A Tale of Two Teams

November 23rd, 2015 | by Lucas Falk
AP Photo/LM Otero

AP Photo/LM Otero

After a disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Utah Jazz are back to .500. At times it feels like the Jazz can do no wrong and other times it feels like they still have a lot of growing pains left to experience.

Defensive rating: 97.7

The Jazz are currently tied with the Chicago Bulls for the sixth-best defensive rating in the league and everyone knows why. Utah has two of the best rim protectors on the planet in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Snyder has designed his defense to force opposing teams into the paint where the bigs are waiting for them. Subsequently, the wing defenders can afford to take some gambles on the perimeter knowing they have a safety net behind them. Utah ranks ninth in the association with 8.9 steals per game, but it’s not the wings who are the Jazz’s biggest thieves. The aforementioned Favors leads the team with 1.9 steals per game. He’s been able to use his deceptive quickness to get around his man and into passing lanes.

One thing that’s especially noteworthy is the fact that Utah is in the bottom three in defensive rebounds, yet teams are only scoring 11 second chance points per game against them, tied for sixth-stingiest. So even while teams are getting more looks at the basket, Utah is turning them away. Part of what aids the defense is the way the Jazz take care of the ball on offense. At only 14.7 turnovers per games, the Jazz are tied with the Brooklyn Nets for eleventh in the association. What separates the Jazz from a team like Brooklyn is that the Nets allow 17.5 points off of turnovers, while the Jazz are tied for first in league rankings while only giving up 13.5 points off of the exact same number of turnovers.

The Jazz defense has been an absolute headache for most of their opponents.

Offensive rating: 100.3

If the Jazz defense is a headache for opposing teams, the offense might as well be an aspirin for them. Ranking in the league’s bottom 10 per-100-possessions, it’s the offense that’s holding the team back from being elite. Despite having some truly gifted players on offense like Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Favors, the Jazz offense hasn’t been able to get it going in year two under Quin Snyder. Of course it is still fairly early in the season and there have been stretches of brilliance on the offensive end, but it’s rare to see the team put together a great game here from beginning to end.

Part of the problem is how poorly the team is shooting near the basket. The Jazz have a shooting percentage of 54.7 when attempting a shot less than five feet from the basket, among the 10 worst teams. Trevor Booker has been especially terrible within five feet, only making 35 percent of his shots. Interestingly enough, the team still has a lot of success down low. 46.1 percent of Utah’s points come in the paint. So a large chunk of the offense is designed to get into the paint, meaning the team is leaving a lot of points on the table by failing to execute from in close.

Remember how efficient the Jazz are at getting steals? Only 11.6 percent of their points come from fast breaks. The Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards average 9.2, 9.1 and 8.8 steals, respectively. The difference being that all three of those teams rank in the top five of percentage of points scored in transition. Part of the problem is that it’s Utah’s power forward who leads the team in steals, and thus isn’t likely to push the pace for an easy bucket. The other part of the problem is that the Jazz don’t have a true starting-caliber point guard. Yes, both Trey Burke and Raul Neto are listed on the depth chart as point guards, but Burke is better off the ball and Neto shouldn’t be leading a team on a quest to end a playoff drought. Hopefully, once Dante Exum returns from injury, a lot of what hinders the offense will fade out. Unfortunately, Exum almost certainly won’t be returning this season.

The Utah Jazz are still a playoff contender and can compete with almost anyone. It just depends on which Jazz team shows up on a given night.

Lucas Falk
Lucas Falk is a basketball junkie from Salt Lake City. Lucas is an alumnus of both Olympus High School and the University of Utah, where he earned a degree in Economics. Lucas is also a proponent of doing a reboot to the film "White Men Can't Jump." He can be found on Twitter @Lucaswfalk.
Lucas Falk
Lucas Falk

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  1. Matt C says:

    Great post. It is frustrating to see such talent and potential on the offensive end look so stagnant at times, or in a full 2nd quarter like in Dallas. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like they are not taking it to the hole enough or settling for bad shots or trying to make the extra pass and not taking a good shot.

  2. Howard says:

    I wonder why Coach Q insisting on starting Neto each game without tinkering the line up a bit depending on the opposing team’s strength? The games against pistons,cavs,heat,magic,blazers,okc we could’ve start a D&3 guy in Elijah or Chris J?i think Elijah/Chris will make a better body&speed against reggie jackson,mo will,tyler johnson,elfrid payton,damian lillard,dwill & russ…we were getting killed against these scoring PG… I think is early we should reshuffle the starting 5… Put in a non traditional PG in the starting line up either Eli/chris then we will have the other version of our wing line up(burks can still play the 6thman)… Also the free throws man…i don’t know… I’ve been emphasizing this since Wes was still with us…why are the Jazz teams keep missing their fTs??? Every year… Lots of game being lost from the ft line…this year already 4games lost via poor ft & to(pistons,cavs,heat&mavs)…the other 3 are line up related & to …

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