If the Utah Jazz hope to overcome the prevalent offensive woes they’ve faced this season, they have to add shooting to their roster.
The past few games haven’t been kind to the Utah Jazz offensively. Even in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, the Jazz struggled to find their shot. But in the last two, things really took a turn for the worst. In the most recent losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers, Utah is a combined 39.1 percent from the field, 17.5 percent from three and 58.9 percent from the free throw line. Eesh.
That hurts just to look at let alone watch unfold before our eyes game in and game out.
It comes as no surprise that Utah’s offense as a whole has struggled mightily due to this poor shooting trend. Their offensive rating has dropped all the way down to 20th in the league at a mark of 106.6.
Part of this trend has to do simply with misfortune. The Jazz won’t continue to shoot under 20 percent from three, I can almost guarantee it. They’re simply in a bit of a slump. But another part of it is that they simply don’t have the shooting necessary or the spacing on offense to be a force from the 3-point line or really anywhere on the floor.
For example, Donovan Mitchell was the subject of much criticism on Friday night for hoisting up 35 shots. But honestly, who else are the Jazz supposed to go to? Joe Ingles was off with an ailing hand, Ricky Rubio can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, Alec Burks is as inconsistent as they come and none of Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale or Jae Crowder are prolific shooting threats.
So where else can the Jazz turn when they need a shot created or need a bucket, especially from deep? The answer is nowhere. That’s the problem.
Utah has become extremely easy to defend because teams can hone in on Donovan Mitchell, the lone offensive threat, and are completely fine with him pulling up from deep where he’s proven less than efficient. Meanwhile, they sag off Rubio who apparently can’t hit a three to save his life, then pack the paint and neglect the perimeter, save when Joe Ingles is on the floor, making it hard for Utah to have any room to operate inside the arc.
Mitchell needs to learn to make better reads, sure, but just imagine what he could do with more threats all around him to drive and kick to. Imagine how much more deadly a Quin Snyder-led offense could be if there were actually shooters up and down the roster.
Sure, Utah’s calling card is defense (though it’s been surprisingly absent so far this season, but that’s another story), but we’ve also known for nearly two years now that the Utah Jazz need more shooting. And if they’re going to have any chance of becoming an elite squad this year or in the not-so-distant future, they have to find some shooting one way or another.
Perhaps it will come organically. Maybe the likes of Mitchell and Rubio will get back to their prolific 3-point shooting ways that they’ve shown during stints past. Though 15 games in, that doesn’t seem to be an imminent occurrence.
Less likely, perhaps Burks can keep up his hot hand from deep, maybe O’Neale, Exum or Crowder can find their groove, or maybe the likes of Georges Niang or Grayson Allen can do enough other things right to allow Quin to keep their potential shooting touch out on the floor. All of those would be nice, but based on how Utah’s ‘development and continuity’ strategy has panned out so far this year, I’m hesitant to rely on such long shots.
The fact of the matter is that Utah may need to look to bring in shooting from the outside in. Several Jazz fans clamored last season for the Jazz to trade for a guy like Nikola Mirotic who could stretch the floor and drop threes with the best of them. Later, during the offseason, players such as Joe Harris and Nemanja Bjelica were high on fan wish lists to add some deep-ball threats.
Ultimately, none of those additions were in the cards as Jazz brass figured it could mimic last year’s success and again overcome its shooting deficiencies. That was a nice thought at the time, but I hate to say that I don’t see that happening anymore. The Jazz need to find a way to add shooting and they need to do it quickly before the losses simply continue to pile up.
And rather than wait for a miracle to occur internally which sees their players magically discover their shooter’s touch, they need to look to bring someone in from the outside in a trade.
Of course, it’s easy for fans to scream at their team, “Make a trade! Trade so-and-so!” But these things take two to tango. There’s no simple way to just magically bring in talent without giving up value in return. That’s where the Jazz could run into some issues. It’s always easier to make up a potential deal than to actually find one that two sides agree on. Outside of Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert, none of which will realistically be traded, the only true trade value they have is in players that are on expiring contracts.
Trading them to teams looking for future cap relief may handicap some of Utah’s precious financial flexibility, so that’s a big risk that they’ll have to weigh and measure. However, for the sake of the 2018-19 season and this team’s continued upward trajectory, I believe it’s a risk worth exploring.
The Jazz need shooting. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. If they’re unable to fill the atrocious void they have in their offense soon, then their rocky 7-8 record thus far will very likely become not just a slow start, but a harbinger of bad things to come.
Though it might require shipping off some beloved players or losing some flexibility, the risk will very much be worth it. The Utah Jazz front office ought to be exploring options to remedy this plight sooner rather than later.
Their offensive success and effectiveness are counting on it.