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Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Nets at Jazz 2-19-2014 #1

Nets 105, Jazz 99

Like many sports-loving families, growing up my Dad and I would play pickup basketball in our driveway. By the time I reached junior high, I was tall, quick, and athletic enough to beat him handily, but I didn’t. Every game felt like a battle to the final shots* (*win by two). My Dad was still heavier and stronger, so he would back me down from about 20-feet and shoot an unblockable hook shot off our very forgiving backboard. Defensively, he would stand about 12-feet from the basket and dare me to shoot from 19’9″ (the high school and at the time college three-point line). I would make enough threes and he enough high-percentage twos (we scored by 2’s and 3’s not 1’s and 2’s like is done today which further skews the value of a three-point shot) that it would come down to who could achieve the elusive score-stop-score sequence. At that point Dad would suddenly come out and guard me, not quick enough to stay in front of me but clever enough to reach in and rip the ball away as I made my go-to dribble-drive moves which he knew.

The point is my Dad played “old man basketball.” He would conserve energy and turn it into a game of fundamentals and standstill shooting for 80% of the game, then get serious and ball out with the game on the line.

That’s what the Nets did to the Jazz last night, they beat them playing “old man ball.” For 29 minutes the Nets allowed the Jazz to shoot open threes, outhustle them for loose balls and beat them up and down the court. Then Brooklyn got serious, outscoring Utah 50-31 in the game’s final 19 minutes.

Defensively the Nets suddenly were alive, contesting Utah on the perimeter (Utah shot 7-13 behind the arc in the 1st-half and just 2-11 in the 2nd-half) and ripping the ball away from them inside (5 Utah turnovers in the 4th-quarter versus 13 in the first 3).

This pattern can be expected for an aging Nets team boasting the 37-year old Kevin Garnett, a 36-year old Paul Pierce and a $200 million backcourt that oddly exudes a vibe that they’re also in their late 30’s olds rather than the 29 and 32 year-olds Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are, respectively.

Regardless, when it came to “winning time,” the Nets turned on a switch that Utah couldn’t match physically or mentally. This was a great learning experience for the likes of Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke – but is also problematic of being a season long cellar-dweller in the dead of winter. Opponents test the waters to see if they can get by with a B-effort before deciding to dip a toe in or wade in up to their chest. Sometimes (see Utah’s home wins over Miami and OKC wins) it bites them in the rear, but other times (GS 3 weeks ago and Brooklyn last night) it works and you can’t help but look back and wonder how much of Utah Jazz 1st and 2nd-quarters actually represent meaningful minutes when competing against teams giving marginal effort to start.

Alec Burks

Starting from opening night against OKC when he was the only difference between a double-digit home loss and a game that went down to the final shot, Alec Burks has enjoyed a break-through season averaging 13.6 points while shooting a respectable 45% from the field and 36% from behind the arc despite just playing 27.3 minutes per game. On a Per-36 Minute basis, Burks scoring increases to 17.9 points and his free throw attempts to 6.0 per game. (By comparison Hayward, Utah’s leading scorer at 16.2 pts/gm actually sees his Per-36 scoring averages decline slightly to 16.0).

In the past three games, Alec Burks has been phenomenal – averaging 24.3 points on 60% shooting with 11.3 free throw attempts per game in just 27.0 minutes. Even more incredible, he’s the first Jazz player to post three consecutive games of 20-points all coming off-the-bench since Jeff Malone in March of 1993.

I understand why it may be preferable to utilize a gifted scorer in a 6th-man role to provide scoring punch off-the-bench. However, on a lottery bound team in a season designated by everyone as a “rebuilding year,” none of those exist with Alec. The Jazz have virtually nothing to lose in starting Burks for the remainder of the season (also maximizing the on-court time a slumping Hayward has with another scorer on the wing) and very much to gain – including a potential starting 2-guard of their future.

To Foul or Not to Foul

As anyone who watched last night’s maddening ending would know, with 32.6 seconds remaining Alec Burks scored on a backdoor cut (off a fantastic left-hand bullet pass from Trey Burke) to pull the Jazz to within 99-95. Down 4 with an 8.6 second differential between shotclock and gameclock, intentionally fouling appeared to be a no-brainer. Yet the Jazz didn’t foul. On the replay you could even see Trey Burke glancing over his shoulder toward the Jazz sideline as he guarded the ball but Ty Corbin stood there frozen as 16 seconds ticked away before the Jazz finally (mercifully) fouled. (They had a foul to give so they had to foul again to send Brooklyn to the line). The Nets made both free throws to make it a 6-point game with 14.9 seconds left.

