The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Clippers 11/29/2014

November 29th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
(AP Photo/Steve Wilson)

(AP Photo/Steve Wilson)

1. Jazz are really struggling at all phases right now.

This is relatively obvious: they’ve lost 5 games in a row. But they’re doing so in really discouraging ways. Consider, over the last 5 games, the following two facts:

  • The Jazz’s Offensive Rating is 98.2. Over a full season, that would be worst in the league if the 76ers weren’t a thing.
  • The Defensive Rating is 110.0. That’s actually an improvement over the 12 games that preceded it(!) but would still put the Jazz at 26th in the league.

That’s non-ideal. In the locker room after the game, the team was really, really down, as was coach Quin Snyder in his press conference. Everyone was very quiet, muted in their reactions to tonight’s loss, more so than in any other loss this season. It was strange to see, and makes me think something unusual was said or done post-game in the locker room. That’s just speculation, but things were different.

Trey Burke looks pretty bad right now. He’s going under screens essentially as often as he did last season, and when he’s not, he’s running into the pick. On defense, it’s not pretty, and while Chris Paul is a master of running his opponent into those screens, it’s been happening against other teams as well. He’s also just not adding enough to make up for it on offense: 3 points and 3 assists in 28 minutes is not a good performance for any player, much less a team’s point guard. Trey’s had some good games recently, but this is discouraging. I’ve seen some call for Dante Exum to start, but his 5 point, 1 assist performance isn’t much to be impressed with either. Dante does seem to be defending better than Trey at this point, though, quite an accomplishment for a 19-year-old rookie.

Enes Kanter doesn’t look great either. As Quin Snyder said before the game, “We know Enes is a very talented offensive player.”  Tonight, he didn’t show much of that, only playing scoring 6 points on 2-9 shooting in his 18 minutes. Why only 18 minutes? In my estimation, Enes’ defense and awareness were abysmal, especially early. While it’s unfair to put all of this on Kanter, the team lost every stretch for which he was in the game, he ended up with a -20 on the night.

Smart coaches have noticed those two’s difficulty in guarding the pick-and-roll, and so are running them through it time and time again. Steve Kerr did this a lot when the Jazz played the Warriors at the start of this losing skid, and Doc Rivers pushed the same buttons. The NBA is so pick-and-roll oriented now 1 that any weakness in guarding it is incredibly harmful. That’s where the Jazz are right now.

2. Quin played Favors and Gobert together more than we’ve seen thus far.

With Kanter struggling, this is a matchup that more fans have been calling for as the season progresses. Tonight, the Jazz played the rim-defending pair together more than any other game this season, and it seemed to work reasonably well: the Jazz were +5 in those few minutes. Why did Quin go to that lineup?

“I just thought from a matchup standpoint, those guys gave us some length in the game. Provided a little bit more disruption.”

I then asked him if that’s a look that they could go to more often:

“I’m not sure, to be honest with you. I mean, obviously, you guys are asking the question because we haven’t seen up until this point a whole lot, maybe at all, but it seemed appropriate, and we’re trying to figure out a way to give ourselves a boost. You know, if gives us a very different look offensively. Derrick’s all of a sudden guarding out on the perimeter, and he’s pretty good inside too. I think it just depends on who we’re playing.”

Count me in with the group that wants to see more of this look as the season progresses, regardless of matchup. Yes, doing so takes Favors outside of the paint, but I think we have over a season’s worth of data that he’s not an incredibly effective rim protector, as Rudy Gobert has the potential to be. It’s certainly not a sure thing, but I think it’s worth experimenting on, and the data from the pairing could be helpful as the decision on Enes Kanter’s contract is made this summer.

3. Gordon Hayward had an excellent game.

It’s clear that the Jazz depend on Gordon Hayward hugely, and he had a great game tonight, especially in the first half. He ended up with 30 points, including making 4 of his 5 3-pointers. When he wasn’t shooting it from outside, Hayward used his craft drive game to get to the paint and finish. It was a good game from him, and he’s well on his way to earning the $63 million contract he signed this offseason.

