One of the more interesting items for Jazz fans this past season and for the upcoming season is how the big men play together.
For the last two seasons the Jazz have been the 21st ranked defensive team in the NBA. That must change if the Jazz are going to be an elite level team. The top 4 EFG% defenses in the Western Conference are the 4 teams still playing today.
The year started with the Jazz believing they could use Favors with Jefferson as a way to mask the defensive deficiencies of Jefferson while still getting his offensive prowess. However, this turned out to not be the case.
In November the Jazz defensive rating with Favors and Jefferson on the floor together was a putrid 108.7. The worst in the NBA last year was Charlotte at 108.9 and Sacramento at 108.5. In December, the issue became a near crisis as the defensive rating with Favors and Jefferson on the floor was a 123.5.
In turn, the Jazz limited the minutes of Jefferson and Favors together to only 64 mins in December after playing 145 in November. Favors were also battling plantar during this month.
The problem was Favors and Millsap were not defending well together in November either allowing an unfathomable 123.2 pts per 100 possessions in the 98 minutes they spent on the floor together. League average is about 103.5.
The Jazz were left with playing Jefferson and Millsap for offense and Katner and Favors for defensive. Fortunately, Favors and Kanter were very strong defensively playing primarily against second teams. Holding opponents to 96.2 in November and 97.5 in December.
However, in January Favors and Kanter fell off the defensive wagon. After being stalwart for the 2012 portion of the season, January had the Jazz with a defensive rating of 114.8 per 100 possessions and the Jazz were outscored by 13 pts per 100 possessions with Kanter and Favors on the floor.
Elsewhere, Favors and Jefferson were still not working as a defensive combo so the Jazz returned a bit more to Millsap and Favors who defended well together after a disastrous start allowing just 89.7 pts per 100 possessions in January.
And so the dance went on all season. The unfortunate reality for the last two Jazz seasons is the combination of Jefferson and Millsap is not good enough defensively to be highly competitive. The Jazz searched for the answer to what other lineups to use and nothing jumped to the forefront and grabbed that lead. Leaving the Jazz with a defensively deficient combination of Millsap and Jefferson for most of the season.
Moving forward, Favors and Kanter were terrific together defensively for most of the season. The minutes primarily came against 2nd team bigs and next year they need to be this good defensively against top tier players. If they can the Jazz can finally move to the elite defensive level.
Once that is accomplished the focus goes to the offense.
See the graphs below for how each group played together.