There’s a huge difference between a two-possession game with 30 seconds left and one with half of that time. To me, a general rule of thumb is in a 1-possession NBA game, an 8-second differential is perfectly acceptable to play it out. In a two-possession game, with anything less than a 10-second differential (or lack timeouts) you foul immediately because of the old adage you can regain possession but you can never put time back on the clock.

Heck, 4 years ago Jerry Sloan opted to immediately intentionally foul in what was merely a 3-point game with a 5-second differential. The difference became an extra-possession sequence that trimmed the deficit and was culminated by Sundiata Gaines giving Jazz fans arguably the single most euphoric moment in franchise history since Stockton hit “The Shot.” Whatever your strategy, hesitancy will kill clock and kill your team’s chances and that was the case last night.

Corbin’s postgame explanation made even less sense. The bottom line is the Utah Jazz coaching staff screwed up, with their eventual decision to foul after 16 seconds of passive defense being the ultimate admission of guilt.

Trade Deadline

If the Jazz do make a deal, there are two realistic goals I’d like the Jazz to accomplish.

1.) Asset accumulation. If Utah can pawn off a Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson (unlikely) and even a Jeremy Evans (who I really like but whose bargain basement contract and off-the-bench skillset could make him very attractive to other teams) for a future protected 1st-round pick, I would do it in a heartbeat.

In the NBA, you need a star player and if you can’t sign one (thank you SLC) you either need to draft one or trade for one. To draft one you either need a top overall pick (looking unlikely for Utah in 2014) or a slew of potentially high picks in which you hope you strike oil with one. To trade for a superstar, you need to accumulate enough assets to make a godfather-type offer in the way Houston acquired a James Harden and Dwight Howard. Utah already has a slew of young talent combined with all of their own 1st-round picks plus two GS 1st-rounders. Add another one and then trust in Dennis Lindsey’s ability to draft/deal.

2.) Long-term Development. Alec Burks needs to start. Kanter (and to a lesser extent Favors) and Gobert need more minutes. If the Jazz can move one of their pending veteran unrestricted free agents (a Jefferson or Williams) who are causing a log-jam toward extending playing time for younger players who factor more prominently into the team’s future, the Jazz need to do it even if the return is only a corresponding expiring contract of a far lesser talent and/or a 2nd-round pick.

The Jazz aren’t making a surprise playoff push this season (unlike Jeff Hornacek’ Phoenix Suns). The Jazz vision has to be a 4-5 year window in which 2013-14 season is used to maximize the team’s future not pander to pending free agents the way they did in 2012-13 that netted them nothing both short-term and long-term.

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53 games down, 29 to go. In some ways the season feels like it’s taking forever and in other ways there are still a plethora of unanswered questions relating to the future of the Utah Jazz and dwindling time left to answer them. There has been noticeable growth and there has been substantial development, but hopefully we’ll see a lot more to fill in more of the blanks that the Jazz have not tried hard enough to fill.

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In today’s B.S. Report, Grantland’s Bill Simmons said that believes the Celtics should and will make a run at Gordon Hayward. The entire podcast can be heard here, with the Hayward conversation beginning around the 34:10-mark.

Hayward Future

Here is the Hayward discussion between Simmons and Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

Simmons: “The Celtics made a sneaky trade over the weekend – they got rid of Courtney Lee’s contract. It’s now doable for the Celtics to make a run at somebody this summer, with a contract starting at I think – depending on where the cap is – it could be like $10 million, $11 million something like that. I think Gordon Hayward is a target for them and I don’t know if it happens next month before the deadline or it’s something where they just plan on making a giant restricted  offer and hoping Utah doesn’t match or whatever…but I think Gordon Hayward is somebody that they want.”

Lowe: “It wouldn’t surprise me, Hayward is the one restricted guy that I look at and say ‘You might be able to get this guy if you really love him, you’re confident that his sort of decline statistically this season is just because he’s on a horrible team where he has to do too much and he’s young – and you throw a huge offer at him…he’s the one guy of the restricted free agents you might be able to get.”

