The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Utah Jazz vs. Detroit Pistons 3/14/2015

March 14th, 2015 | by Andy Larsen
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. The Pistons’ effort earned plaudits from Quin Snyder.

Before he even answered a question, and immediately upon taking the microphone postgame, Quin Snyder began by complimenting the Pistons’ fight.

“That team we played, played so hard. To be in a situation where you lose (Andre) Drummond and then you lose Tayshaun Prince, you’re obviously fighting for wins. You know we’ve been there. To come out on a back to back and play the way they did and as hard as they did, we were lucky to get out of there. I thought our guys were tough too. It was a gritty game. But what they did tonight, it’s a tough situation to come into and lose players. Like I said, it’s a gritty game. Both teams made some plays, we ended up making a couple more.”

That’s the first time Snyder has pre-empted a post-game presser, in my memory, so he was obviously impressed with the fight of a team that has now lost 10 in a row. The Pistons did play well tonight defensively, getting in the way of the Jazz’s offensive execution impressively: the Jazz were limited to only 29 uncontested shots for the entire game. And though the Jazz ended up with one more rebound than Detroit, you’d have to say the Pistons won the battle of the boards against the Jazz’s long frontcourt: after all, the Jazz had 16 more missed Detroit field goal attempts to rebound. The Pistons’ effort, especially with injuries mounting, reminded me of the Jazz’s good play recently. Had they not run into a team that also fought hard, they could have broken their losing streak tonight.

2. The 3rd quarter was short on baskets, but long on good execution, according to Snyder.

The microcosm of this game was the 3rd quarter, which the Jazz won 13-12 in an incredible defensive battle. Both teams made just 4 shots in the quarter, shooting under 25% each. When asked how he explained his team’s offensive struggles in the 3rd quarter, Quin surprised everyone by being complimentary of his team’s offensive efforts:

“Honestly, I thought we were playing really good offense. I mean, there’s a difference between scoring and playing good offense. Sometimes, you play bad offense and you score and someone makes a tough shot. I’ll have to look at it, but there were a couple times where we lose force, and we get up against the clock and we’re indecisive. But especially early in the quarter, I thought we were getting really, good looks, we just weren’t converting. And then invariably, we had some turnovers, which hurt. But I really do think that we were better than the score indicated.”

Quin Snyder surprises me often by being completely process-oriented, rather than results-oriented. Stan Van Gundy said before the game tonight, “All I see is the end result” about his team’s 9-game losing streak. On the other hand, Quin Snyder during his team’s 9-game losing streak was completely focused on how the Jazz were playing, rather than his team’s spiraling record. It’s that organizational focus on the process that’s very difficult to do, but has led to significant dividends during this recent Jazz 10-2 streak.

It’s funny: I thought I did “process-oriented” well. As a fan, sitting in the upper bowl, I started cheering before everyone else when the Jazz took a good shot. Sometimes, that made me look silly when a wide-open shot was missed. Quin, though, takes it to a level I didn’t think possible. The most disappointed he’s been this season postgame was this Tuesday, in a game the team barely won, but played poorly during, against the hapless Knicks. It’s really impressive.

3. This starting lineup of Exum/Hood/Hayward/Favors/Gobert is working well.

After the Jazz’s win against Houston on Sunday, radio play-by-play man David Locke wrote this in his post-game wrapup: “Exum, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert started tonight. This could be the starting line-up for a long time… This is a super line-up.  This is the future.”

That starting lineup was a +12 that night against Houston, and was a +3 tonight. Conceptually, it appears to be a good mix: it’s an incredibly long lineup, with every player above 6’6”, allowing you to switch often. It features two rim protectors, and 3 good perimeter defenders. Offensively, Hayward and Favors can work together to get good shots, and Exum and Hood can space the floor1. All 5 players can pass pretty effectively.

I asked Quin Snyder to evaluate how the new lineup is doing through 2 games: “I think it’s ironic: our 1st and 3rd quarters weren’t exactly juggernauts offensively. But that said, I still think we have two guys on the wing who can get a shot. With Dante, Rodney, and Gordon, there’s some length there. That helps. Our defense is able to present problems with their length. It gives us a little more balance on the court.”

The question, then, is if this lineup is “the future”, though that’s still not yet determined, what happens to the year’s starting backcourt of Trey Burke and Alec Burks? Conceptually, I actually like both of those two guys off of the bench. Alec Burks’ game has always fit really well as a 6th-man type player: he needs the ball in his hands to be really effective, but can drive and finish against weaker second-unit defenses. His defense, while good on-ball, has been inconsistent off-ball, and so doesn’t really make a great fit with the first-unit’s defensive teamwork that has been so effective over the last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Trey Burke’s level of play this season probably indicates he’s a backup PG type, unless he can take a large leap. He has neither the setup game, the scoring ability, nor the defensive length to justify a place in the starting lineup. He’s just 22, and point guards can take time to develop, but right now, I don’t think he has justified a starting spot. But now that both guys have tasted consistent starting roles, will both respond well to coming off the bench long-term? Trey Burke’s been fantastic about this, according to all parties involved, and Alec Burks can probably be sold on a 6th-man spot by showing, rightly, that it involves him getting more scoring touches than playing alongside Hayward and Favors. It’ll be interesting to watch.

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

6 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    I love Locke but he is forgetting about Burks. I think Burks will be the starting SG for the future. Hias ability to attack the basket is essential for the Jazz.

    • Spencer says:

      I don’t think he is forgetting Burks, he is just realizing how much more effective he is as a scorer off the bench.

  2. Spencer says:

    I love this starting lineup. There are zero glaring weaknesses and lots of glaring strengths.

    First defensively, they have the ability as we have seen to be the best defensive five in the league. On-ball defense, rim protection, rebounding and team rotations are all elite already.

    Second offensively: I believe that Hood and Hayward are elite shooters on kickouts and the numbers will support that over time. I believe Hood will only improve his numbers in all shooting areas as his conditioning and rhythm improve. Exum will be like Jason Kidd in that he will always be given space due to his speed. He will shoot and make more threes than anyone in franchise history ever has up to this point (and so will Hayward and Hood I believe). I love the pressure that Favors and Gobert place on the rim. Points in the paint will always be a strength. Once Exum finds his inner Tony Parker, this area will be silly.

    The biggest weaknesses are things that have the potential for massive improvement like:

    1) Someone attacking the rim at an elite level off the bounce-Exum has the potential to be as good as anyone in the league here and I believe he will be at the very least excellent. Hood is also very good here and as he gets more comfortable in the offense and teams run him off the line, he will make this a strength.

    2) Shooting-give it time, see above.

    3) Back to the basket post play. Passing from the post is as important as scoring, and both Favors and Gobert will keep improving dramatically here. Plus, Exum will become elite here as well I believe.

    About this time next year, the Jazz (barring injury) should be really gelling and the offense will be catching the defense.

    Now the Bench:
    The Burks brothers are the perfect bench backcourt, and Ingles, Millsap and Trevor Booker bring defense, toughness, passing, and teamwork. They do lack a stretch four/elite shooter off the bench.

  3. Spencer says:

    Draft thought:

    If the Jazz do indeed have elite potential at every position-and I believe they do-then how do you draft?

    My thoughts:

    BPA-obviously and fitting into team culture. IF these players continue to develop at their current rate, then we will in a couple of years run into multiple situations like Kanter’s. We need to prepare to trade some pretty talented players for future picks so that we continue to have that super pipeline of talent that we probably won’t ever have on the FA market. In reality, you can only pay about seven players so sooner or later you want this problem.

    Also, if we are doing so well with what we have, do we really need to go “get” someone? Maybe we do, or maybe we take a few bad contracts and receive more picks?

    If we do “get” a FA, who is a game changer who would actually have a good shot at coming here?

    Chris Middleton?
    Paul Millsap?

    Millsap would have to come off the bench and he would command 14million a year. (But yes he would be an amazing dream come true as the third big).

    Middleton I heard someone say he will command 8 million a year. Okay if that is true take him and let him, Hood and Hayward rotate. Sweet. Realistically he’ll get 45-55 million or 12-14/yr. I might just keep who we have and draft Winslow or Booker.

    The great thing is that he Jazz have already been elite at developing late first and second round talent into excellent team players. That may be all they need with their draft/trade home-runs that brought them Favors, Gobert, Hayward Exum and Hood.

    What do you think Andy?

    • Paul Johnson says:

      I could see the Jazz keeping the following players on the current team:

      PG: Exum, Burke
      SG: Hood, Burks, Millsap
      SF: Hayward, Ingles
      PF: Favors, Booker
      C: Gobert

      Therefore, I see the Jazz needing (1) a third string point guard, (2) a backup 3-and-D SF, (3) a backup stretch-4 PF, and (4) two backup centers, preferably one defensive and one offensive. With those needs, I could see the Jazz doing the following:

      (1) Signing Robin Lopez in free agency as a defensive, backup center (who could fill in well for Gobert defensively, especially against really big, strong bulky centers, such as Marc Gasol or Nikola Pekovic); Lopez may demand a contract in the range of $8-9 mil. per year; (2) signing Al-Farouq Aminu in free agency as a 3-and-D SF (with an emphasis on defense, rather than offense); Aminu could probably be signed with a portion of the mid-level exception at around $4-5 mil. per year (and he is used to being in a backup role); (3) buying out Tibor Pleiss’s Eurpoean contract and bringing him over to the team as the third-string center (who is better offensively than defensively) at probably $2-3 mil. per year; (4) trading Utah’s lottery pick down in the draft to a team with more than one first round pick–and/or perhaps throwing in a future pick(s) and/or a current second round pick(s)–to get two picks in the mid-first round (it appears that both Boston and Philly have more than one first round pick), then using those picks on (a) the best stretch-4 PF available from among the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, Kevin Looney, Bobby Portis, Christian Wood or Trey Lyles, and (b) Delon Wright, who I think would make a perfect 3rd string point guard for the Jazz (even though I’m a BYU fan, not a Utah fan).

      Alternatively, I could see the Jazz either trying to move up in the draft or standing pat in the draft and taking either the best SF available out of Stanley Johnson, Justice Winslow, Kelly Oubre, Mario Hezonja, or Kevin Looney (if the Jazz think he can play SF), or the best stretch-4 PF available, of Porzingis, Kaminsky, Turner, Looney, Portis, Wood or Lyles. The Jazz could still try to get Delon Wright or Terry Rozier with a second round pick, or if that was not successful, they could bring Neto over from Europe, or sign a veteran 3rd string PG in free agency, such as Jameer Nelson, Leandro Barbosa or Luke Ridnour. If the Jazz didn’t pick a stretch-4 PF in the draft, I could see them trying to sign either Anthony Tolliver or Jonas Jerebko in free agency at about $4-5 mil. per year. Also, if the Jazz could not get (or afford) Robin Lopez in free agency, I could see them going after Joel Anthony or Ed Davis as a backup, defensive center in free agency, at about $4-5 mil. per year. Although unlikely (because I think he’s pretty much “burned his bridges” with the Jazz), I also actually think that a little bit more mature, more developed Kyrylo Fesenko might fit into the Jazz system as a backup defensive center, who could probably be signed very cheap–at the veteran’s minimum.

      I think the Jazz at this stage are looking only for players that fit the new Jazz system, and I think all of the above players appear to fit the Jazz system (and could be plugged into the right roles).

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