Now let’s look at the Jazz players’ offense in games 31-40.
This is sorted by Locke offensive rating—10 is about average offensively, 20 is a high-level starter, 30 is elite and 0 is replacement value. This is only how this individual is using his possessions.
Richard Jefferson is using 15% of his possessions to go to the free-throw line. That is stunning mostly when you consider he is also using 39% of his possessions to shoot threes. Jefferson is playing very well.
Interesting for all the Alec Burks talk is that his lack of 3-point shooting is still preventing him from being a highly efficient offensive player. Going to the line 13% of his possessions is important, but not shooting the three is a detriment to his play.
Both Favors and Kanter have been high-level starters on the offensive end over the last 10 games.
Gordon Hayward was the best offensive player for the Jazz in this period of time.
The nice change here is that all but four players were using their possession above the league average. Previously it was reverse.
Trey is not an efficient offensive player yet. This is not a surprise—he is a rookie point guard getting huge minutes. Historically, players in his circumstance don’t have efficient seasons.
In this season of discovery, rather than getting caught up in the day-in, day-out performances, it seems more prudent to look at the team in 10-game stretches. Truthfully, it might be better to look at four 20-game stretches.
Last night, the Jazz concluded their first 40 games of the season. Let’s take a look at the Jazz’s performances in their first four-game stretches.
Games 31-40 showed some really significant changes in Utah’s season.
- The offense was the 11th best in the NBA over that stretch, jumping from 100.1 to 106.3 points per 100 possessions. The EFG% and TS% jumps are remarkable. The offense looks different and has better ball and player movement than it had earlier this season.
- The defensive change is remarkable. The defensive rebounding went was 7th best in the NBA over the last 10 games. Previously, it was in the bottom 15% of the league. The Jazz jumped from grabbing 72% of defensive rebounds to 78%. This is an increase of about two rebounds per game. The Jazz were allowing 13 second-chance points per game, and over the last 10 games they’ve allowed just 9.8. This is key to a good defensive team. If you are a bottom 20% defensive rebounding team, you can’t be a good defensive team.
- Interestingly, the Jazz have stopped offensive rebounding. The Jazz were the top offensive rebounding team in the NBA during the first 10 games and are now 26th in offensive rebounding percentage. This should parlay into a much better transition defense. However, that has not played out. Over the last 10 games, the Jazz allowed 17.2 fast-break points per game, but in games 21-30 the Jazz were down to 13.6. In this small sample size this could be opponent-based, but it is still surprising that the Jazz have lowered their offensive rebounding percentage yet not been able to limit opponents’ fast-break points.
- Utah’s defense hasn’t gotten remarkably better despite changing how they are playing. The defense has improved to 25th in the NBA and is down about three points per 100 possessions. Digging deeper, it is interesting to see the changes.
- The Jazz have reduced the amount of fouls they are committing considerably. The defensive rebounding we mentioned before is in a different stratosphere. However, the Jazz are no longer forcing turnovers and their defense of the shot has not changed. The Jazz only allowed opponents to hit 33% on threes over the last 10 games, but opponents have increased the amount of threes they took over last 20 games from 17.7 over games 21-30 to 20.7 in games 31-40. (Again, this could be small sample size theater.)
Bottom line is that Jazz games 31-40 were by far the best 10 games of the season. The overall efficiency rating was 19th in the league (-1.5) in contrast to being 30th, 26th and 29th in the three previous 10-game stretches.
It is becoming a signature of this season that players who were once in the doldrums work their way out them to find success. First it was Gordon Hayward. And now Alec Burks and Enes Kanter seems to be joining the party as well.
Over the past seven games, Enes Kanter has been in double figures in six of them (and five straight). More importantly, Enes has gone back to his roots as an offensive player.
Time for a brief interruption …
NOTE: His defensive rotations have been far better than at any other time this season. He is engaged defensively and is having a positive impact on the defense. This, more than his offense, has allowed Coach Corbin to give him longer stretches on the floor.
… now back to our regularly scheduled post …
Earlier this season Enes became obsessed with the pick-and-pop jumper. Coming off the shoulder injury may have been part of the reason. Playing on the floor with Favors could have been part of the equation as well.
Over the last seven games, Kanter returned to the bruising big body working in the paint that we recalled from his first two years.
Here is the shot chart for his last five games:
Kanter has made only three shots from outside the paint. His outside jumper has been less consistent this year than it was last year, and by no longer relying on that shot he has become a better offensive player.
Kanter has remarkable touch for a big man. The outside shot will return, but he needs to make the paint his domain and have the outside game be an added bonus, not vice versa.
If the Jazz are without Marvin Williams tonight, then Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are likely to start together again. This combination is 1-17 together this season.
Here is a look at how Favors and Kanter have played together over the past two season. I have broken them into three sections: starting together this year, since they inserted Marvin into the lineup (though this includes four combined starts) and last year.
This year’s numbers have not been able to equal last year’s success. Last year the combination struggled to score at just 99.4 points per 100 possessions (the league average is 102.7). However, they defended well against primarily second-team units. This season the defense has been terrible with the two of them on the floor together. Both 112 and 116.3 would make the team last in the NBA.
