BREAKDOWN – How one hustle play changes a game

I just finished re-watching the Jazz and Bulls from last night. Fun night.

I was struck with how one play or one play linked to another can change the entire complexion of the game. With 9:15 left in the third quarter, the Jazz were still down by 15. Alec Burks bounces a tough pass to Favors in traffic. The ball is loose. Noah and Favors poke at it, then Butler joins the mix. Now it’s a 50-50 ball. Favors thinks he has it, but Butler knocks it away again and Favors continues to relentlessly battle. He maintains the possession at the 3-point line, steps forward and hits a 16-foot jumper.

If he doesn’t make this hustle play, the Jazz are down 17 after a Bulls fast break, and they are still deep in the hole and the crowd is dead. Instead, Favors hits the jumper and the Jazz are within 13.

Then the next play, Trey Burke gets a steal on a Pau Gasol pass. Gasol’s pass was a bit loose but a nice play by Trey to step in a passing lane, and then Trey hits the speed dribble up the floor.  On his way up the floor, Favors picks off a Bulls defender at half court and then as Trey hits the lane Kanter screens off Noah and clears the lane for Trey. Wide open layup.

11-point game. Crowd going nuts. All of a sudden a blowout is a ballgame.

What did it take? A hustle play. A correct defensive rotation. Two smart little plays (picks) and the Jazz were on their way.

Little plays matter. The player who doesn’t get that 50-50 ball is indirectly costing you a game. The player who doesn’t set the pick in the opening floor or screen the opposing big costs you games. These are winning plays.

TIPOFF—July 24—Karl Malone Day

Utah Jazz radio voice and Jazz NBA Insider David Locke walks through the latest news in the NBA, shares insights from ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, and discusses news surrounding Gobert, Burke and Kanter.

 

INSIDER—All about Utah’s trade with Cleveland

Dennis Lindsey and his staff keeps working. Today the Jazz made a deal acquiring Carrick Felix, a second-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers and cash. In exchange, the Jazz traded the three non-guaranteed contracts of John Lucas III, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas.

WHO IS CARRICK FELIX?

Felix is a 6’6″ shooting guard out of Arizona State and the University of Southern Idaho who was a 2013 second-round pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is 23 years old.

Out of Southern Idaho, Carrick originally committed to Duke, but was denied admission.  He spent two quiet years at Arizona State and then had a very good final year with the Sun Devils.

Felix is a defensive-minded wing player and an excellent athlete. He has shown signs of being a solid spot-up shooter. He’s also a very strong rebounder for a shooting guard. At Arizona State, Felix was Pac-12 All-Defensive Team after averaging a remarkable 8.1 rebounds per game as a shooting guard.

Last year, he played in just seven games for the Cavaliers. His season was derailed by a stress fracture of his left patella (knee cap) on January 29 that sidelined him for eight weeks.

Felix played nine D-League games as well, averaging 11 points, five rebounds and two assists while shooting 46% and hitting 33% of his 3-pointers.

Since-fired Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Felix “is a young guy that brings a ton of energy and tries to play the game the right way. He’s a guy who can get extra possessions, who knows how to defend and he’s a great runner in transition.”

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM CARRICK FELIX?

Felix is going to a part of the Utah Jazz. His contract is guaranteed at $816,482 next year. He has a four-year contract with the next two years non-guaranteed.

He adds depth to the wing positions, where the Jazz were a bit thin. With Hayward, Burks and Hood, the Jazz needed a fourth wing player. Hood showed in Summer League that he is ready for playing time and a rotation spot. Hood’s performance changed Utah’s approach to adding another wing player. They’ve now opened that door for Hood, and Felix is insurance.

The Jazz scouts have had an eye on Felix and like his defensive mindset, his ability to rebound and his potential to shoot the three. He’s not an offensive playmaker with the ball in his hands. This is an opportunity for the Jazz to add a player they like and believe has a chance to develop into a rotational piece.

I wouldn’t expect a great deal of playing time for Felix unless injuries give him opportunities.

WHY DID THE JAZZ TRADE THESE PLAYERS?

The Jazz gave up two who weren’t going to be on the roster next year and a third who was very unlikely. John Lucas III was not returning as the backup point guard. Eric Murphy, after a disappointing Summer League, was not going to get his guarantee on August 1.

Malcolm Thomas had a very strong Summer League and was expected to be at training camp for the Jazz. However, the Jazz have a duplicate at the position with Jeremy Evans, who is guaranteed the final year of his contract next season. Evans’ experience gives him the edge at this position.

Thomas was going to have a hard time making the team. With six bigs already on the roster (Favors, Kanter, Gobert, Booker, Novak and Evans) it’s hard to see the Jazz carrying another. If Thomas were to make the team, the Jazz would probably have to trade or cut Evans. With Evans guaranteed $1.7 million and Thomas at $1 million, then you end up with a choice of Evans at $1.7 million or Thomas at $2.7 million (the two contracts combined)Strange how it works, but the numbers were against Thomas.

The Jazz received a player they like who is going to play for them next year and a second-round pick in exchange for three players who were not going to play for them next season.

WHY DID THE CAVALIERS MAKE THIS TRADE?

This move gives the Cavs more flexibility and gives them some tradable chips on non-guaranteed contracts. The rule of aggregation means the Cavs can’t put these three players together in a deal for a period of time (maybe 2 months). However, they could add Lucas ($1.6 million) or Thomas ($1 million) to a deal and the receiving  team (read: Minnesota) could release the player and never pay the contract.

Just a thought that the Cavs need to get within 125% of Kevin Love’s $15.7 million or within $5 million to make a trade as long as they are over the threshold. Lucas’ contract would put a Bennett, Waiters combo within the range of Love.

BREAKDOWN—Gordon Hayward’s shot chart shows growth and promise

This season was a very different season for Gordon Hayward. Last year he played off the action of Jefferson and Millsap. This year he created the action. Comparing the shot charts of the last two seasons shows this difference.

LAST YEAR                                                             THIS YEAR

gordon this year v. last

The right wing action is the most interesting. Last year a great deal of that came off the left block play of Al Jefferson. This year he is creating for himself in those areas.

He has become better in the areas close to the basket. If you narrow it more from what you can see here, he improved from 53% to 57% in the restricted area this year.

Looking at these charts, Gordon has improved in the areas around the basket (which are most difficult) but he lost the good looks from other players’ action. If he gets that back with a better roster around him, he will be a vastly improved player.

Bring back the 40% right-side 3-point shooting with the improvement around the paint and you have a very solid and efficient offensive player.