Simmons: “Hayward is also young, Hayward turns 24 in March and as you said not having a great season, not having a good shooting season his threes went in the tank this year he’s 31% right now, last year he was 42%. Umm, but again he’s on a terrible team, it’s not a well-coached team, I would say going from Ty Corbin to Brad Stevens would be a slight upgrade especially the way Stevens knows how to use him and I think the Celtics could construct an offer and get to, you know starting at $13 million that could probably get to like $58 million for 4 years and that puts Utah in a really interesting spot because…where-where did they – they didn’t even want to pay him what – 4 for $45 (million) as an extension? Something like that or did he want the max?”

Lowe: “I don’t think the figures ever came out, I mean th-they, umm I remember Marc Stein tweeting something that rumors that Hayward’s team demanded the same contract that Paul George got or a max-contract were not true, but I don’t know that the exact numbers ever came out and this year you know at the very least his value is sort of plateauing he’s not playing into – yet – he’s not playing himself into a massive deal.”

Simmons: “If you’re Utah would you consider trading him?”

Lowe: *deep sigh* …”I mean I’d consider anything if I were Utah.”

Simmons: “Right, but let’s say Phoenix said ‘Hey we have a lot of first-round picks, we like Gordon Hayward a lot, would you like some of our first-round picks? Then you could be reeeally bad, now you’re guaranteed – we’re taking only your kind of competent scorer other than Trey Burke off your roster.”

Lowe: “But I’ve already got two Golden State first-round picks, now maybe those aren’t going to end up being very good but one of them is in 2017 so atleast it has the possibility of being very good. I don’t know that – I might think that Utah might think the other way where, where you know ‘I’m just going to hold onto these assets and – including Hayward and try to see maybe down the line if there’s a superstar or a star that becomes available but…it’s hard when you’re Utah because you can’t trade for a superstar that has one or two years left on his contract because you run the risk of, you know he’s just going to go out of town.”

Simmons: “If you were the Celtics, would you say ‘Hey Utah, you know that pick we have – it’s the worst [least favorable] pick we have of Brooklyn or Atlanta – we’ll give you that pick right now for Gordon Hayward. It might get in the lottery. You can have it right now. Straight up. That would be interesting.”

Lowe: “Yeah…”

Simmons: “I think if I’m Utah I do that.”

Lowe: “If I were the Celtics I would do that in a second, I think Utah would demand more and I don’t know what the Celtics have that they’re interested in they’re a Jeff Green team and I don’t know that they are or not.”

Simmons: “Mmm I don’t know how many ‘Jeff Green teams’ there are out there at this point – I really like Gordon Hayward though and I think him and Lance [Stephenson] are the two fascinating [free agent] guys, Melo obviously is interesting and I think Chicago has to be considered – anything Carmelo conversation now Chicago has to be brought up because if they amnesty Boozer they’re on the road to having enough cap space to make him a huge offer.”

For good measure, Simmons and Lowe also briefly touched on Jeff Hornacek.

Simmons: “Phoenix is 20-12, I saw them in person last week and they just knocked my socks off how well-coached they were.”

Simmons on watching the Suns in person: “You would love it…you would have to…have a cigar afterward you would be so excited about Hornacek.”

Lowe: “Well they’re delightful on television and boy that’s the biggest mistake we’ve made in my short time at Grantland is ranking them toward the bottom of our league-pass watch-ability rankings.”

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On October 21, 2013 Marc Stein tweeted that: “Hayward has tons of fans in front offices around the league. Will draw tons of interest next July if he makes it to restricted free agency

That goes in conjuncture with what Peter Vescey tweeted on November 21, 2013: “According to a GM, the Suns will do everything possible this summer to sign Gordon Hayward to an unmatchable offer sheet.

Not counting Boston’s 2014 Draft Pick cap holds, assuming they renounce their rights on Jordan Crawford, don’t pick up Keith Bogan’s 2014-15 salary, and for now slotting Avery Bradley’s $3.2 million qualifying offer in – the Celtics will be around $48 million with 8 players – certainly possessing the wiggle-room to make one additional dump-deal and present Hayward an attractive 8-figure offer.

Although re-signing RFA Eric Bledose will eat up a large chunk of it, the Suns also project to have the cap room (although approximate figures vary due to fluctuating cap holds for 2014 draft picks they may or may not receive, along with a $6.8 million player option Channing Frye possesses).

