Early Problems For The Utah Jazz


The Utah Jazz still have some kinks to work out on their road back to the NBA Playoffs.

Heading into this season, many believed the Jazz lacked depth and had, at best, an average offense. However, with Gordon Hayward‘s continued evolution into a number one option, Alec Burks returning to the bench and the addition of Trey Lyles, Tibor Pleiss, and Jeff Withey, one could have projected at least a modest improvement.

So far, this hasn’t been the case.

A quick look at Basketball Reference shows that Hayward’s shooting percentages have looked similar to his 2013-2014 averages, which is not good news. Instead of progressing, Hayward fell from shooting percentages of .445/.364/.812 to .410/.304/.767. The culprit is his inability to convert shots both from five to nine feet (3/16), as well as 20-24 feet (8/35).

A further look into the stats reveal that Hayward has struggled being the primary option on a team where very few of the players are consistent and versatile offensive threats. Looking at shots off the dribble, Hayward is shooting a miserable 28.2 percent on shots coming after three-six dribbles. He’s not doing himself any favors on catch and shoot opportunities (32.5 percent) or shots that are classified as open (31 percent) either.

It’s nearly a full month into a season, the sample size is increasing and teams like the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers probably won’t be struggling for long. In order for Utah to remain a playoff team, Hayward needs to get it going and fast.

Another problem Utah is having is finding an effective lineup. More specifically, one that’s not the Triple Wing lineup featuring Burks, Hayward, and Rodney Hood. According to NBA.com/stats, this combination has played together for 89 minutes–41 with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. That lineup with Favors and Gobert is the second most played lineup combination so far and they’ve been effective to say the least.

The effective field goal percentage of the Triple Wing lineup comes out to 64.3 percent, while the opponents’ mark is 48.5 percent. That is an astounding difference.

However, most lineups involving bench players have been struggling. The all-bench lineup of Lyles, Trey Burke, Alec Burk, Trevor Booker, and Joe Ingles have played the fifth most minutes for the team. They give up 52.5 percent eFG to their opponents while only having 42.5 eFG percentage themselves. A major problem is the frontcourt rotation as Booker has struggled mightily this season.

With Lyles not yet being ready to be the potential do-it-all player that he is capable of becoming, Utah will likely need to pick up a free agent or make a trade if Booker continues to struggle.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Not all is doom and gloom. With regards to the point guard situation, as detailed here on The J Notes, Trey Burke is having a fantastic year. He has been one of the league leaders in three-point field goal percentage.

Perhaps an insertion into the starting lineup to replace Raul Neto could be in order to help the spacing offensively. More opportunities and playing time for Burke could also lead to more minutes for the Triple Wing lineup to be played later in the game as Snyder wouldn’t have to worry about burning out the wings early in the game.

This new lineup already has significant playing time: 33 minutes (third most played combination) resulting in an eFG percentage of 60.4.

Ryan Aston also pointed out two very important developments for the Jazz: the evolution of Derrick Favors into an elite power forward and the team being dependent on Rudy Gobert. This is especially vital for the team as any — God, forbid — significant injuries with these two could mean the end of a playoff bid for the team.

Fans needn’t look further than the New Orleans Pelicans to see how that would play out. Despite having Anthony Davis, the Pels are buried in the standings due to the litany of injuries on the team.

Next: The Utah Jazz Are 12 MPG Shy of Greatness

However, this team is more or less the team we expected despite a few surprises. It is still one of the league’s best defensive squads, something that can always be relied upon to be competitive in every game they play in.

The core is young, developing and exciting, and the Jazz should be in contention for a playoff spot.