The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Timberwolves 12/30/2014

December 30th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
Quin Snyder. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Quin Snyder. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. Jazz turned around a very lackadaisical start in the 4th Quarter.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Jazz and Timberwolves were tied at 72. In many ways, this felt like the Sixers game on Saturday, in that the Jazz were putting up a poor performance, but were still in the game due to their weak opponent.

Then, the Timberwolves went on a 10-0 run, and Quin called a quick timeout, clearly incensed at his team’s play. During the timeout, he remained silent and simply stared at his players. From Snyder’s point of view, “I didn’t say anything, because I felt like we weren’t saying anything and I was tired of saying everything every timeout.” The Jazz players read the message loud and clear. As Hayward said, “He said it all just with the look in his eyes.”

We can only assumed the players saw this.

We can only assume the players saw this.

The non-tirade worked. The Jazz went on a 8-2 run after that timeout, then finished the game off with a 16-2 run to finish it out. Along the way, they played great defense, getting 4 steals to seal the game.

It’s another example of the Jazz responding to Quin’s motivational techniques, a coach who hasn’t lost his players despite challenging them on a day-to-day basis. It’s fun to watch. Snyder would like for his players to play like that consistently: “To our guys’ credit they did find that [energy] – I want them to find it sooner.”

2. This game was, in some ways, a referendum on the Trey Burke/Shabazz Muhammad/Gorgui Dieng trade.

The leading scorers for both teams were involved in this draft night trade of 2013, when the Jazz traded the 14th and 21st pick for the 9th pick and the rights to select Trey Burke. Tonight, it seemed like Muhammad and Burke especially were eager to show that the other teams had made a mistake.

Let’s start with Shabazz Muhammad’s game: he went 10-17 in the game for 30 points, including 5-6 from three-point range. He also garnered 7 rebounds in his 38 minutes of play. Shabazz1 looks like a different player than he did last season, through an impressive array of offensive moves and improved shooting skills. The defense is still a worry, but he’s looking like a permanently useful player, when I thought there was very little chance that would happen by near the end of last season. Well done by the Timberwolves coaching staff, and of course, Shabazz himself, to develop him to this point.

Trey Burke had his season high in points, with 26. Overall, though, he shot just 47.6%, so you can’t say it was a particularly efficient offensive performance. He did add 6 points and 4 rebounds to his game, though. After the game, I asked Quin Snyder what he thought about Trey’s game offensively. This was his rebellious response:

“I think the key thing for Trey, to really help our group, is to defend. And it’s easier for him to defend when he’s scoring. And he was scoring tonight, and I’m not taking anything away from his defense, but I’m gonna sit up here and be really really happy with Trey when he has a bad scoring night and he guards. And he was terrific.”

That last add-on aside, it’s interesting that Snyder was so unimpressed with Trey’s offensive game, because all he’s looking for from Trey this season is defense. I didn’t think he defended poorly tonight, and Trey agreed, saying, “Overall I think I had a pretty solid defensive performance.” It feels like Quin’s still looking for something more.

Overall, it’s still too soon to judge the trade, but with the good play of Dieng and Muhammad on the offensive end, and with the struggles of Burke at both ends this season, it’s looking like a win for the Wolves. That doesn’t mean it was a bad decision at the time, though, as it’s hard to say if either Muhammad or Dieng would have had the opportunity to grow with the Jazz as they have with Minnesota. Still, it’ll be something to watch for in upcoming seasons.

3. Alec Burks’ season-ending injury hurts the Jazz significantly.

First of all, the injury is just a bummer. Alec is a cool young player who is fun to watch, that everyone likes being around, and who legitimately works very hard off-the-court to improve his game. Dennis Lindsey answered a lot of questions about his injury in a press conference before the game, Ben Dowsett and I transcribed that for you here.

But tonight’s game also showed how much Burks’ injury will hurt the Jazz over the rest of the season. Patrick Christopher, a man who had played in 2 NBA games for a total of 2 NBA points before tonight’s game, took 8 field goal attempts in his 12 minutes of play. Those are minutes and shots that otherwise would have gone to Alec Burks2. Christopher was 2-8 overall3. The Jazz scored 85 of their points tonight via their starting lineup, while the NBA’s league average is 64, indicating a pretty weak bench.

That being said, this is the plan. As Dennis Lindsey said before the game, despite Alec’s injury, “Frankly, Quin’s very comfortable where we’re at. We’ll see how the young guys do.” Perhaps more than 14 minutes would be appropriate for Dante’s development at this stage with Burks out.

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


  1. “Trey Burke had his season high in points, with 26. Overall, though, he shot just 47.6%”

    There’s only seven guards in the entire NBA — so far this year, and likely to drop — that take at least 5 FGAs/game shooting at least 47.6%. That’s an extremely high percentage for a perimeter player (Kevin Martin, Matthews, D Wade, Curry, Dragic, Tony Parker CP3).

    Dante Exum averaged 18.2 MPG in the month of December.