So what do you think is Gordon Hayward’s free agency value is, and should the Jazz (or any team) meet/exceed it with the belief that a new coach and upgraded supporting cast can rebuild Hayward’s shooting efficiency – or should the Jazz preemptively trade him to get value in return if they think he’ll get an offer they won’t be willing to match?

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Bucks at Jazz 1-2-14

Final Score: Jazz 96, Bucks 87

The Utah Jazz defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in a battle between the two teams with the worst records in the NBA. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 22 points (on 8-16 shooting and 3-5 from behind the arc) while Derrick Favors scored 21 (on 9-16 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 4 steals). It marked only the second time in their 4-year Jazz careers that both Hayward and Favors scored 20-points or more in the same game. They were joined in double-figures by Alec Burks (13 pts), Trey Burke (11 pts), Enes Kanter (11 pts) and Diante Garrett (10 points) – signifying only the second game that the “Core-5” (Burke/Burks/Hayward/Favors/Kanter) all scored in double-figures in the same game.

Run It Back

Play of the Game: 3:18 4th-Qtr – Milwaukee had cut what was once a 14-point Utah lead to 3 late in the 4th when Alec Burks drove middle from the left-wing and converted a fingeroll over the outstretched arm of Larry Sanders. Utah’s offense was out-of-sorts against the Bucks’ 2-3 zone and Burks’ layup sparked a 10-2 Jazz run to seal the victory.

Player of the Game: Derrick Favors displayed his offensive diversity as he scored his 21 points on 9-16 shooting in a variety of ways. He shot 4-8 on post-ups, 3-4 on pick&rolls, 1-2 on offensive rebounds (he grabbed 3) and 1-2 on direct dishes/kickouts. After shooting 41.6% in his first 7 games, Favors has shot 55.1% in his last 26.

Best Shot: 0:45 3rd-Qtr – A Hayward/Kanter screen-roll collapsed Milaukee’s defense giving Diante Garrett an open top-of-the-key three off a crisp skip-pass by Gordon – which Garrett knocked down. Garrett played quite well in 5 of his first 7 games since joining the Jazz, then jockeyed with John Lucas for 2nd and 3rd PG in the rotation and has since resumed backup duties in the last two games. With 10 points on 4-5 shooting and 2-2 from behind the arc, it was Garrett’s highest scoring game as a pro (in my opinion his 7-point/8-assist game in Dallas is still his best game as a Jazz player).

Next week the Jazz will have to decide whether to waive Garrett or guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Garrett won’t blow anyone away with his playmaking or shooting (40%FG/36%3pt) but he’s a better option than John Lucas III (32%FG/32%FG) because he understands his strengths&weaknessess, plays within himself, has size, and defends fairly well.

Best Block: 5:14 4th-Qtr – Following a Burke turnover, the Bucks pushed the ball in transition but Gordon Hayward rejected Giannis Anteokounmpo’s layup at the rim – pinning the ball to the backboard. Anteokounmpo is a springy 6-9 athletic freak in the mold of a young Kirilenko or Iguodala – and Hayward got the better of him on this above-the-rim play. Hayward recorded 3 blocks giving him 12 over the past 7 games. Gordon’s shooting percentages have fluctuated all season but his all-around play remains a bright spot. Last night shooting efficiency was back on target last night, as he shot 3-7 on catch&shoot jumpers, 1-1 on off-the-dribble jumpers and 3-5 on halfcourt drives to the basket.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 1:15 1st-Qtr – The Jazz got one of their easiest baskets of the night – a Diante Garrett layup – off a well-executed UCLA rub cut. The Jazz ran a few UCLA sets in the 1st-half, not many in comparison to pre-2011, but more than they’ve run throughout most of the 2013-14 season. As I’ll explain below, with so-so offensive production (still just 26th in the NBA) – running more well-executed UCLA sets could open up a much-needed avenue of high-percentage looks.

See A Different Game

The UCLA set was once a Jazzbasketball staple under the direction and orchestration of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. Utah starts in a standard 1-4 set with a rub cut down the lane – where the ball-handler (normally the PG) initiates the play by passing to the wing before cutting down the lane.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #1

With proper timing and accurate passing, this simple set can garner a layup against an average defense atleast 1-2 times per half – either from the initial cut or via multiple secondary options.

Here the Jazz run the same set three times against the Bucks in the 1st-half.

