We only have six days to cover this week1, but let’s get right to it. That will give us time to look at two well-designed plays, look at some stats and themes, give away a game ball, and more.
And we’ll start by waxing philosophical for a minute.
Rodney Hood had a special week. Trey Lyles is starting to look more aware. Even Tibor Pleiss offered some surprise contributions. So perhaps it’s no surprise that we’ve heard the magic word a lot recently: Development.
But by and large, we probably overuse the term when describing outcomes. Development shouldn’t just be the shorthand for when something goes right. I promise that all 14 Jazz men are developing in some way almost constantly, regardless of what their box scores look like. To say “he’s developing” after a good night but not after a bad night is quite simply to misunderstand development and the growth mindset2.
Growth is almost never a straight line. And that’s OK, because that’s part of growth.
A shot going down — or a guy making a hard cut, or rotating right, or whatever — could be a sign of development, sure. Just as often, it’s a sign of a shot going down. What happens when the next jumper (or the next bunch of jumpers) don’t go down? Did that player UN-develop?
Defining a solitary good outcome as proof of development gives a false sense of security about a player’s arc. Importantly, it also undersells the role that setbacks actually have on development for people with the right approach to their personal growth.
Outcomes are outcomes. Effort is effort. Development is a larger commitment that encompasses both.
Let’s look at Lyles. After looking lost for a while, the rook had a few really impressive moves and buckets in the last week. Maybe that’s “development,” but some of those are things I think Lyles had in his tool kit a year ago. We just weren’t seeing them because he wasn’t comfortable yet. He was frequently being reminded where to be, and when you’re playing catch-up like that, it’s hard to feel confident enough to make a play, even if the move or shot is within your comfort zone. Now, I’m seeing him sprint down, get to his spots early, and stay engaged. The result is that he’s not distracted with figuring out the basics and he has the mental energy to do things he’s capable of doing. Yes, learning the offense so he’s not a step behind IS part of development. But skill-wise, largely what we’re seeing is a player finally settled enough to show what he can do.
Or Hood. If his 73 points over three games were proof of development, then does his 2-of-5 night in San Antonio on Wednesday mean he regressed sometime between Monday and Wednesday? Probably not.
Coach Quin Snyder almost never talks about player performance in terms of development in an absolute sense. He says things like He wasn’t nervous, or He was comfortable, or He stayed confident in what he was doing. But I can’t think of a single time Snyder has summarized a strong performance by saying, Well, clearly we have successfully developed that guy. In fact, sometimes he goes to special lengths NOT to say anything that sounds like “we’ve arrived.”
“I don’t want of say, ‘we’re here’ or ‘we’re there,’ but I think our players should feel good about the way they competed,” he said after the Jazz suffered a close loss to the Warriors.
After a win a little later, he said, “It’s gonna keep being hard. I thought we communicated a little bit better. We’re still not where I would like to see us, but our guys have a collective pride… We were more disciplined.”
Sounds like a guy who doesn’t want to define success or failure in terms some absolute declaration of what it means to development. He’s always focused on effort, discipline and habits.
Sounds like a coach with a healthy growth mindset.
That’s how many games Utah has lost by 5 points or fewer this season. Only Portland and Toronto have more. So if it feels like the Jazz have let some winnable ones get away… they have.
They’ll rue a lot of those, but perhaps none more than last Monday’s. Losing to the Rockets hurt because the Jazz led by 15 and let it come apart with lackadaisical play, and because of missed calls, including one that would have given Utah a free throw AND the ball. But Houston is also a team that will be in the 5 through 8 playoff mix, like the Jazz. Utah has to hope that won’t impact tiebreakers later on.
We’ve got a relatively simple play for this week’s dissection.
One fun thing about this exercise is that we’ve been able to see a number of different ways the Jazz initiate their plays. One thing we haven’t looked at yet is a trend we’re seeing a lot of the NBA these days: teams faking the pick & roll.
Watch Hood jog toward what appears to be a Gordon Hayward pick. Hayward changes direction, gets the ball and heads into his own P&R on the right side. Hood’s guy is confused now and dips in to shadow that P&R, right as Pleiss is setting a flare screen for Hood to get to the outside. Rewatch and pay attention to nothing but Hood’s man and you’ll see why the fake P&R is so effective. By the time he realizes what the real action was, it’s too late, he’s pinned on the wrong side of Pleiss and his Berlin Wall-esque pick.
We took an advance on this week’s game balls when we stretched the last SC7 edition out by a day and awarded Trey Burke for his solid outing against Portland. As a result, we have just one to give out this week. And it was an easy call.
Jazz 92, Grizzlies 87 – Hood
The second-year guard is playing his best basketball of late. Hood averaged 24-5-4 in the three before the Texas trip, while shooting 61%. For the Grizz game in particular, he posted a career-high 32 points. Just his 4th quarter + overtime stats (17 points on 8 shots, with 5 rebounds and a block) would have been a really solid game. He forced overtime with a free throw, and later had the trip to the line that put Utah ahead for good in the extra period.
This is just a painful stretch for Utah. They’re in the middle of 5-games-in-7-nights, and they just started a stretch where 8 of 11 are on the road. Here are the next seven nights’ worth of contests:
Thank You Jazz organization for the opportunity. Really appreciate my teammates and all the Jazz fans for your love &support #AlltheBest
— Elijah Millsap (@Elijah_Millsap) January 5, 2016
We couldn’t call this a comprehensive recap of the Jazz’s week without paying lip service to the sadly departed Lil’ Sap.
Millsap did some good thing in parts of two seasons as a Jazz guy. His defense, particularly in pick & roll situations, was really solid, and he got better at making decisions on the fly. He is humble, works hard and was liked by fans for those reasons. But it’s no mystery why the Jazz decided to move on and see what they could do with the roster spot: 29.5% eFG just isn’t good enough. Be sure to check out David Smith’s farewell post about Eli.
Since I had a hard time deciding which Hood three to use for “X & Ohhh” above, I’m using this space to show you a smart off-ball read on a separate play.
Hood does two really smart things on this play. First, he takes the corner from Joe Ingles. This makes Vince Carter the designated helper on that strong-side Neto-Withey P&R. Carter goes to help, so now Hayward’s man — Courtney Lee — has to essentially play free safety by keeping both Hood and Hayward in his sights.
This is where the second brilliant move comes in from Hood. He realizes that the next pass — the eventual skip pass from Neto — probably isn’t going to be the pass that scores. Whoever gets that ball will force Lee’s closeout, setting the other guy up for an open look. That’s why Hood stays tight in the corner, to give Hayward space in case he’s the shooter. But the second the pass goes to Hayward, watch Hood: he realizes he’s the guy getting the shot, so he moves out of the corner and behind Joe’s screen to make it literally impossible for Carter to recover through the Joe screen.
You have to be a) smart and b) engaged to make that kind of recognition even before the ball is in your lap. This type of winning play is why the Jazz are high on Hood.