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
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.
One player’s season has been classified as a breakout to stardom. He was an All-Star. At times he has been talked about as the next superstar. At times he has been talked about as the third-best player in the NBA. This player also plays with two other All-Stars. He has a max contract.
The other player has had a disappointing season. He has been classified as overwhelmed and playing outside of his role. Not good enough to handle his role. A national commentator and former successful head coach said he was no better than the fourth or fifth option and is a mid-level exception player.
How big is the difference, really?
Let’s look at each of these players since Jan. 1.
Here is the budding superstar:
Here is the one being called a disappointment:
Wow. A better FG% and 3-point FG%. Their combined assists and rebounds are the same. They’re nearly equal in steals and turnovers. The disappointment is averaging more blocks. The only reason the budding star scores more is that he shoots more.
It’s worth noting that the disappointment’s team has been better offensively since Jan. 1 than the budding star’s team.
Interestingly, he may be going against analytics to get himself going. Gordon has increased his amount of mid-range 2s and increased his percentage of both his 2s and his 3s by 8%. As much as we talk analytics with tired legs, if the three is not falling, at some point you have to move to the shots you can make and that builds your confidence and the rest of your game will follow.
The other area of significant improvement is the amount of shots in the restricted area and the percentage of makes.
Tyrone Corbin has said that he will make a concerted effort to play Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter together.
For the season, this five-man grouping has played 54 minutes together. That makes them the12th most-used five-man lineup for the Jazz this season. As I documented earlier, playing Favors and Kanter together had not yielded positive results, which moved Coach Corbin away from using this grouping.
Corbin played the young five together for 18 minutes over four games in January and got limited results. In those 18 minutes, the Jazz were outscored 44-35. Defensively, the group really struggled, allowing 123.5 points per 100 possessions (league average is 103.7, the worst team in the NBA is 108). Offensively, the group had success, scoring at a rate of 110 points per 100 possessions.
Surprisingly, the group not only didn’t defend—allowing an EFG% defense of 57.1%—they also didn’t grab defensive rebounds—allowing 40% of all misses to be offensive rebounds.
However, after not being played together for the month of February, the group has fared much better in March. Over 22 minutes, they have outscored their opponents 48-46. The offensive rating has been a strong 107.6, and the defensive rating has improved to 102.9.
One outlier in the recent period has been the offensive rebounding. This group has pulled down 54.5% of all offensive rebounds, which is unsustainable.
More importantly, the group has been good defensively in this limited time—allowing just a 47.3% EFG% and forcing turnovers on 18% of possessions.
After a rough going in January with the five youngs, it looks as though Corbin has installed them back into his rotation, and they are showing improvement.
With this improvement, I would not be surprised if we see more of them in the final 17 games of the season.
The Jazz starting lineup of Burke, Hayward, Jefferson, Marvin and Favors has played 526 minutes together. In those 526 minutes, the Jazz offensive rating is 107.2 and defensive rating is 106.4—a positive .8, which is very impressive for a team that is 20 games below .500.
If you take Favors out of the lineup and put in Kanter with the same other four, the offense drops to 103.1 and the defense drops to 113.9—for a -10.8 in 141 minutes.
Despite Derrick’s small offensive numbers, the numbers show he is impacting the Jazz positively in on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.