1. The first possession the initial rub cut results in an easy layup for Garrett.

2. The second possession the iniital cut didn’t net an open opportunity so the Jazz run through their entire set with the initiator (Burke) running through to set a backscreen for Hayward. The next read for both Burke and the high-post passer (Marvin) is dependent upon Burke’s man (#13 Ridnour). Here, you’ll see Ridnour momentarily help on the backscreen, keying Burke to fire out weakside behind Favors’ screen. Ridnour shoots the gap, and as Burke learns more of the nuances he’ll fade to the corner and get a wide-open 16-footer from the baseline. Nevertheless Burke wisely doesn’t force a jumper with Ridnour closing out, and proceeds to quickly get the ball inside to Favors – who is able to establish deep post-position due to the location of the screen he just set.

3. The third possession the Jazz should again have had a layup, but their timing is just a tad off. Favors doesn’t get a solid initial screen on Burke’s rub cut, but Burke sets a terrific screen for Jefferson who should have a layup springing free, but Favors is a split-second late with his pass. Instead of RJ catching the ball at the rim so he can go straight-up for a layup, the pass leads him through the lane all the way over to the left block. RJ posts up and the Jazz eventually get a Hayward three out of it, but that’s not an option you want to rely on.

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Even with so-so execution, you can see just a few of the multiple options this basic set provides. Not only do you get all the weakside options having the cutter run through, you can put a playmaker on the wing so after the rub cut, instead of passing to the high-post you turn it into a quick side pick&roll. The Jazz often did this with Deron Williams on the wing and Andrei Kirilenko initiating. Similar to how the Spurs screen for their screener to setup their high screen-roll, the initial rub-cut momentarily occupies the screener’s man giving the Jazz another advantage getting into side pick&roll.

Furthermore, this set can also trigger more of what Utah used to call their “auto” set and vaunted flex offense, where you pass to the wing but instead of the initiator cutting down the lane, he “bounces” back off the screen to receive the pass at the top-of-the-key for a quick ball-reversal where you have a weakside pindown (i.e. the automatic Korver/Harpring mid-range jumper). And if that doesn’t produce an open look, you have another weakside pindown with the guard screening for the bigman to come up to the elbow (often Okur) for another ball-reversal back to side of the floor the play originated on.

Considering the Jazz so rarely run this set anymore, it’s certainly understandable that their timing and execution won’t be crisp and they haven’t put in all the options and variations – but last night did provide some examples of the high-percentage looks Utah can get from this oldie but goodie.

Odds and Ends

  • The announced attendance of 16,012 represents the 4th-smallest crowd in the 23-year history of the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena.
  • The Jazz have now set the 4 of the 5 lowest DC/ESA attendance marks this season.
  • From Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Aaron Falk, the Bucks haven’t beaten the Jazz in Utah since October 30, 2001. That game was opening night and the Jazz lost in overtime on a night the overriding theme was the remembrance of 9/11 – that included this moving pregame ceremony featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The Final Word

The Bucks are a dreadful team with the worst-talent base in the league. As a team Utah’s level of play wasn’t great (as evidenced by a 1-possession game with 3:30 remaining) but the Jazz did take care of business at home against a team they had no excuse to lose to.

While veteran starters Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams both struggled (combining for just 6 points on 2-10 shooting), Utah’s young core provided the scoring punch with 78 of their 96 points (81%) coming from Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter. That talented fivesome is still yet to see the floor together at the same time (just 15-minutes in the entire season), but last night they all provided the scoring punch.

Aside from the “Kanter PT = 48 – Favors’ PT” and “Favors PT = 48 – Kanter’s PT” forumlas the Jazz appear to be adhering to, I feel surprisingly good about last night’s win. Beating a team you’re supposed to beat may not be an impressive accomplishment, but it’s a scenario the Jazz have rarely found themselves in this season. Seeing the future of the team succeed while still having the opportunity to play through new experiences is what I hope the 2013-14 season is ultimately about, as opposed to resurrecting the careers of soon-to-be veteran free agents.

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Jazz at Warriors 11-16-13

Final Score: Warriors 102, Jazz 88

Run It Back

Player Of The Game: Derrick Favors – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 8-12 shooting.
Favors continued to showcase more of his offensive confidence and skillset despite inexplicably spending the first 9-minutes of the 2nd-quarter on the bench despite no foul trouble and an 8-point on 4-5 shooting 1st-qtr.