I also thought his quote tonight on what the Jazz need to do differently was spot-on:

“We have to find a way to be more destructive defensively. If we can get ourselves going on the defensive end, at least for me that’s what gets me going. If I’m more active defensively, offensively I’m a lot better. If we can do it as a team and try to get more deflections and get our hands on balls, maybe it will pick us up offensively too.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that. The Jazz are still one of the slowest teams in the league, pacewise. It’s no coincidence that they’re also among the league’s worst teams at forcing turnovers. If they are able to get more turnovers, the fast break points will naturally improve the Jazz’s offense.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

5 Comments

  1. IDJazzman says:

    Nice write up. I have enjoyed this season and I do think there has been improvement made, it is just right now, the team has went through a losing skid and players are discouraged as well as fans. Part of developing is learning what they have and then making the necessary changes. Kanter is probably good enough to be on a NBA team, but probably not good enough to start. The offensive potential is there, no doubt, but I no longer believe that Kanter will ever be able to defend at a starting level, ever. So, hopefully that will be corrected in the future and the Jazz get another player that can or they just begin to start Gobert. I do believe that Favors should be playing the PF position now. As this article pointed out, Favors is not that good at protecting the rim, mainly because he is probably the shortest center in the league, however if he were put at the PF position, his defense would be just the opposite, top in the league, especially when paired with Gobert. There is not a PF in the league that Favors couldn’t defend well and he would still be effective on the offensive end. Maybe it is time to see if Gobert can develop into a starter. His offensive game is almost all dunks, but he works hard and maybe he can develop something on the offensive end. Stronger centers just push him to the paint when he is defending, but he at least can get a hand in their face and cause the disruption. The perimeter defense would probably improve, as the other players would know that Favors and Gobert have their back side protected.
    I hate to see Burke get beat up for lack of performance, especially since this is only his second year in the NBA. I had hopes that he would begin to develop some of his game like CP, but it isn’t happening. He might be closer to a Kemba Walker ceiling, good enough to come off the bench, but not good enough for a team that is a contender. I think the Jazz have their PG of the future, but fans need to realize Exum has only played High school ball until now. Even Trey had 2 years of college before playing in the Pros. Exum could really get beat up this year if they tried to start him, which could really overwhelm and discourage him. He needs to be fed milk minutes before he can eat starter minutes.

    • Mewko says:

      I agree with you on how to handle Dante Exum’s minutes. Slowly, but surely, he’ll work up to starter’s minutes. Just remember, not very many rookies can come in and be effective starters. Trey Burke, Darrell Griffith and Karl Malone are the only Jazz rookies that come to mind, that got full-fledged minutes as rookies.

      I definitely believe in Gobert to be an effective starter. We need to wait to give him starter minutes, just like Exum. He’s raw. Let him refine his game, and keep gaining chemistry with Exum. And while Gobert and Exum are on the learning curve, Derrick Favors should polish and refine that mid-range jumper. Get it deadly. (How else would a Favors/Gobert pairing work on offense…….unless Derrick slowly extends his range?)

  2. Steven says:

    Recent games have been a little bit painful to watch here In the early hours of the morning in London. When the Jazz are winning or at least competing its been enjoyable, but recently the games have been over before they really should have begun.

    There seems to be a number of things happening or affecting it all. A couple of close games that ended up losses on the road that were very close to being wins probably drained some of the energy of a young team, Those games though were signs of progress though, how many times did the Jazz lose road games to bad teams without it even being a contest under Corbin?

    Some losses have come after some pretty horrible 4th quarter minutes this season. That really seemed to zap the confidence of a young inexperienced squad.

    A lot has been made about Kanter and his defence. I worry about it at times too. However I think we need to role with it for a while yet. Thanks to the leadership of Corbin, he’s having a painful season of learning the art of defense against the best the NBA has to offer for the first time. He never really got real minutes against the likes of Nowitzski and co, its a huge step up playing against 2nd unit Bigs, where often there is little in the way of defense, to playing the top guys. Ideally Corbin would have played Kanter more against those players and he would have been further along than he is but the fact is he is getting his lesssons driven into him now. He’s never going to have the defensive skills of Favors, or have the disruptive impact on that end of floor in the same way as Gobert does, but if he can at least learn to limit his liabilities and negate them with his offensive weapons then we need to at least gibve him a try for a few months.

