Scouting the Utah Jazz

By Quixem Ramirez

February 17, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Washington Wizards forward Jan Vesely (24) tries to block the shot of Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Wizards 114-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

What the Utah Jazz do well:

Creating efficient shots at the rim and getting to the free throw line consistently:

When your offenses livelihood predicates on shots at the rim then that would seem to be a trait that correlates favorably with success. Not only are the Utah Jazz converting at an impressive .680 rate (No. 1 in the NBA) which is considerably higher than the average (.626) but they are taking 25.3 shots from this distance. Responsible for this constant barrage of deadly efficient shots are their imposing frontcourt, manned by Derick Favors, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap. Shots at the rim converted a much higher than shots from outside 3-9 feet (obviously) but they spawn from sound offensive execution and inevitably lead to a multitude of free throw attempts and offensive rebounds. Easy offense. And while the Jazz record (15-14) doesn’t indicate their potency, their 101.7 points per 100 possessions puts them 11th. Without Tiago Splitter (out two weeks with a calf strain), the Spurs frontcourt will be severely depleted and there will be stretches where the Jazz will have success on the low block specifically when DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner play together. Even so, we should take solace in knowing that the Spurs don’t allow attempts at the rim as it is (only 22 per game compared to the league average of 24.1)

Defending the three-point line:

Considering the Spurs offensive philosophy relies heavily on the three-pointer, I’m a little worried about this going into tonight. I have no rational explanation for why this Jazz team, under the tutelage of Tyrone Corbin, has been so successful in defending the three. Admittedly, I don’t have extensive knowledge of this Jazz team and Corbin could be consciously implementing a defensive system that focuses on preventing perimeter shots. Still, improving from an atrocious effective field percentage allowed of .565 (29th last year) from the three-point line to .469 this year is remarkable and doesn’t seem sustainable. But I could be wrong. We’ll see how Bonner, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal respond to this (possibly) improved perimeter defense.

What the Jazz do badly:

Perimeter shooting:

Other than Raja Bell (.411 3P%) and Alec Burks (.385 3P%), the Jazz do not have a player that can space the floor and cause havoc for the opposing team if left open. This lack of floor spacing should help the Spurs defense cover ground considering Splitter won’t be available to protect the rim. The Spurs thrive in preventing these types of shots regardless so look for the Jazz to be hampered by poor floor spacing and floor balance.

Final verdict:

I’m as irrational as they come. But, even so, I don’t expect the Spurs to go 9-0 on the daunting Rodeo Road Trip. The loss may not come tonight but I’m bracing myself for the inevitable. If anything, I hope Blair and Bonner can realize that playing defense has it’s merits.