Favors’ 8 field goals:
1. Face-up on David Lee from right-wing, dribble to baseline then step-back jumper.
2. Pick&pop 17-foot jumper off nice feed from Burks.
3. Right-block running jumper going middle, contact on way up but still banked in.
4. 1-on-1 vs Lee at FT line, one dribble right then spin back left and kissed fadeaway off-glass.
5. Offensive rebound putback.
6. Cross-screen action freed him up for layup while also drawing foul on Bogut.
7. Pick&roll with Jefferson rolling to basket for another 3pt-play opportunity.
8. 12-foot jumper over Bogut facing-up on left-block.

On Utah’s roadtrip Favors appeared to lose a lot of confidence in his offensive game. Gradually over the past four games he’s regained that and now he’s taking and making shots that have surprised us as well as his defenders.

On Favors first three jumpshots to start the game, the most encouraging part was they looked so much better. When Favors misses, he usually shoots a flat-footed jumper where he aims it at the rim. These were jumpshots where he didn’t hesitate, got good elevation and went straight up into a smooth release.

Inside vs Outside?

The Jazz probably should have gone to Favors more inside. When getting the ball on the block, Favors shot 4-6 for 8 points. He got on additional post-touch resulting in a pass out. Kanter in the post shot 2-5 for 4 points but also had another post-up resulting in a kick-out to Jefferson for a three.

Insead of post-ups, Utah ran a majority of screen-rolls and dribble-hand-offs (to go along with their usual assortment of 1-on-1 drives when everything breaks down) throughout the game with middling success. After the game Ty Corbin said, “We’ve got to put together 48 minutes, especially on the road. We have to do it.” The Jazz were outscored in every quarter but one. They got hot in the 3rd-quarter by relying on the three-pointer – a formula which simply isn’t sustainable success over a 48-minute ballgame for this team.

Utah Jazz shot-breakdown: 3rd-Qtr vs 1st, 2nd & 4th-Qtrs

2-pointers 3-pointers     Paint
Qtr FG Att FG% FG Att 3pt% FT Att Pts
3 6 11 54.5% 5 6 83.3% 2 2 6
1, 2, 4 21 49 42.9% 3 11 27.3% 8 14 26

So the Jazz shot 27.3% behind the arc in three quarters and 83% in the only quarter they “won.” Coincidentally, Utah is shooting 27.6% on threes for the entire season. They had only shot over 40% on threes just once entering last night – which came in their only win. It’s not hard to see what percentages are legitimate and which are a fluke.

The Jazz are clearly a poor three-point shooting team, although they’re taking a lot (nearly 17 per game which is just a shade under their franchise record set last season) and both their scoring and offensive efficiency is dreadful. For the season the Jazz are -86 on points-in-the-paint and are scoring just 39.6 per game after averaging 42.9 last season and 48.4 in Jerry Sloan’s final full season as coach.

I fully understand the numbers which support shooting threes, but if you shoot 27.6% (twenty-seven percent!) and have a ton of turnover problems, maybe try and get the ball inside a bit more? Just a little? Worst thing that can happen is you miss, which is something we’re all used to by now.

Odds and Ends

  • The Jazz opened the game with Favors guarding C Andrew Bogut and Kanter guarding PF David Lee, presumably to keep Favors closer to the basket to protect the rim. It didn’t work out so well as the quicker Lee drew foul a Kanter on a drive then hit uncontested jumper over him early. To start the 2nd-half, Favors was matched up on Lee and Kanter on Bogut.
  • In the 2nd-qtr Mike Harris made a great steal on Speights went the whole way but missed the layup, Kanter missed the follow, Marvin got the rebound and was stuffed and GS got a free runout capped by a Draymond Green dunk. Not easy to turn a fast-break opportunity into an 0-3 possession and 2-on-0 the other way but the Jazz did.
  • The Jazz lost their 4th game this season where they failed to hold the lead at any point.

Screen-roll defense

Against the Warriors, Utah’s pick&roll defense was slightly tweaked but had more of the same results. They chose to have the guard go over on the screen (because you can’t go under on a Steph Curry or a Klay Thompson) and have their big show out and then recover.

Once again, this created a 4-on-3 disadvantage that sent Utah’s defense into a scramble-drill that gave Golden State any shot they wanted. Even when the Jazz defended well within their guidlines, they still got burned.

Example #1:
7:11 2nd-Qtr – Warriors’ lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Barnes, Bogut versus a Jazz line-up of Lucas, Burks, Harris, Marvin, Kanter.

