Process always trumps results for this Jazz team under Quin Snyder, part of what makes him so appealing from a strategic standpoint. So in a massive blowout win, it should be no surprise that the Jazz tried out a few things. Jack Cooley got his first extended run in the NBA and showed a couple interesting spats. Bryce Cotton and Jeremy Evans also saw a few minutes, with Snyder able to keep his stars (and, in fact, his entire team) under 30 minutes with three more games approaching this week. And perhaps most interestingly, though we’ve seen flashes of it in the last couple weeks, Utah tried periods of “small-ball” – Gordon Hayward or Joe Ingles at the power forward slot with shooters spanning the floor.1
Utah tried each of Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and even Cooley as the de facto center in a smaller lineup during the second quarter tonight. They were even with Gobert, a minus-two with Favors, and a plus-three with Cooley, who got the longest run with such a unit by a few seconds over Favors. But the result isn’t important; what is important is the experience, something Gordon Hayward keyed on immediately when I asked him about these units and his comfort within them postgame.
“Yeah, I’m definitely comfortable. Joe’s been playing 4 too, and it allows us to space the floor, take advantage of the versatility that we have,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can handle the ball, lot of guys that can make reads, lot of guys that can shoot, and it definitely opens up the court and gives the defense a little different look.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re able to do it. The versatility that we have, if (Coach Snyder) needs to put someone out there to stretch the floor, maybe gain a matchup advantage here or there, we’ll do it.”
This last part is the crux. In a league that’s getting smaller and smaller, including several top units in the West2 that lean heavily on floor-stretching as their primary identity, Snyder wants to be prepared. He’s been vocal in the past about sticking to Utah’s bigger identity, and hasn’t gone away from that in any sense, but the ability to be versatile and adapt to circumstance is a must-have in an evolving NBA and Quin knows it. Expect to see more of this sort of tinkering over the remainder of the season, especially if the Jazz continue to put teams out of their misery by halftime as they did tonight.
Please be aware the the following player grades are based on the context of the game. The entire Jazz team gets an A+, and individuals are graded on a curve from there.
|Derrick Favors, PF 25 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +23 +/-The Jazz didn’t need much from Favors tonight with their incredible distance shooting, and he smartly avoided going out of his way to demand his recent load of post touches (despite having a smaller Marvin Williams frequently checking him) when the Jazz got hot.|
|Gordon Hayward, SF 27 MIN | 5-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +23 +/-Gordon had a reasonable night considering he was checked most often by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the league’s best defenders. He was one of four Jazz players over 50 percent from long distance.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 30 MIN | 2-4 FG | 5-8 FT | 22 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +21 +/-The Stifle Tower may need an addendum to his nickname that includes “boards” somewhere. He’s now averaging 21 rebounds per game his last three, this while tossing a number of pinpoint bullet passes from the post and as the roll man. This isn’t a one-trick pony, folks.|
|Rodney Hood, SG 22 MIN | 9-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | +34 +/-Hood set his third career high in points in the last four games, and is clicking on all levels right now. His smooth offensive game is a joy to watch, and Quin Snyder can’t take a single question about him without going back to how well he’s played defensively as well.|
|Dante Exum, SG 27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +25 +/-Dante was another who didn’t need to do much out of the ordinary on this night, but he once again flashed his increasingly accurate deep stroke, going 3-5 from 3 (one miss was a late shot clock heave). He continues to take baby steps offensively and shut down whoever he guards on the other end.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 19 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +14 +/-He and Burke were the only Jazzmen who seemed to be able to miss tonight. Booker has looked a tad hesitant offensively recently, though he still crashes the glass emphatically. If we know anything, though, it’s that Book will show up when his team needs him. They didn’t tonight.|
|Joe Ingles, SF 24 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -5 +/-Jingles was curiously the one high-minute player for the Jazz tonight with whom they were outscored per-possession. Like Booker he gets a pass on a night like this, but he’ll need to be a bit sharper next time there’s a closer game.|
|Jack Cooley, SF 10 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | 0 +/-Cooley gets a mention for the first time all year, and he was fun for brief flashes. He may not be the prototypical NBA athlete, but he contests EVERY rebound and can shoot the ball (watched him make six or seven straight triples in warmups). He may see spot minutes going forward on his second 10-day contract.|
|Trey Burke, PG 22 MIN | 3-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +7 +/-Including tonight, Trey is now shooting a miserable 26.6 percent from the field in his last eight games. He just can’t find his stroke at all, from anywhere. He did a good job on the boards and dished a couple nice dimes, but Trey needs to turn around his shooting, and quickly.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +9 +/-In a rare sight, Millsap seemed to be chasing the action defensively for much of the night. He didn’t look as engaged as usual, and struggled uncharacteristically with the pick-and-roll. He was also a bit off from the field, and will look to rebound Wednesday.|
Hard to get any other grade when your team leads by 30 midway through the second quarter, right? Quin’s small lineups were fun, and one can tell he’s firmly in “maximize everything going forward” mode with his group right now.