 | by Tyler Crandall

Joe Ingles takes one of the Jazz’s many, many wide open shots. (Photo: Jeff Swinger via USA Today)

The Quin Snyder-era Utah Jazz have been landmarked as an elite defensive force. In fact, I’ve previously called them a candidate for one of the best Jazz defenses of all time. Even though the Jazz went into last season pegged as a bottom-tier offensive squad, they ended the year pretty average offensively, and above average through the second half of the season.

To break through the ceiling and become a top five NBA team this season, the Jazz offense has to improve even further. Here are a few ways they can accomplish that.

Positionless roster

Beyond their traditional center Rudy Gobert and pure point guard Ricky Rubio, the Jazz roster is moving towards the lauded “positionless” basketball, where most, if not all, players can play multiple positions. That simply can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t happen with Gobert and Rubio.

And even though Golden State and Boston are the prime examples of this new era of basketball, the Jazz should not be forgotten. However, they have their own spin on how positionless play should be executed.

Advantage Offense, a Review

You’ve probably heard of Snyder’s offensive scheme, nicknamed “advantage basketball.” The premise of this system is that each player who takes possession of the basketball on a given team possession will try to build an incremental advantage for the next player. Theoretically, this will repeat until the player with the ball has enough of an advantage that they can score on a high-efficiency shot.

The advantages are created from a combination of high-IQ decision-making, no hesitation, dribble drives, dribble handoffs, and screening actions, among other things.

As a result, you have an egalitarian offense where the ball is shared, a high number of passes are made, and sometimes it takes much of a possession before an advantage is generated (or not generated).

While this strategy can work very well to get role-players and non-creators both involved and scoring the ball, it can have some downsides, which we saw throughout early parts of last season. Namely, longer possessions with multiple passes can drive the turnover rate higher, and the Jazz also took some poor shots coming down the stretch when no advantage could be found. (Read: Donovan Mitchell taking contested bail-out long three-pointers with less than 3 seconds on the shot clock, as an example.)

These downsides seemingly arose from a few different sources. First, Rubio adjusting from a role in which he was primarily the facilitator and had a top five assist-per-game number. Second, lack of shot-creators who could score in isolation if the offense was stymied.

It wasn’t until Rubio understood, accepted, and embraced his new role and system and Mitchell become a bonafide scorer and shot-creator that the offense started to actually function as it should. Then Gobert returned from injury and bolstered the team’s confidence, the defense returned to elite form, and the team started to actually win games.

The Advantages” of “Advantage Basketball”

So, if the goal is to create an advantage, there’s a few key outcomes. Obviously, easy (aka efficient) buckets is the objective. This really boils down to layups and threes. And these come in spades for the Jazz.

Snyder’s advantage offense generated good looks for his players at a very high rate. Last season, the Jazz took a higher percentage of wide open looks than any other team, with 28.6 percent of their shots coming with the nearest defender at least six feet away. They also had the third highest mark for wide open three-point attempts, 17.6 unguarded threes per game, behind only the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.

Joe Ingles, in particular, feasts in this system. Not only are 66.7 percent of his shot attempts from the three-point line, but 42 percent of those attempts are WIDE OPEN. He attempts 3.6 wide open threes per game, which is third most in the league. He connects on 47 percent of those shots.

Source: stats.nba.com

There’s not much room for the Jazz to move up the standings on these stats, but I’d expect that they will be even better next season, with improved efficiency from Mitchell and fellow second-year guard Royce O’Neale, and better three-point shooting from Rubio among other contributions.

If the Jazz can capitalize on their chemistry and continuity, we should expect them to pick up where they left off last season. Though Snyder and Co. are intent on viewing this season as a new journey, it’s still going to feel like a continuation for most fans: an elite defense balanced by a borderline top-10 offense, thanks to Quin’s advantage basketball.

 

Tyler Crandall

Tyler joins Salt City Hoops for the 2018-19 season, having previously written at The J-Notes. Tyler grew up in Utah watching the Stockton-to-Malone Jazz. He now lives in Brooklyn, NY and is an active tweeter at @tjcranman.

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