Through five games in the NBA season, the Utah Jazz are still winless, and they’re also without a true floor general, a facet to their offense that’s been lacking for several years now. Hopefully, once rookie guard Trey Burke recovers from a finger injury sustained in a preseason game against the Clippers, Utah will start to see a more consistent presence at the point guard spot. But seeing as Utah has to work with what they have now, what can they do in order to improve the flow of their offense?
The Jazz have a horrendous .87:1 assist to turnover ratio right now – that means that for every .87 assists, Utah commits one turnover. The Jazz are only notching 17.6 dimes a game to 20.2 turnovers per game this season.
The biggest areas of improvement on the Jazz need to focus on are turnovers and assists. While improving assists numbers goes hand-in-hand with improved shooting (the Jazz shoot 41.5% from the field, which puts them in the bottom third of the league in that category) Utah’s primary ball handlers can put some extra emphasis on their turnover problems. Since the job of a point guard is to initiate the offense and facilitate buckets for his teammates, Utah’s point guards need to be looked at in order for us to assess what exactly needs to change in order for the Jazz to improve offensively.
Right now, John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley are seeing a lot of burn at the point guard spot, with Alec Burks making some runs towards the ends of games at the one guard, a lineup move coach Tyrone Corbin played with a lot last year but never really stuck with. Lucas averages 2.6 assists to 1.4 turnovers per game, Tinsley 2.4 to 1.4, and Burks 2.6 to 2.4.
Lucas and Tinsley are the most efficient guards right now, and their numbers are almost identical, but who does a better job at running the show for Corbin? Well, that largely depends on your opinion of which player is the better. Lucas puts up 7.4 points per game compared to Tinsley’s 1.4, so in terms of offensive production, Lucas adds more than Tinsley since he possesses a greater scoring ability. Tinsley shoots 18.8% from the field, and 8.3% from behind the arc while Lucas is shooting a much better (but still low) 34.1% from the field and 18.2% from three-point land. So if you’re going to base the value of these point guards off of their point production, you’d have to go with Lucas. But honestly, with both players nearly dead even in terms of assists and turnovers, having one or the other running the point only really matters when it comes to how the opposing team chooses to defend them.
The disadvantage to having Lucas and Tinsley playing at the point is their lack of scoring ability. Since both of those guards shoot under 20% from behind the arc, opposing teams know that they can play off Tinsley and Lucas, and instead focus on helping double-team the ball, or cover for another teammate’s blown defensive assignment.
So what can the Jazz do to combat this? What’s the best way for Utah to improve their offense? Well, Corbin has already tried giving Burks some time as the floor general, but Burks has struggled with turnovers (as evidenced by his 1.1:1 assist/turnover ratio) this season. So in terms of efficiency, Burks isn’t exactly the greatest option to run an offense through.
However, one player on Utah’s roster hasn’t been mentioned yet, and he shows some great promise as an offensive facilitator -Gordon Hayward. Hayward has a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio, and puts up 4.8 dimes per game to only 2.4 turnovers. Seeing as Hayward gets 66.8 touches per game, only committing 2.4 turnovers is pretty good. So could Utah feasibly run its offense through Hayward?
While having Hayward play the one is an intriguing idea, he doesn’t necessarily have to play the point in order to run the offense – he could become Utah’s point-forward. This is something I’d like to see the Jazz try a little bit before Burke eventually gets onto the court this season.
The idea of a point-forward is a little unclear to some, but basically think about how the Miami Heat run their offense through LeBron James, the best player on their team. James is by no means a point guard, but he manages the offense like one and sets up his teammates better than the Heat’s official point guard Mario Chalmers. Hayward could do the same thing for Utah, even when Burke comes back from injury.
Hayward has a great handle, court awareness, and a high enough basketball IQ to make the right play most of the time. While the Jazz wait for Burke to get healthy, I think trying a different method of running the offense could benefit them greatly, and maybe even help the team snag their first win of the season.