MINNEAPOLIS — A positive trend has developed for the Utah Jazz early into the 2016-17 season.
Simply put, the Jazz are a much, much better team when George Hill and Gordon Hayward play together.
You don’t need to dig too deep into the statistics and breakdowns of the team to come to this conclusion, either.
Sample 1: The Jazz played well with them both in New York City to begin a five-game East Coast trip when Hayward returned from an injury absence.
Sample 2: The Jazz made a 39-point turnaround in consecutive games against Denver, beating the Nuggets 108-83 with both players contributing after losing 105-91 in a game missed by Hill.
Sample 3: The Jazz demolished Atlanta, one of the Eastern Conference’s better teams so far, and held the Hawks to a mere 68 points in a Black Friday blowout with Hill and Hayward teaming up again.
They're also the team's two most prominent leaders.
“I think those two guys complement each other well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Hill and Hayward, who both scored 20-plus in the team’s last two wins.
The sample size is small, but Utah is 3-0 when those Indianapolis-bred athletes play together. The Jazz are only 6-8 when one or the other doesn’t play, and just 3-5 without Hill.
In other words, Jazz fans might want to ask Santa for a healthy thumb for Hill and a healed left ring finger for Hayward. This team clearly needs both players to be as competitive as it wants to be on a consistent basis.
“I think if you go around the league and take two of the best players off of the team … you’re going to play differently,” Snyder said. “You’re a different team.”
Different for the better when you put Hill and Hayward back on that team. The Jazz are averaging 107.7 points on offense while allowing just 86.7 points with that pair on board.
“They play off of each other,” Snyder said. “I think as much as anything, those two guys when they’re working together, they alleviate a lot of things (for others).”
They certainly make it easier for a guy like second-year power forward Trey Lyles to do his thing more effectively. Lyles noted that he’s able to move around easier because defenses have to focus on Hayward and Hill, opening up space for him to navigate around the court.
That appeared to be the case for Lyles as he logged his first double-double of the season in Friday’s win with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“It gives me a lane,” Lyles said, “and then if I see their man or somebody else’s man help off of me, it gives me an opportunity to find them and for them to get open shots and knock them down.”
Snyder believes it has a positive impact on the defensive end, too.
“The best thing that Gordon did (Friday) was defend, not even close,” Snyder said. “I like to believe that George has a little something to do with that at times. Sometimes you see somebody who’s playing that way on the wing, it just reminds you that that’s what you want to do, that’s how you have to play in order to win.”
Now just imagine how good they might be if they get Derrick Favors (knee) and Alec Burks (ankle) back, too. Neither player traveled to Minnesota for this Monday matchup with the Timberwolves.
Another benefit of having both Hayward and Hill back is that the Jazz can now use guys like Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles in their intended roles as reserves.
“The fact that we’ve played well with them (Hayward and Hill) isn’t really a (negative) reflection of the other guys,” Snyder said. “It’s just a reflection of the fact that they’re two good players and that they play well together.”