1. Sure, it’s cliche, but the Jazz needed this win.
Whenever a team ends a losing streak, the phrase “X team needed this win” is used. In the long term, the Jazz don’t need this win, in fact, each win gets them closer to the pack of teams who are in marginally less sorry states, thus making it less likely for the team to get that #1 overall draft pick.
That being said, the Jazz are really happy to get this one. The Jazz had played a stretch of absolutely terrible basketball, being worst in the league on both offense and defense. In so far as the Jazz are looking to this year’s draft pick to lead the franchise going forward, he won’t be able to do it alone, and the play of at least some of Favors, Hayward, Kanter, Burks, Gobert, Evans and Burke will be important for the team moving forward. Those guys had looked pretty unmotivated at times as they went down early in games by margins too large to come back from, and staying in a game that was close the whole way gets those young players repetitions against a Bulls squad, that while very hamstrung, fought throughout the game.
2. Bulls are significantly short on adequate guards.
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have very few guards remaining. Rookie Tony Snell was forced into starting tonight’s game, the first start of his career, and didn’t contribute a ton, scoring 9 points on 3-7 shooting, getting just 1 rebound and 0 assists in his 25 minutes of play. Unfortunately for Chicago, he was probably their best guard tonight. Mike Dunleavy doesn’t really have either playmaking or ballhandling skills, and his shooting skill left him tonight, as he went just 1-8. Marquis Teague had 1 foul, 1 turnover, and 1 missed shot in 14 minutes of play: the rest of his score sheet featured zeroes. And the should-be-erstwhile Mike James, the alternative to Teague, managed to make 1 bucket in his 3 minutes of play, but still looked pretty old out there.
I asked Ty Corbin about the Bulls’ lack of guards before the game, and he immediately brought up Kirk Hinrich. (In fact, he interrupted my question regarding the Bulls’ shallowness there with “Hinrich is pretty good”, a scary moment for this rookie reporter!) Hinrich played 35 minutes and scored just 1 point, and 4 assists from a starting point guard in the NBA isn’t anything to write home about. In fact, Hinrich hasn’t had an above-average PER since 2006-07, and has shot less than 40% from the field for the last 2 seasons. I understand the need to play every opponent as if they were all-stars, and of course, had the Jazz allowed one more basket from the Bulls’ guards in regulation, they would have lost the game. That being said, the Bulls’ backcourt is going to be a huge worry for them moving forward, as they just don’t appear to be talented enough to keep Chicago in contention.
3. The Jazz’s offense is changing.
Perhaps the best example of the changing Jazz culture is the insertion of Marvin Williams into the starting lineup. Marvin Williams starting as a stretch 4 wouldn’t happen in a traditional “Jazz Basketball” set-up, and the Jazz have generally started a post-heavy power forward ever since the early 80s. (Yes, Andrei Kirilenko started at the 4 in the 2003-04 season and excelled, but the Jazz signing of Carlos Boozer the next offseason suggests that the team was somewhat uncomfortable with playing in this style.)
Marvin Williams changes that. He shot 7 threes from the PF position this game, leading the team with 17 points, stretching the floor for the players underneath. Indeed, the Jazz taking 17 threes a game would have been shocking just a few years ago, but the team is now in the top half of the league in three-point attempts. While obviously the offense hasn’t worked so far, part of the struggles may be growing pains from transitioning towards a more modern offense built on spacing.