• Nicholas Boylan

One Lineup Change Each Team Should Make - Space out the Crowded Jazz Frontcourt

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Utah currently holds a 9-12 record and are miles away from the team that led the NBA in defensive rating last year, and were expected to be among the top seeds in the Western Conference this season.

One of coach Quin Snyder’s most used line-ups has been their most successful, but it isn’t the starting five. For the Jazz to salvage this season, Jae Crowder must start and replace Derrick Favors in the frontcourt alongside Rudy Gobert.

Crowder got the start in Utah’s big 133-112 win over Sacramento on Monday, one of the more well-balanced and impressive offensive performances this season for the Jazz, especially with Donovan Mitchell missing with a rib contusion.

Interestingly, Favors replaced Crowder the next night as Indiana blew the Jazz out 121-88, with a performance of lackluster energy and inefficient shooting more in line with Utah’s season so far.

While Favors played similar minutes (26 against Sacramento against 23 per game this season), the Jazz scored 13 more points with Crowder on the court, and looked much cleaner on the offensive end from the tip.

Favors also handled his demotion well, stuffing the stat sheet on his way to 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks with a plus/minus of +10.

In comparison to the blowout loss to the Pacers, Favors was a -14 despite contributing 13 points and 8 rebounds on 6 of 9 shooting. While the Jazz struggled as a unit, the stark contrast between the starting frontcourts on back-to-back nights was obvious.

Snyder said prior to the game against Indiana, “We’re going to do what we think we need to do to win, and sometimes that means adjustments, and sometimes it means staying where you are and doing what you’re doing better. “

Adjusting line-ups is necessary and while some matchups will call for a larger frontcourt, for the Jazz to win more games starting Crowder is the adjustment that needs to be made.

Utah has an offensive and defensive rating of 115.9 and 104.4 respectively with Crowder in the line-up, versus 96.9 and 98.6 with Favors at the 4, with the smaller lineup featuring Crowder at the 4 more versatile on both ends to deal with the pace of today’s NBA.

The dilemma for Snyder is that Favors has been an effective scorer this season (shooting almost 58% from the floor), and been too good for Snyder to not give minutes to, particularly as the Jazz sit 16th in the NBA in points per game.

While Favors has tried to expand his three-point range, averaging 1.7 three-point attempts a game against 1.1 last year, he’s only averaging 29% from downtown, leaving the lack of space a major issue for Jazz players like Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio and Mitchell.

Despite Crowder’s shot struggling to fall as of late, with recent poor shooting nights dropping his three-point percentage to 29%, he’s a career 34% shooter from three and opens up the paint for Gobert to work in the pick-and-roll and as a rim runner.

Photo courtesy of Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

In today’s NBA, Favors is no longer a fit at the 4. He’s a center who needs shooters around him, which is why he can serve as an effective bench scorer and spell Gobert at the 5. The role makes even more sense given the lack of big men on the Jazz roster, with Ekpe Udoh and sophomore Tony Bradley the only other frontcourt options.

Favors also thrives in the pick-and-roll, converting on lobs from Dante Exum and giving the second unit an interior scoring presence, shooting 66% from less than 8 feet. Seen below in Favors’ 18-19 shot chart, he’s been an efficient and consistent scoring option around the rim, which would give bench players like Exum, Alec Burks and Grayson Allen more space to score.

Shot chart courtesy of Austin Clemens

Between the Sacramento and Indiana games, Crowder and Favors both played similar minutes but Crowder’s urgency and energy he provides on the defensive end from the tip is another reason why his presence in the starting five is vital.

Favors is a well-loved player by his teammates, and has been a long-time member of the Jazz since being traded from New Jersey in the 2010-11 season. Utah backed consistency and chemistry this summer, but moves need to be made with Favors, starting internally and potentially externally.

If the Jazz are to turn this season around and regain their identity, they need to start with their best line-up featuring Crowder’s energy, grit and shooting from the tip.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference

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