We’re concerned but not that concerned because we don’t want to go out looking for a lot of 3-point shots. We want to attack the basket first and go inside out. – Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
SALT LAKE CITY — With a 10-5 start, not much has gone wrong for a Utah Jazz team picked to be among the worst in the NBA this year by some experts.
Besides winning two-thirds of their games thus far, the Jazz are outrebounding their opponents, committing fewer turnovers, have more assists and steals and are shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponents.
Well, there is one place the Jazz aren't doing so hot.
The Jazz rank near the bottom of the NBA in three 3-point categories and are shooting their worst percentage as a franchise in 26 seasons.
That's right, you have to go back to 1985-86 to find a time when the Jazz shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range as they are now at 28.6 percent.
Jazz coaches and players are well aware of the difficulty, but aren't so sure it matters that much, at least for the time being.
"We're just not making them right now," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "We're concerned but not that concerned because we don't want to go out looking for a lot of 3-point shots. We want to attack the basket first and go inside out."
So far that strategy has worked well for the Jazz, who are relying on the inside play of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, who average 18.3 and 16.6 points per game, respectively. Their third-leading scorer is another inside player, newcomer Josh Howard, who averages 10.7 points per game.
But just think how good the Jazz could be if they could make a few more 3-pointers every game.
Through their first 15 games, the Jazz rank second-to-last in the NBA in 3-point attempts with 12.8 per game. That's just half as many per game as league-leader New Jersey and more than only one team, Memphis. The Jazz are also third-to-last in 3-point makes per game (3.7) and fourth from the bottom in 3-point shooting percentage.
Utah's lack of firepower from 3-point range shouldn't be too surprising, considering that the franchise has let three of its all-time best 3-point shooters go in the last two years.
First to go was Kyle Korver, who set an NBA record in 2009-10 with a 53.6 percentage from behind the arc, leaving via free agency for Chicago. Then last season, the Jazz traded Deron Williams, who sank more than 500 treys in six Jazz seasons, making 35 percent of them. Earlier this year, the Jazz traded Mehmet Okur, who was a reliable 3-point shooter for six seasons here, making 38 percent, including the top two Jazz seasons for 3-point makes.
The top 3-point shooter for the Jazz this year is Raja Bell at 35.5 percent, followed by Devin Harris at 31.1 percent and C.J. Miles at 30 percent. Gordon Hayward, who set a Jazz rookie record and produced the third-best 3-point percentage in Jazz history last year at 47.3 percent on 35-of-74 shooting, is struggling from long range this year with just 9-of-34 for 26.5 percent.
"For me, it's rushing shots a little bit and I'm not shooting with confidence," Hayward said. "Right now they're just not falling, but I'm going to continue to shoot them. I put a lot up every day in practice and they usually go in, so I'll just keep shooting and they'll go down eventually."
Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek, who made 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers in his NBA career, including an astounding 47.8 percent his final season at Utah in 1999-2000, believes it's not a huge deal that the Jazz are among the league's lowest when it comes to 3-pointers. He said he remembers when he played for Phoenix and his team averaged 120 points a game, yet didn't shoot many 3s.
"Guys made the 18-footers," he said. "So I don't think that's a big concern for us that we're not shooting a high percentage. Sure, we want to get better at it, but we don't want to just jack them up there just to get going on them. If they're there, the guys will take them."
Then he added, "We're winning, so is there any correlation to that?"
When told the Jazz ranked fourth from the bottom of the league in percentage, and second-to-last in attempts, Hornacek laughed and said, "At least we're smart — we're not making them, so we're not shooting them."
Working with the Jazz shooters, Hornacek believes the Jazz have the ability to be a good 3-point shooting team.
"We have good shooters, but we don't have a Ray Allen," he said. "I think we're doing just fine. They'll make more of them as we go along. Sometimes the less you shoot, it's harder because it's like, 'Oh geez, now I got a 3.' "
Hayward agrees with that sentiment.
"We don't shoot that many as a team. So you go 0-for-2 in a game and after a few games you're 2-for-10. But I'm not that worried about it."
Neither is Corbin.
"You want to be able to make 3-pointers in a timely fashion and I think we can do that," he said. "You'd like to have a higher percentage and have the right guys taking them. But we have capable guys who haven't made them in the frequency that I think we will during the course of the year."
Utah Jazz 3-point shooting 2011-12
Raja Bell 11-31 35.5%
Devin Harris 14-45 31.1
C.J. Miles 12-40 30.0
Gordon Hayward 9-34 26.5
Alec Burks 2-8 25.0
Paul Millsap 2-9 22.2
Earl Watson 3-14 21.4
Josh Howard 2-11 18.2
NBA rankings 2011-12, 3-point percentage
1. Boston 41.1
2. Miami 40.0
3. Indiana 39.6
4. Orlando 39.5
27. Utah 28.6
28. New Orleans 27.3
29. Sacramento 26.6
30. L.A. Lakers 25.6
3-point attempts per game
1. New Jersey 25.5
2. Orlando 24.4
29. Utah 12.8
30. Memphis 11.0