The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.
DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #7 – Memphis 2010-11
DEFENSIVE CHANGE: This is really a two year span that does include a lock-out season but is still worth involving in this case study. In 09-10 Memphis allowed 109.9 pts per 100 possessions (19th in NBA), then in 10-11 they allowed 105.1 (9th) and in the lockout season of 101.8 pts per 100 possessions. This will focus on the move from 09-10 to 10-11
INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: in 09-10 the Grizzlies were 25th in opponents EFG% then improved to 18th , they were 20th in forcing turnovers and made a huge jump to #1 in the NBA, they were 20th in defensive rebounding and they stayed the same and they were 3rd best in not fouling and in the improved year fouled much more putting them 14th in the NBA. The Grizzlies were 10th in pace of play in 09-10 and then in the improved year slowed down slightly to 15th.
PLAYER MOVEMENT: In 09-10 the Grizzlies started Conley, Mayo, Gay, Randolph and Gasol. The bench was Sam Young, Marcus Williams and Hasheem Thabeet. The year of improvement made one signigifant change adding Tony Allen from Boston and Rudy Gay got hurt. .
COACHING: This was Lionel Hollins second year as the head coach of the Grizzlies. The staff was Johnny Davis, Barry Hecker, Damon Stoudamire, Henry Bibby and David Joerger. This was the same staff the previous season.
CONCLUSION: The Grizzlies did this largely by becoming more aggressive and forcing more turnovers and even fouling more than they had in the past. The addition of Tony Allen was a huge part of this however, much of this has to do with Hollins 2nd year as the head man and understanding what his team needs to do to be better. The next year the Grizzlies went to 9th in the NBA. The improvement in condition and play of Marc Gasol is a huge part of this as well.
EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
• Wire to wire win for the Jazz. A very solid night top to bottom against a tired road weary team.
• If we could play Eastern Conference teams at home every night that would be awesome.
• Jazz starters got the Jazz on a 14-2 start and then when they came back in the game with 4:30 left in the 2nd quarter and up by 9 they stretched the lead to 16 and the Jazz were in total control.
• The Sixers never got inside 14 points in the second half of the game.
• The growth of Kanter and Burks in their first 82 game schedule is fun to watch. Remember these guys played only 66 games last year in a truncated season and this year they are flourishing in the second half of the year. Kanter has developed more and more offensive moves and is really learning how to score. He has different moves and is getting better at reading situations. He even passes. Burks is so much better defensively. He is playing the game harder. The success of his game used to depend entirely on the making shots but he has developed so much more to his game, his rebounding and his defense have become staples that he can rest upon. Terrific to watch these two guys make the jump from year 1 to year 2 and then the big jump happens next year in year 2 to year 3.
• Ron Boone talked in Postcast about a new play the Jazz are running that is being initiated by Hayward and has a ton of motion and movement. Phil Johnson built on that in his visit on the broadcast saying the Jazz ran it 5 straight times and scored on 4 of them and had scored on about 6 of the 8 times they ran it tonight.
• Millsap had great hands tonight and had 3 steals he has had 2 or more steals in 6 straight games.
• Great to see Randy Foye hitting shots. Jazz need him badly in the home stretch and he hit 3 three’s tonight. He opens so much up for Jefferson and Milsap
• 9th straight game big Al went under 20 points, he only played 18 minutes due to foul trouble and a hard elbow to the nose and mouth.
• Solid all around night – Jazz had 7 players in double figures and no one played over 31 minutes
• Get the home wins and grab a few road wins late and we can still make the playoffs.
An old staple within Jazz basketball returned today in conversation at shoot around, 3 stops in a row. It sounds so simple but in the NBA getting 3 stops in a row is almost impossible.
The Jazz are looking to get 3 stops in a row twice a quarter and preferrably have 1 of those happening in the final minutes of a quarter so that you close on a run.
It’s worth keeping an eye on tonight to see if the Jazz can get the number 1 pace of play team to slow down at all and get those 3 stops in a row at any point during the game.
If a team does accomplished this 8 times in a game they will almost always win the game. It sounds so simple and as you read this you must be thinking how can they not do that, but you would be surprised how rarely 3 stops in a row happens during an NBA game.
The other discussion was how to get off to faster starts. Coach Tyrone Corbin took some time with Mo Williams after shoot around in a 1 on 1 conversation to try to discuss with him what he could do to help the team get started.
In addition, Corbin met with Paul Millsap about his back to back slow starts. Corbin knows the team needs Millsap to show the energy early in the game and for the rest of them to build off the energy of Paul.
A hot debate in the Jazz fan community right now is how to equate the minutes the starters are playings (and most often being outscored) and those the bench are playing (and most often outscoring the opponents).
One theory is that if you flipped the groups around you would end up with the same exact outcome. Our Jazz team is currently constructed of a group of non all-stars that are very equal 1-13 so when they play a Hall of Fame or All-star laden starting line-up they struggle but the bench is very deep so it has success.
The other is the bench players would do much better than our current starters.
At the Sports Nation site SLC Dunk Amar did terrific work this week delving into what percentage of minutes each player is playing against the other team’s starters contrasting to the other team’s bench players.
The results were our starters are playing about 76% of their minutes against other teams starters. Gordon Hayward is playing about 50/50% in 25 minutes, Favors and Burks have been playing about 40% v. Starters in their 20 minutes and Kanter is at 33% v. Starters in his 15 minutes.
This was terrific work by Amar.
Let’s take the next step and put this into actual play.
Jazz starters play 25 minutes a night v. other starters and 8 minutes a night v. Reserves. Hayward is 12.5 of each, whereas Favors and Burks play 9 minutes v. Starters and 11 v. reserves. Finally, Tyrone Corbin has been very careful to protect 20 year old Enes Kanter and he is playing just 5 minutes v. starters and 10 v. reserves.
What jumps out to me from Amar’s work is what an enormous jump of competition it is to be a starter.
If Favors were to start he is moving from 9 minutes a night v. front level guys to 25 a night and even Hayward goes from 12 to 25. Favors is undertaking 3 times as many minutes against the best talent.
What Kanter is doing tonight, thankfully v. the Bobcats, if he starts is even more stunning. Kanter will move from 5 minutes a night to 25 minutes against front line players.
Looking at this gives me two different conclusions. First, comparing starters performance to bench players performance are apples and oranges. On the other hand, a team better start its best players to handle the difference in talent a team is facing throughout the game.