    • Andy Larsen says:

      So, you’re right. I probably should have expounded a little bit more on these points (and will do so here):

      That’s obviously a very good game by Trey, you’re right, 47.6% is a good shooting percentage for a guard as an average. However, it is somewhat discouraging that even in the best of his games, he still shoots under 50% from the field.

      Re: Dante. Indeed he did. I A) feel he should be playing more than that generally, and B) I thought he should have played more than 14 minutes tonight, taking some minutes away from Jingles or Patrick Christopher. (Exum didn’t have his best of games, to be fair).

      • casey says:

        to add to your point Andy, Trey only has 6 games all year shooting over 50% from the field. Not very good….

        • While Burke has shot poorly this season, assigning an arbitrary FG shooting line of 50% is utterly unrealistic. We need to adjust thinking about what we should expect as far as percentages from the field for both wings and guards.

          Steve Nash might be the best shooting PG of all time and his career average is 49%, which is almost unheard of. We should expect somewhere in the neighborhood of closer to 40% than even 45% from our perimeter players in the NBA these days, and that would be a very good average.

          Trey Burke’s .571 TS% and .548 eFG% were excellent marks for efficiency last night.

          • Steve says:

            “Steve Nash might be the best shooting PG of all time and his career average is 49%”

            Er . . . um . . . John Stockton’s 19 year career FG% is 51.5. How ’bout let’s not de-rate local icon, eh? :-)

      • I believe it was Locke pregame that asked Snyder specifically if Exum would play more now. Quin said, “If he’s playing well, if not then I’ll go with someone else.” He wasn’t, as you noted, so he did.

  2. Steven says:

    Trey is also a very young guy, who came into the NBA, through no fault of his own having to be the number 1 PG on a very young inexperienced team, with poor PGs as a back up. This season he has a more able backup in Dante behind him, but for all his promise and potential for greatness ith his height, speed, and athleticism and good defence Exum isn’t overwhelming the backup PG’s that he spends much of his time playing against. Dante has the luxury of playing much of his time and learning the position against inferior competition.

    We look at Trey and he’s not Stockton, or Dwill. Neither of those players though started their Jazz career playing against the top 5 of other units. Over time both players developed to become the best or close to the best player on the team. Dwill was the most important player on his Jazz team. Stockton was a very close second, behind Malone. Trey by comparison is probably the 5th most important starter on his team. But he’s also the least experienced by far. Its taken over 4 years for Hayward, the most talented all round player on this Jazz team to find who he is and grow into his role. He’s the one player over everyone else who has played the most minutes. Favors as transformed into another player this season too, again in his 5th year in the league. Burks before he got injured was just finding out what it was to be a starter in his 4th year. The draft scouting reports on Kanter was that he was good on the boards and had a nice range with an ability to step out for 20 footers, yet he came into the league much of his offensive game focused on scoring from scraps under the basket, That was either through lack of confidence in his range in the NBA environment or by coaching. Now in his fourth year he is starting to demonstrate his range consistently with the skillset that was deemed to have in those early draft reports. My point being it takes time to develop into the player that you are destined to be in teh NBA. Out of the four players that Trey plays most of his time playing alongside only Hayward, and much later on Favors, learned the NBA game playing against starting units. The rest of the players, had the luxury of making mistakes against weaker calibre players.

    For the most part PG’s don’t come in to the league and play in the starting five. Fewer still become the most important man on that starting five. Think Kyrie Irving at Cleveland, after Lebron left. John Wall at Washington. Or MCW on a bad 76ers team.

    Few become an outright star right away.

    Take Lilliard who had a a bigger body type more suited to the NBA, he had four years college experience before he came to the NBA and he had a All Star to play alongside. Having stars around you makes the game easier. Trey has a whole load of inexperience around him. Having that bigger body should make it easier. Having those extra years should make it easier. Playing with experienced guys, makes dishing assists so much easier,. Playing with teammates who know who they are, and what their roles are means you aren’t learning that role together too.

    Hayward did a lot last season and yet he was getting flak for the contract he was given over the summer, and yet he was by far our most important player of the season. This season he’s looking like he’s worth the money and the flak has eased off.

    Trey though came into a situation where he had to play right away, When he was injured, the team was 1-14, when he and Marvin came in to the team, there was an instance response, the team improved for a short while and starting playing close to 500 basketball, before the team dropped off and went on another bad run.

    There is no doubing the fact that Dante is a better defender, or that he is more athetic and has more height. At least two of those three Trey cannot change. Over time he may demonstate the ability to be a better defender, in the ways that Quin wants him to be. Hopefully he learns some of the scrapiness and somewhat dirty plays that Stockton had in his game – not sure some that is even allowed in today’s game – but heres hoping, What Trey is today though is a team player. He’s not a hero player, he doesn’t go off looking for his shot first and foremost. He takes care of the ball, and tries to find his teammates first. He’s a pass first point guard, and shoot second. He’s perhaps too turnover cautious, perhaps a little too methodical. He could move it around quicker. He’s growing up in an environment though where every mistake is punished, and he doesn’t want to make mistakes.

