3 reasons the Utah Jazz are built to counter the Los Angeles Lakers

Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

Utah Jazz spacing

Projecting the Lakers’ starting lineup this season is like dandruff: cause for significant head scratching. Partially, that’s because Anthony Davis is effectively a center who prefers to play power forward. Davis is an elite player who can thrive at either position, but, one wonders whether the presence of Russell Westbrook will necessitate a full-time shift to the center position.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re assuming that won’t happen. With that caveat established, here are the projected starting lineups for the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers next season, and each individual player’s three-point percentage and attempts per 36 minutes from 2020-21.

Utah Jazz

C-   Rudy Gobert (0%, 0 3PA per 36 minutes)

PF- Bojan Bogdanovic (39%, 7.5)

SF- Royce O’Neale (38.5%, 4.5)

SG- Donovan Mitchell (38.6%, 9.4)

PG- Mike Conley (41.2%, 8.1)

Los Angeles Lakers

C-   Marc Gasol (41%, 4.4)

PF- Anthony Davis (26%, 3.1)

SF- Lebron James (36%, 6.8)

SG- Wayne Ellington (42%, 9.2)

PG- Russell Westbrook (31.5%, 4.1)

Based on these projected lineups, we can anticipate the Utah Jazz’s starting lineup shooting 39.3% from three-point range on 29.5 attempts per 36 minutes. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ starting group projects to shoot a subpar 33.2% on slightly lesser volume, on 27.6 attempts per.

Obviously, this is imperfect science. Anthony Davis’ 26% three-point shooting came in the midst of a down season wherein he was clearly affected by injuries. Nonetheless, it isn’t worlds apart from his 31.2% career mark, either. Furthermore, there is another elephant in the room here, and he’s got a 7’9 wingspan.

The fact that the Jazz figure to outpace the Lakers in both efficiency and volume from three-point range with absolute non-spacer Rudy Gobert in their starting lineup speaks volumes. Imagine how this comparison looks if we plug Rudy Gay in as a small-ball 5, or Dwight Howard into Marc Gasol’s spot?

Granted, the Lakers have ample floor-spacing in their reserves, with the additions of Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore and to a lesser extent, Carmelo Anthony. The Jazz have answers, and their names are Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay.

Ultimately, the Utah Jazz paced the National Basketball Association in three-point shooting last season, firing a league-high 43.1 per game while converting at 39.2%, the league’s second best mark. Answering Utah’s floor-spacing with the addition of Russell Westbrook will present quite the challenge for Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel.