How Utah Is Following The NBA’s Playmaking 4 Mold


In the 2015 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected 6’10 PF Trey Lyles out of Kentucky. With that selection, the Utah Jazz front office confirmed that they, along with a few other executives in the league, value the playmaking 4.

Upon watching tape, Lindsey said some of the coaches compared his [Lyles] passing ability to that of Spurs forward Boris Diaw.

The playmaking 4 mold is a wide variety. It kicks out pure spot up shooting power forwards like Ryan Anderson, Channing Frye, and Matt Bonner. Instead, it involves versatile players in the mold of Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion, Draymond Green, and former Jazz Paul Millsap. Not coincidentally, the Jazz were rumored to be in the market to reacquire Millsap. These players are “do-it-allers,” able to shoot, pass, run the floor, and play solid defense.

Here, David Locke (@lockedonsports), who is the radio voice of Utah Jazz, broke down Lyles’ passing game. Although some of the clips shown result in turnovers, you can appreciate the ideas and basketball IQ. It also didn’t help that Kentucky’s lanes were clogged due to Lyles playing at small forward, with Towns and Cauley-Stein up front. However, projecting his playmaking ability in Quin Snyder’s offense, Lyles should be able to blossom.

In this video, you see everything Lyles does that makes him valuable. Although not a strong defensive presence yet, his mid range jumper, perimeter skills, rebounding, and mobility at the power forward spot is great. Lyles also showed the ability to attack from the perimeter some. He could get to the rim around slower defenders, and had the ability to pull up from mid range. Although his post up moves weren’t advanced, he could definitely take advantage of a smaller defender off a switch ala Draymond Green for Golden State.

Lindsey also drew the comparison from Lyles to Draymond Green in his ability to defensive rebound and immediately lead a fastbreak, taking advantage of the transition opportunity to create cross matches.

So how does that stack up with current starter Derrick Favors?

Favors improved a lot last year, to say the least. With his USG% increasing from 20.8 – 23.8 according to Basketball Reference, he made better use of his possessions. His TOV% went down from 12.9%  – 10.2, and his AST% went up 7.3 – 9.4. Although he isn’t Pau Gasol or Boris Diaw as a playmaker, Favors is improving.

In this picture, Favors gets pretty good position after a handoff and pick and roll with Trey Burke. After Favor receives the entry pass, Burke clears the side for Favors to do work. However, Victor Oladipo is still in the middle of the lane.

Look at the Orlando defenders as Favors makes his move. With the floor so spread, three of them are in no man’s land. They aren’t in a position to help on Favors. An immediate double team would result in a wide open three pointer.

Favors blows by his defender with a quick first step to his left, where the help defenders cannot affect the play. He finished the play with a strong dunk.

Plays like this show why Favors is quickly becoming one of the best power forwards in the league. Defenders cannot sag off anymore because of his improved jump shot. Last year, Favors shot 38.7% from 10-14 feet, but this year, he shot 42.2%. For comparison sakes, that’s better than LaMarcus Aldridge (37.3%), Blake Griffin (38.7%), and Pau Gasol (38.3%). His defensive ability also makes him a top two way player. His 7’4 wingspan allows him to contest inside shots ridiculously well, which, along with Rudy Gobert, helped the Jazz become a top defensive team.

With these two power forwards on board, I wanted to see the recent power forwards from championship teams since 2010. I wondered how many of these power forwards embody the “new” mold?

2009-2010 champion: Los Angeles Lakers (PF rotation – Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Josh Powell)

2010-2011 champion: Dallas Mavericks (PF rotation – Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brian Cardinal)

2011-2013 champion: Miami Heat (PF rotation – Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis)

2013-2014 champion: San Antonio Spurs (PF rotation – Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner)

2014-2015 champion: Golden State Warriors (PF rotation* – Draymond Green, Mareese Speights, David Lee).

*Golden State played “positionless” in the Finals. You can have your pick at who played PF – Iguodala, Livingston etc.

As you can see, all of the teams that have recently won a championship have included a playmaking 4 (Odom, Marion, Green) or a generational talent (Nowitzki, Duncan). The Miami Heat are the only exception – though LeBron James arguably played the four during the Heat’s back to back titles.

Not coincidentally, GM Dennis Lindsey compared Trey Lyles to two players listed above. With the playmaking 4’s rise in the NBA, the Utah Jazz have taken notice and followed suit.

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