    Trey is showing signs though of taking more responsibility on shooting and driving, in recent games. With his shooting percentages thats going to aggravate some fans but its exactly what this Jazz team needs. He needs to learn to shoot more. This Jazz team needs defences to take his shooting and driving threat seriously, to make the defence play honest and allow his teammates more space on the floor. Even if over the coming weeks he misses those shots and teams start collapsing on his driving lanes he needs to continue along this vein, because it will give him opportunites to dish off to an open teammate when defences respect his urge to go for it.

    His shooting from the free throw line is good. He just doesn’t get there often enough. When he has the chance to set his feet, or the clock is running down in clutch situations he hits a good number. Where his percentages really fall off is when he holds onto the ball trying to find an open teammate and the play doesn’t develop and he has to suddenly take the shot on. If over the the coming weeks he develops his mentality to have a more balanced passing and shooting/driving game, he can and will make more of his shots if he gives himself the time on the clock to make those shots. I am one of the players that want to see him make mistakes this season. I want to seem him throw some his natural caution to the wind and start taking on more himself. He runs the team well. For all his defensive flaws, and his shooting percentages woes, the starting five doesn’t get over run very often. This is a learning season though, the Jazz aren’t going to the playoffs, I want to see Trey be more selfish in learning his NBA game this season while the team isn’t going to get 50 wins in the season. I want him to drive and miss and drive again. I want him to pass first, but also leave himself enough opportunity time and space to shoot ealier in the shot clock. He’s not Jazz Deron, he not going to be the number one guy, but this is the season where he needs to look at the situation and go ‘ok well my teammates aren’t in the right position and don’t have enough space’ its up to be to score in this play’, when he’s got a bit more of that in him he’s going to be ok. He’s got to learn to be that bit more selfish, take on that bit more responsibility and trust himself. Its not easy to do in the NBA. It took Hayward some time, Favors is learning to do that this season, Burks and Kanter are still learning it.

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    I think the upside for Trey Burke could be a similar game to that of Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. However, it took Lowry several years to get to the level of success that he is currently enjoying. Despite his smaller size, Trey seems to be able to get separation for his jump shot almost at will. Trey also has an unusual knack for running an offense. If he can learn to be a bit more selective about what shots to take, can start hitting a higher percentage of his shots as he did tonight, and can be more focused in defense, no one will be complaining about the play of Trey Burke.

  4. Spencer Leany says:

    Trey’s defense is very suspect. When it is one on one, defensively he is ok. However, watch him when he gets screened. It’s almost as if he doesn’t even try to avoid the pick. He just assumes he wont make it through and then the Jazz are immediately in scramble mode. Then it’s the defense of the off-defender that may look bad or someone else who had to leave his guy to help out. Trey HAS to figure out how to avoid getting screened every time. I am gonna guess this is why Q didn’t think he had a good defensive game even though Trey thought it was a decent defensive game for him.
    However, I thought Trey made some offensive moves this game that 1) hopefully are carried on from game to game. 2) Would prove that he could be a Point Guard in this league.

  5. Andy Larsen says:

    You guys have made some really good points here. It was, definitely, a good game by Burke, just not a brilliant one.

    Trey’s potential is a really good question, IMO. Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Kyrie, and MCW all had better rookie and sophomore seasons than Trey. It’s difficult to find PGs who have 1.5 below-average seasons, then turn it around to become above-average starting PGs. Billups is the example that comes to mind for me, but there may be others. Maybe Goran Dragic?

    • Steven says:

      I can’t remember Kyle Lowry’s rookie season, I confess I wasn’t paying attention to his rookie campaign but I certainly wouldn’t argue with the John Wall and Kyrie assessment, but they were also both drafted as number 1. There were also seen as the number one guy on their team as a result.

      Personally though I think MCW was greatly overrated last season as a rookie of the year. It was a very bad class to begin with. But also MCW is a stats guy, He doesn’t seem to make his team better. He puts up his stats but his team doesn’t win. He is a very inefficient player, his ineffiicency in regards to his own scoring probably adds to more losses than wins. There was plenty of talk in the summer that despite his rookie of the year award that the 76ers were contemplating trading him away. Thats hardly a ringing endorsement from his own team.

      Trey isn’t going to be in the league of Lilliard, a Jazz Dwill, or CP3 but yes I think there is the potential of him being a solid player in the Dragic/Lowry mold. That might be no bad thing either. The Jazz had a star PG in Dwill but it didn’t get the team over the hump, because the other pieces weren’t there. The Jazz are going to come away from this years draft with another solid chance for a decent pick, to compliment the likes of a growing Hayward, Favors, Burks, Kanter, Burke, Exum, Gobert and Hood if we are patient with all of them and develop them instead of righting them off too soon and allowing others to pick them up we might just have a chance to have a better rounded team than those DWill teams which always seemed to be just a little short handed for a real chance at glory.

  6. Mewko says:

    The Western Conference is full of star point guards, and your starting point guard better be good, and win matchups. Only Lakers, Rockets, T-Wolves, Kings, and Jazz don’t have star point guards (right now, Dante Exum can be one in 2017-ish)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *