Four things the Utah Jazz should try in order to jump start the team

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 01: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz reacts to a second half foul during their 112-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on November 01, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 01: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz reacts to a second half foul during their 112-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on November 01, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 01: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz looks to shoot the ball in the first half past Ed Davis #17 of the Portland Trail Blazers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on November 01, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Put Donovan Mitchell in the starting lineup

Now I realize that in some ways this is a controversial move. I alluded earlier to poor shooting and Donovan Mitchell is certainly one of the most guilty culprits. He’s putting up the most attempts of any player on the team (13.7) and converting on just 34.4 percent of them. That’s the worst of any Jazzman that’s logging significant minutes this year. He’s also shooting just 31.7 percent from deep.

Furthermore, after much improved shooting in the three games leading up to Tuesday’s catastrophe, Donovan went the complete other way with a horrific 3-of-21 outing against the Sixers. Based on those numbers, sticking him in the starting lineup might seem like a bad idea to some. Nevertheless, I still stand by my assertion that he needs to be in that group.

First of all, set aside some expected rookie woes and Tuesday’s surprising shooting slump and Donovan Mitchell has already proven that he’s one of, if not the most prolific offensive player that the Jazz have. He’s quick, athletic, has a sweet shooting stroke, can get to the rim and can create his own shot. Yes, it’s somewhat discouraging that it’s a rookie that has some of those top traits for the Jazz, but it remains fact nonetheless.

And even when shots aren’t falling for Donovan, there’s a few things that make him stand out above several of his teammates. First of all, he has a fearless confidence and a determination to win that are nearly unmatched. He plays unrelenting defense and when his shots are falling (which admittedly needs to happen more often), he can be a deadly offensive force.

It’s pretty clear that in several situations, Quin Snyder has trusted him more than current starter Rodney Hood as Mitchell has either finished games in place of Hood or, as he did against Philadelphia, started the second half ahead of him. Donovan just makes things happen better than Rodney does and brings several more intangibles to the table, even if his shot isn’t falling. Compare that to the one-dimensionality of Hood who’s either making shots, or missing them and not doing much else.

Furthermore, Mitchell is second on the team in plus/minus (1.7), trailing only Ekpe Udoh, and is fourth on the team in net rating (2.8), ahead of each member of Utah’s starting lineup. Also, Utah’s top two lineups in terms of plus/minus include Donovan Mitchell, as do seven of the top ten. In terms of net rating, Mitchell also finds himself in seven of the top ten Jazz lineups.

The fact of the matter is, shooting woes notwithstanding, the Jazz have been a better team with Donovan in the game versus when he’s been on the bench. Given that Utah’s starters have struggled so immensely to gel, to produce scoring and to avoid slow starts, the Jazz would be much better off giving Mitchell a chance to show what he can do from the game’s onset.

If they were to do so, the next question would be, who would he replace? Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles or, heck, controversial though it may seem, Ricky Rubio? Last year, with Gordon Hayward one hundred percent solidified as Utah’s starting small forward, Hood actually found himself being replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Ingles, thus coming off the bench wouldn’t be a new-found experience for Hood.

Granted, it’s also one he likely wouldn’t be a huge fan of based on his comments in his end-of-year interview following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, but if it’s better for the team then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered. The bad news is, both in the regular and postseason, Hood was bad off the bench – as in “27.5 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from deep in the regular season and 35.2 percent from the field and 26 percent from deep in the playoffs” bad.

So there’s also the option of sliding Hood to the three and bringing Ingles off the bench. Ingles formerly thrived in a bench role and thus it could potentially work well for him once again. But unfortunately, I don’t know that it would be all that beneficial for Utah’s starting lineup. The team is already dealing with severe spacing issues and removing the guy who was the team’s leading three-point shooter a year ago and is currently converting from behind the arc at a 45.2 percent clip doesn’t feel like a recipe for success.

Not only that, but Hood doesn’t have all that much experience playing the three and such a shift may not be the most conducive to his success. Given his struggles already this season after many expected that he would take a major leap, it might not be the best idea to put him in an uncomfortable situation and throw him off even further.

Plus besides, it should be noted that Hood and Mitchell have played relatively well together considering that their two-man lineup has a net rating of 14.2 whereas Ingles and Mitchell’s two-man lineup comes in at just 0.7. Who knows, perhaps inserting Mitchell alongside the starters would help spark their offense while allowing the bench to capitalize on Ingles’ deadly three-point shooting. Whether that would be the case or not, it’s certainly worth the experiment.

Last of all, it’s not unfathomable (though quite unlikely) that Mitchell may be best off replacing Ricky Rubio in the starting lineup. I truly don’t see this happening as Rubio is on this team to be the leader at the point and orchestrate the team’s offense, and if the Jazz are to truly find success this year, he has to find a way to make his gifts benefit the team.

Nevertheless, there’s no questioning that he’s been awful lately and many of the Jazz’s recent problems can be traced back to Rubio’s poor and inconsistent play. His shooting has been abysmal and his fit with his fellow starters has been rocky at best as he’s averaging nearly as many turnovers per game as assists (4.1 and 6.0, respectively) and has one of the lowest plus/minus numbers on the team of -2.9 and a net rating of -5.2.

So whether it’s to take the place of Hood, Ingles or Rubio, it seems like a near necessity that Quin Snyder opt to go with his rookie and insert him into the starting lineup. Will it definitely work? There’s no telling for now. But whether it will or not, it’s absolutely worth taking the risk and finding out.