Warriors run high screen-roll between Curry (guarded by Lucas) and Bogut (guarded by Kanter) roll. Curry came off the screen with Kanter showing out until Lucas could catch up. As result, Curry hit Bogut rolling down the lane where Mike Harris rotated up and met him outside dotted circle to stop Bogut’s dive cold.
Considering Utah’s strategy, Harris’ rotation was as good as you can hope for. The problem is, with the rotation Kanter now has to guard Harris’ man – which was Andre Iguodala. The Warriors recognized this, gave Iggy the ball iso’d on Kanter where he easily breaks him down off the bounce. This sets up a sequence of draw and kicks that sucked Utah’s defense in and ultimately resulted in a wide-open three for Iggy that he knocked down to put Golden State up 35-21.

Example #2:
5:18 2nd-qtr – Curry/Bogut side screen-roll with Lucas/Kanter again sticking on Curry. Bogut rolled to the rim which dragged Burks down to the lane leaving Thompson wide open on the wing for a three to put GS up 46-29. Rotation and pass was no different than the Deron/Boozer screen-roll which Utah ran throughout, most notably in Game 2 vs Denver in the 2010 Playoffs that resulted in the game-wining three by Kyle Korver.

The Final Word

Screen-roll defense can be complex but one concept is simple: If you don’t pressure the ball yet consistently end up with two defenders helping on the ball-handler, you will consistently get beat trying to defend the entire court with 3-against-4.
This is why great defensive teams re-direct the ball-handler (normally away from the screen) where they can then calibrate their help-defense to one side of the court. That way your numbers disadvantage is always on the weakside where you only have to cover half the court (25′ x 25′), as opposed to letting the ball-handler use the screen at their discretion – spreading your help-defense across the entire court (25′ x 50′).

Obviously the reason so many teams run screen-roll so often and so well is that a perfect pick&roll is impossible to defend. However, you can employ strategies to increase your chances of stopping it and that’s something the Jazz continue to struggle with.

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Utah Jazz 2014 NBA Draft Tank #1

Last night the nation was introduced to the 2014 Fab Frosh Draft Class, as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle made their national television debuts on the fifth night of the 2013-14 college basketball season.

None of them disappointed:
Julius Randle posted 27 points and 13 rebounds (along with 8 turnovers), looking like a young (and quicker and more explosive) Zach Randolph in the 2nd-half. He showed an impressive handle and drive game where he was always able to come back to his right-shoulder (left hand) and finish inside. He also showed the ability to jackknife and move the ball around while finishing inside against taller defenders (like 6-10 long-armed Adreian Payne).

Jabari Parker came out on fire, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points in the 1st-half to go along with 9 rebounds on 9-18 shooting and 4-7 behind the arc. He showed good vision, a tight handle and a silky smooth shot while making an assortment of jumpers (both off-the-dribble and catch&shoot) and drives that showcased more athletic ability than perhaps was expected from him.

Andrew Wiggins didn’t initially show the same offensive polish Parker did but he didn’t over-handle and quietly picked his spots scoring on quick cuts, runouts and post-ups inside when matched up with a smaller guard. He showed a nice drive-game and spin-move arsenal in the lane. He showed he could run like a gazelle and get off the floor as quickly as anyone. When the game was in the balance, with Kansas leading 83-81 with 1:33 to play, Wiggins showed more of his game – swinging the momentum by first hitting a step-back 20-footer from the wing and then finishing with an emphatic dunk in transition while also being fouled by Parker (who fouled out on the play).

Jazz Draft Lottery Odds

With the Jazz playing historically bad basketball at 0-8, they appear to be in the driver’s seat to finish with the league’s worst record and in prime position to land the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While fans spent the night binge-tweeting about Parker and Wiggins, it’s far from a foregone conclusion one of them will be on the 2014-15 Jazz roster. Here’s a quick refresher on the NBA draft lottery.

The team with the worst-record does have the best chance to obtain the #1-overall pick – as well as the highest percentage of securing a top-3 pick. However, “best chance” doesn’t necessarily mean a “good chance.” Here are the probabilities:

1. The team with the worst-record has a 25% chance at the #1-overall pick – also meaning they have a 75% chance of not having the #1 pick.

2. The team with the worst-record has a 64.3% chance of having a top-3 pick – also meaning they have a 35.7% chance (better than 1-in-3) of falling to the 4th-pick.

