The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Nets 2/19/2014

February 19th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
Jeremy Evans is quietly having a pretty great season. Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeremy Evans is quietly having a pretty great season. Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Gordon Hayward’s up-and-down season continues.

Hayward was coming off a 3-17 performance against the Philadelphia 76ers last Wednesday, that was naturally overshadowed by a win. After a loss, naturally the players get more scrutiny, and Hayward’s understandably being attacked after a 3-11 performance tonight. After all, tonight’s game drops Hayward’s shooting percentage to below 40% for the year (39.9%).

On Twitter, some fans and analysts are calling Hayward’s game “aloof” or “disengaged”. There’s not a lot of evidence for that assertion. For one, by nearly every other measure besides his shooting percentage, Hayward’s having the best season of his career. This is Hayward’s best season in terms of assists per 36 minutes (averaging 5 per 36 minutes), rebounds (averaging 5.5 per 36 minutes), steals (1.4 per 36 minutes), and blocks (0.7 per 36 minutes). His turnovers are up over last season, but he has a turnover rate right around career averages.

Additionally, he’s clearly still hustling and trying. He still leads the Jazz by far in the amount of distance he’s traveling on the court, over 2.6 miles per game. That’s 23% more than second place man Derrick Favors. He’s second on the team in both touches and time of possession, and very understandably behind the PG Trey Burke. To call him disengaged in the offense is simply uninformed.

But he shouldn’t be shooting this poorly. It’s easy to surmise that Hayward’s poor shooting is a natural result of taking on more usage, a nearly axiomatic result in basketball analytics and one that makes a lot of intuitive sense. 1 Small sample size, of course, but of Hayward’s 11 shots tonight, 9 of them were uncontested (without a defender within 4 feet). He made 3 of those. 33% on uncontested looks isn’t a very good rate. 2 Additionally, Hayward’s usage actually isn’t up that much, just 1.3%. This is worrisome for Jazz fans, but speaks much more to Hayward’s skill level than his effort level. If Hayward’s to be attacked, it should be for missing too many shots, not his emotional investment in games.

2. Strangely, the Jazz didn’t foul with 32 seconds left down 4.

There was a strange strategical slip-up at the end of Wednesday’s game. Down 10 to the Nets with 2 minutes left, Utah went on a mini-run to get the game to within four points with 32.6 seconds left. At this point of the game, there were two ideological possibilities for coach Ty Corbin:

a) foul immediately, thus getting the ball back as quickly as possible to try to reduce the deficit further.

b) wait for the Nets to take a shot. Ideally they’ll miss with about 8 seconds left, allowing you to rebound, call timeout, and possibly make a couple of threes to send the game to overtime. 3

Unfortunately, Corbin chose option c): “Inexplicably allow Deron Williams to dribble the ball down the court and wait patiently for 16 seconds before then telling Trey Burke to foul.” Burke, to his credit, looked back at his coach for instruction to foul, but said instruction came far too late.

I asked Corbin about the play after the game: “I thought they were going to go quick, and they held back, and I decided to go ahead and foul. My call.” It’s not clear why Corbin thought the Nets were going to play quickly while they were up with only 30 seconds left, but at least Corbin took responsibility. It certainly wasn’t the most important possession of the game, so it’s important to keep the mistake in perspective. But it wasn’t a brilliant move.

3. Jeremy Evans got his career high in rebounds tonight.

Evans accumulated his 13 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive, in just 20 minutes tonight, an impressive tally. Evans’s small frame means that boxing out isn’t as effective as simply just jumping high for rebounds. Nevertheless, it’s an effective strategy; according to NBA.com’s SportVu stats, Evans gets the second most contested rebounds per minute of anyone on the team.

It’s just another part of a solid season by Evans. He leads the team in PER at 19.1, and this season he’s getting significantly more minutes, over double his career average. He’s added a pretty impressive mid-range jump shot (he’s shooting over 40% from mid-range) and of course is still finishing well within the restricted area. He’s rebounding as well as he ever has, and despite taking on more possessions, he’s rarely turning the ball over. 4 Teams aren’t really game planning for him, but his production is a valuable bargain at under $2 million dollars per season.

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 of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
Andy Larsen

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11 Comments

  1. When I called Hayward “aloof” I was referring to his general personality, not his play on the court. He’s very even-keeled, doesn’t ever get too high or too low. That’s just who he is. It wasn’t a criticism of his play.

  2. DB says:

    My biggest takeaway from last night was Blatche getting 25 uncontested points. It seemed like no one wanted to get within 5 feet of him all night. Is he really that skilled that no one can cover him? Or did he perhaps forget to shower?

  3. cw says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Evans last night. He is developing into a valuable bench guy and a really good bargin. It shows forsight that the Jazz signed him, what was it, two years ago?

    About Hayward, I think it’s pressure that is causing him to shoot so poorly. I think he was an up and down shooter anyway, but I think he’s shooting even worse because he’s folding under the pressure of the contract year and the huge price his agent was asking and the new higher expectations and the positive talk around the league about him. Some players would relish the challenge of those expectations (like Haywards bizarro world twin, Paul George) but that does not seem to be his personality. Think back to the NCAA finals. Not his last shot, but the one before. I think they were 2 points behind or something and Hayward got the ball on the block, got off a decent a decent shot but missed. He’s kind of the opposite of Trey Burke. Does not rise to the occasion. He’d be great as a third option on a good team making $8-10 million a year, but a huge risk at $13+

    His agent screwed him over too, by asking too much. As an agent it seems like you should understand the personality of your player.

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