Why Trey Lyles Should Be Starting In Derrick Favors’ Absence

Trey Lyles has broken out of his slump recently for the Utah Jazz and may be on the cusp of becoming a starter with Derrick Favors injured.

Utah Jazz big man Trey Lyles had a bit of a rough start to the 2016-17 season. He struggled mightily shooting the basketball early, and that has yet to change in terms of shooting the three. However, he has managed consecutive double-digit scoring nights and is showing a new aggressive side to is game.

In his first 11 games, he combined to shoot just eight free throws; in his last two games, he has had nine free throw attempts. He is no longer settling for contested jumpers early in the shot clock, and is now getting easy looks at the rim.

The jump shot hasn’t quite been there yet. He’s currently shooting 22.4 percent from behind the arc, but we all know that’s destined to change. Meanwhile, Boris Diaw, who has been starting in place of the injured Derrick Favors, has made just one three-point shot in his eight attempts on the season.

As I gazed upon the starting lineup for the Jazz in Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, I wondered where the offense was going to come from. It turns out, I was right to be worried as it contained just two players who are able to consistently create their own shot. Those players being Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward. Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum have been superb at the defensive end thus far, but continue to be works in progress offensively.

As for Diaw, the veteran forward has struggled to contribute at either end of the floor.

The internet has exploded with questions about how the Jazz offense is being run and it seems as though some of the media and even Jazz fans are already looking for coach Quin Snyder’s head. The offense has been stagnant at times, but that will happen when three of the best five scorers on the team are out injured and that has been the story all season long.

Nov 12, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) hangs on the net during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What people are completely ignoring in their criticism of the Jazz is how they outplayed both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Bulls all over the court, but just lacked the ability to hit open shots. The Jazz are one of the very best teams in the NBA at getting open looks, they just aren’t falling down at a solid rate.

Sadly, the Jazz are also one of the worst teams (actually, the worst…by far) at feeding the hot hand. Players can be on fire, hitting shots from all over the court and end up with just 15 points because they’ve taken only 10 shots. Rodney Hood has been the player specifically that this has affected most.

The good thing is, when Trey Lyles gets hot, nobody is going to stop him from hoisting up his fair share of shots. So far, he has been unable to get on a roll shooting the ball, but when he does, look out!

The amount of shots Lyles has been putting up this season hasn’t worked to his advantage in his bid for more minutes, but if he gets into that starting lineup and plays more minutes, he will be able to score more prolifically through offense generated by Exum, Hood and Hayward. Lyles also has the ability to take the ball up the court which will reduce the workload on that trio.

Looking now at the Jazz’s upcoming game against the Houston Rockets, having a stretch four that can come out and guard Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza on the perimeter could be hugely important. You would also rather have Lyles switching out to guard James Harden than the less mobile Diaw.

The Rockets’ defense this season is collapsing on almost every drive and forcing teams into three-point shots. The Jazz now need to put the right combination on the floor to hit those open threes. So the ‘drive-and-kick’ game will be crucial in determining Utah’s success in H-Town.

With all the talk about the Jazz getting veteran players this offseason, it has been forgotten how young this team still is. We are talking about talents like Gobert, Lyles, Exum and Hood all being just 24 years of age or younger. So the Jazz peaking this season and being a top four team in the Western Conference is not the overall goal. The goal is to peak two to three years from now when Favors, Hayward, Gobert, Hood, Exum, Lyles and Burks are all in their prime.

Just imagine how deadly that team will be given time to grow.

Statistics and information courtesy of ESPN and Basketball Reference