The 25% and 64.3% chances are better than any other team possessing a single lottery pick – but they are not sure-fire bets, and it’s slightly disconcerting that you have a better chance picking 4th than picking 1st.

NBA Draft Lottery History

In 1993, the NBA adopted the system presently used today for the Draft Lottery. In the 20 Draft Lotteries since, the average draft position for the team with the worst-overall record was 2.7. While that is higher than the average draft position of the 2nd-worst (3.6) and 3rd-worst (3.3) teams – you’re still taking the backseat. In a draft you absolutely can’t blow, you’d obviously rather be at #1 where you pick the guy you like best instead of at #2 or #3 where you’re taking the guy the top team(s) like the least.

Here are the percentages for teams with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd…ect.-worst records finishing with the #1-overall pick. (Note: #1 = Worst record; #2 = 2nd-worst record, ect. Additionally, several times picks 2-9 have varying odds if teams finished tied with the same record, but the theoretical percentages for the worst-overall record never changed).

Percentages of the Top-9 Worst Teams Picking #1-Overall (1993-2013)

#1-Pick #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9
Theoretical 25.0% ~19.9% ~15.6% ~11.9% ~8.8% ~6.3% ~4.3% ~2.8% ~1.7%
Actual 10.0% 5.0% 30.0% 10.0% 20.0% 10.0% 5.0% 5.0% 5.0%

The 10% for the worst team is most startling. The team with the worst-overall record has ended up with the first-overall pick only twice in the past 20 years and not since 2004. The worst-team also ended up with the #2-pick eight times – resulting in a 50/50 outcome of drawing a top-2 pick (with 2014 potentially a Parker/Wiggins draft).

2013-14 Jazz

Jabari Parker certainly looked as close to an NBA-ready franchise player as we’ve seen in recent years. Andrew Wiggins showed the athletic ability and franchise-type potential that he was billed to have and Randle showed all-star PF potential. Based off what we’ve seen of those two so far (which isn’t much) I would be ecstatic if the Jazz can add a Parker or Wiggins next year and a season of terrible Jazz basketball would be more than worth it.

With that said, last night’s games don’t change my opinion for a second that the Jazz made a mistake this past offseason assembling a poo-poo platter of a cast around the Core-4.  It doesn’t change my opinion that Ty Corbin is a poor head coach who should have been let go last spring. It doesn’t change my opinion that Jeff Hornacek should have been at the top of Utah’s list of replacements for Ty Corbin. And it doesn’t change my opinion that the Jazz are woefully underachieving so far this season.

The Master Plan?

If Dennis Lindsey’s goal was to be historically awful in 2013-14 to maximize Utah’s odds for a top pick – that’s certainly understandable and something that’s been tried throughout the years. However given the odds and historical facts – it’s certainly not a foolproof plan, a safe plan, or even a genius one. It’s a calculated risk – which by definition of the term carries a legitimate chance of failure. It worked for the Cavaliers in 2003 and failed miserably for the Celtics in 1997.

Nevertheless, it’s still a gamble that you have to make work. You have to not only get a high pick but make the right one (and both NBA and Jazz history have shown it’s very easy to pick the wrong guy high). If it doesn’t work out next May, it’s also not a plan you want to reuse by banking on getting lucky the following year unless your goal is to become a perennial doormat (ask the Charlotte Bobcats how well that works).

Throwing away an entire season in hopes of the draft lottery is a little like Russian Roulette. You may start out with a 5/6 chance of striking it rich but if you do hit that 1/6 – and it only takes 1 – you’re SOL. You might have the best odds but “best” doesn’t mean “good” – and if the risk doesn’t pay off the results could be fatal.

There are also other options. The Pacers have shown you can build a serious title contender making brilliant mid-round draft choices and shrewd free agent signings. Jazz management is apparently content with taking a different approach hoping that a year of pounding sand can lead to striking oil next May. There’s alot of uncertainty but the payoff could be huge.

The Jazz have never had a franchise player at the SG or SF position. Adding one to a potential nucleus of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably leaves Jazz fans salivating.

The opportunity to draft a future franchise player is tantalizing, but before everyone starts talking up a Parker/Wiggins wing pairing with Gordon Hayward, remember at this point it’s all still a distant dream requiring good fortune. It’s okay to chase dreams – but remember the bigger they are, the harder they can fall.

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