    I am not convinced that Gobert is yet ready to start playing big minutes in Kanter’s place. He has some nice impactful moments on the defensive end and I’ll be shouting at the screen cheering him on but other times he’s getting taight a lesson or two as well, and his hands too often don’t seem to be ready. His length is amazing, but his hands not so much.

    I worry about Favors a little. Offensively he seems to have added a few moves which I am pleased about. And most nights he’s putting up his numbers quietly. I worry he has to get angry to really impact a game. At the start of the season he seemed to have a little something to him that I hadn’t seen before, but whereas Hayward seems to have that something most nights, its seems to have disappeared in Favors lately. I’m waiting for Favors to break out and its not happening. Booker comes in and seems to change the energy on a few plays, maybe not for the whole time he’s on the floor, but he makes an impacts sporadically, Gorbert – inexperienced as he is – seems to have moments defensively where teams have to adapt. Kanter has moments where he just goes off offensively, although times he can disappear too, and of course it doesn’t always make up for his defense. However the early season had me hopeful of more from Favors, he seemed to take on more responsibility as an impact player, but lately those moments seem to have become rarer – he can put up a quiet 16 – 18 points, which is nice, but it would be great to see more moments from Favors that make us as fans and the league as a whole stand up, a few more plays strung together that motivated the team to make that extra effort. For all the starters minutes he’s had now he’s not really made serious headway in 4th quarters like we could expect of him of by now. 4th quarter impact plays tend to fall on the shoulders of a couple of guys. He seems to be a player that needs to get angry to make those levels of phases of plays and he’s not getting angry often enough.

    The Jazz aren’t moving the ball around in offense like they had intended to, and as the results are getting bad the movement of the personnel is being stagnent too. The ball movement and the man movement that Quin drew up at the start of the season suits the personnel a lot, but the squad has to continue to believe in it when teams build up a 6 – 8 point lead. Leads like that happen all the time. The Jazz can get those deficits back, but when they go away from what they do, that deficit builds further then it just gets exhausting trying to make the game anyway competitive again.

    Burks I think may need to go back to the 2nd unit, in the second unit he has the freedom to do his thing, but also the second unit needs him. The second unit, outside of Booker is really inexperienced, and shot shy, some nights more so than others. Do we give some his starting five minutes to Exum, or Hood, I don’t know! Can Exum play the SG position alongside Burke…hard to say. Is it too early to bring in Hood with his recent injury? Short term we might have to play it out for now, but long term I think Burks moving to the second unit and playing some of his minutes alongside the starters might be the better move.

    I have other points I could make but its late and this is already too long for a comment.

  3. Spencer says:

    Kanter has zero confidence in his ability to defend. If he doesn’t think he can do it, neither do I. He reminds me of the kid I play ball with at the church in the mornings who thinks basketball is about shooting when you have the ball and watching the rest of the time.

    I would start Hood right away. He fits next to Hayward perfectly. This would give him 5-6 open looks per game. He needs that and Alec needs to go back to the bench. Alec has not idea how to play off the ball and Hood does. Alec would have the green light coming in for Hayward.

    So my secret wish since Millsap signed with Atlanta was that we could bring him back somehow. I know this sounds like bailing early on who we have now, so I still think we play the season out and allow both Kanter and Gobert to have minutes. They could have some sort of revelation over time.

    In the draft get Kristaps Porzingis or someone of the like to develop behind Millsap/Favors/Gobert.

    Trey could really be a valuable 2nd PG on an elite team.

    Exum has the potential to carry this roster to Championship contention in a few years if he develops and he will I believe.

    Greatest concern: Defensive continuity and effort are HORRIBLE. HORRIBLE. If I see Trey or Kanter give up before the player they are defending shoots one more time, I may need a new TV for Christmas without a shoe hole in it.

    Greatest reasons for hope: Exum, Hayward (better than I thought in every aspect of his game), Youth (Hood, Gobert) and Draft.

  4. Pingback: 12/1/2014 Standings | clusterball

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