The Jazz are Out of Tune
Despite losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason, there was a healthy optimism about the Jazz from many people that follow the league including myself. The concern was their ability to score the basketball. The Jazz validated some of those feelings when they got off to a 5-3 start with tough defense and scoring by committee. They looked a solid team that could compete for a playoff spot. Then the calendar changed to November. They have gone 3-8 in the month of November and have suffered a huge injury to their franchise center Rudy Gobert on what may or may not have been a dirty play by Kobe Wade himself, Dion Waiters. The Jazz look like a team destined for the lottery unless they can turn it around. They are going to need more scoring, the emergence of Donovan Mitchell, and better play in the third quarter.
Coming into the season, the Jazz were destined for these scoring issues. Bringing in Ricky Rubio was supposed to help with the playmaking, but they did not do much else to address these issues other than drafting Donovan Mitchell and many people, like myself, believing that Rodney Hood could score more for them. At the moment, they are ranked 25th in offensive rating, scoring 102.9 points per 100 possessions. They are having trouble scoring the ball and in games where they score less than 100, they are 2-7.
There are many issues for the Jazz offensively. An underrated injury for the team was the loss of Joe Johnson, who has missed the last 11 games for the team. While Johnson is not the scorer that he once was, they call him Iso Joe for a reason. Having a guy that you can throw the ball and get a bucket is great to have in games where your offense is struggling. However, there have been some bright spots.
Rodney Hood has been pretty good for the Jazz during the month of November with 10 straight games in double figures including two 30 point games. Hood is shooting more three pointers this season and is shooting a career high from three at 40%. However, his offensive scoring has been inconsistent and he is a streaky shooter.
Donovan Mitchell has been good for the Jazz as well. The rookie has had some moments and has scored over 20 points in five games this season and has been in double figures more than not. However, he is struggling to shoot the ball efficiently. While shooting 59.4% at the rim, he is shooting at 30% or below for his other two point field goal attempts and only 32% from three. Mitchell looks like he could be a player for the Jazz. Although the losing is not easy, his development could be a blessing.
Besides Hood and Mitchell, the Jazz do not have many dynamic scorers that can get hot and put up 30 or score 17-20 consistently. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors have put up some good scoring numbers, but Rubio has started to go cold from the field and Favors has become a spot up shooter more than a post up threat. They need offense and they do not really have anyone to take the scoring load. Joe Ingles continues to be a dead eye shooter, but cannot do much for himself off of the dribble.
Defensively, the Jazz have struggled this season after a hot start on that end of the floor. In their first 7 games, they held opponents under 100 points five times. In their last 11 games, opponents have broken 100 points nine times. Although part of this could be put on the injury to Rudy Gobert, there are other issues at play. Don’t be mistaken, the Jazz miss Rudy Gobert in the paint, but they have been one of the worst third quarter teams in terms of opponent scoring. They are ranked 25th in the league, giving up 27.2 points per third quarter. In a game against Toronto, the Jazz took a one point lead into halftime and were outscored 36-28 in the third in a loss. That has happened to them multiple times this season. Other than the 3rd quarter troubles, the Jazz defend the paint well and do not give up a lot of fastbreak points.
Some will say that the best defense is a good offense and with the Jazz there is some truth to that. Despite a tough defense, they cannot seem to score enough to get wins. They are missing some key players like Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson. Despite their 7-11 record, the Jazz still have a chance to turn it around. The Western Conference is extremely deep and it may be tough for them to get into the playoffs, but they have to be excited about the opportunity to develop Donovan Mitchell and allow these players to grow together. Although the Jazz may have a rough season, I expect them to compete each night. I cannot see the Jazz deciding to tank.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com