The poor EFG% when they started together was impacted by point guard play. However, the poor defensive rebounding numbers are surprising. This combination should be dominant on the glass. 70.6% defensive rebounding would equal the worst in the NBA, and even the 71.3% since no longer starting together would be 29th.
Because of this performance, Tyrone Corbin staggered the playing time of Kanter and Favors. However, he has recently started to play them together a bit more. Over the past 10 games they have played a limited 35 minutes together.
Some of these numbers are improved. The offense has improved a bit, and the defensive rebounding is at an elite level. However, the overall performance has not been good and the defense is still very poor.
Coach Corbin talks about the two of them needing to learn what makes the other one successful. Hopefully they can begin to discover this.
De-Fense. De-Fense. De-Fense.
Utah’s defense over the past season has not be adequate. In the offseason, general manager Dennis Lindsey was very clear that the defense must improve. During the opening portion of the season, the Jazz’s defense was the worst in the NBA. However, over the last 10 games the Jazz have made tremendous strides.
The Jazz have altered their pick-and-roll coverages and changed how they are practicing pick-and-roll coverage and rotations. The impact has shown on the floor.
Using Dean Oliver’s four factors from Basketball on Paper, here is a look at the defensive improvement (shown by how the Jazz rank in the NBA).
What I see here is a team that has learned a new method of playing defense. They players are executing the principals of the defense but are not being aggressive. As they get more comfortable they will begin to force more turnovers.
Having three of the four factors in the top half of the league is the foundation of a top-15 defense, which would be a huge success this season.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is having his first experience as a go-to guy in the NBA. The transition has been difficult and trying. However, as the season progresses you can see Hayward evolving as an offensive player.
Earlier in the season, Hayward was taking a large amount of low-percentage shots. The league shoots on average about 38% on mid-range shots or 2-pointers in the non-restricted areas. Shots at the rim or from 3-point range are much more efficient shots.
Here is Hayward’s shot distribution for the first 25 games of the season.
37% of your shots coming from mid-range is a lot. Chandler Parsons, the model small forward in terms of efficiency, takes just 10% of his shots from mid-range. Nicholas Batum takes 23% of his shots from mid-range. However, neither of these players are go-to guys on their roster.
Over the last 10 games you can see Hayward is taking fewer long range 2s and in turn is taking more efficient shots.
Hayward has reduced the amount long 2s from 37% to 29% of his total field goal attempts. Almost all of those shots have changed from mid-range 2s to 3-point attempts.
Hayward shoots 40% on mid-range 2s—or 0.8 points per shot. On 3-point shots he is averaging 0.84 points per shot, and considering he is shooting 10% below his career average, that will improve.
This is a nice evolution in Hayward’s game. My guess is that this continues, and over the next 10 to 20 games we’ll see even more 3s and fewer mid-range shots.
Arron Afflalo is tearing it up for the Orlando Magic this season. He is averaging 20 points a game as their primary scorer. More importantly, he has become efficient again. Last year, after coming over from Denver, he became the primary scorer for the Magic. Afflalo had always been a complimentary player. In turn, his efficiency struggled greatly.
As you look at the chart below, you will see how much Afflalo dipped in his effective field goal % and his true shooting % when his usage rate (% of the offense) increased. The same has happened for Gordon Hayward this season.
The good sign is that in his second year as the primary offensive weapon—with a year of experience in his back pocket—Afflalo has returned to the almost exact same efficiency as the previous season.
In the chart below, the top numbers are Afflalo’s and the bottom numbers are Hawyard’s. It is easy to project where Hayward would come out in 2013-14 with a year of experience.
Once again, the top chart is Afflalo and bottom is Hayward.
Since Trey Burke has joined the starting five, the Jazz are shooting 45% (and 40% from three) with an offensive rating of 104.1 (points per 100 possessions). This makes the Jazz the 12th best offensive team in the NBA during that time.
Here are the three players helped the most by Trey Burke when he is on the floor:
The start of the season was nothing short of a nightmare for Alec Burks. He could never find a rhythm. He was shuffled between shooting guard and point guard. He was supposed to be the off-the-bench scorer. Instead, he became an offensive eyesore where nothing was clicking.
Then the other half of the B and B team, Trey Burke, returned to the lineup. Alec got to stay in one position. The coaches have been able to let Alec play in a more natural position and make plays from better spots on the floor.
Over the last eight games, Alec Burks is shooting 52%, he is 9-of-13 from three and he is averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
What has really changed is where the shots are coming from.
Here is Alec Burks’ shot distribution chart for the last eight games (games 17-24):
Here is Alec Burks’ shot distribution chart for games 1-16:
Check out the highlighted area—prior to this recent stretch, 36% of his shots were mid-range shots. In the last eight games he has taken just 16% of his shots from this inefficient area. Moreover, in the last eight games he has taken 51% of his shots in the restricted area—previous to that he took just 35% in the restricted area.
Not only is Alec making shots, he is taking much better shots.
Credit to Casey Greer on twitter who mentioned this the other day. The player having the biggest uptick with Trey Burke on the floor is Derrick Favors. The numbers below show it. Check out where Favors is getting his shots and the shot quality at the rim with Burke on the floor