SALT LAKE CITY — Defense has been the staple of the Utah Jazz’s success during the Quin Snyder era.
Especially during last season’s second-round playoff run, where the Jazz held the league’s top defensive rating (102.9), en route to Rudy Gobert taking home the Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
Although it’s early, Utah’s team defense isn’t holding their opponents in check the same way they did a year ago. Through the first nine games, the Jazz are in the middle of the pack at No. 13 with a 107.7 defensive rating — tied with the Charlotte Hornets.
Jazz forward Jae Crowder characterized the Jazz’s team defense as “average” entering Monday’s home matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
“Needs to be better,” Crowder said. “A lot of improvement to go, a lot of work to get put into it.”
Gobert feels the NBA rule changes are affecting the Jazz’s ability to defend as a unit.
“A lot. I think it impacts everyone,” Gobert said. “We want to be a physical team and we want to impact the other team’s movement. It’s a big change and it’s hard with all those screens and guards that are using that as an advantage to get fouled. It’s hard, but it’s the same for everyone so we have to adapt.”
Rudy Gobert on how NBA rule changes are affecting the Utah Jazz’s team defense: “A lot. I think it impacts everyone. We want to be a physical team.” Some of the notable changes were freedom of movement on the perimeter and in the post. pic.twitter.com/FyaMhpqRng— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) November 5, 2018
Three rule changes were approved at the NBA Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 21 that went into effect during the 2018-19 preseason.
The shot clock was reset to 14 seconds in offensive rebounding situations, as opposed to 24; the clear path foul rule was simplified and the definition of a “hostile act” was expanded for purposes of triggering instant replay review.
More importantly, the key areas of education for the season were freedom of movement on the perimeter and in the post, respect for the game and traveling.
Freedom of movement on the perimeter includes impedes, wraps and contact on screens. The freedom of movement guidelines for the post that officials are diligent in enforcing this year also include illegal arm wraps, dislodges and contact on post moves to the basket.
Snyder refused to make any excuses for the team’s 4-5 start, especially on the defensive end, but did say everyone is adjusting to the “new norm.”
Snyder also says officials have been great in communication with their play calling, especially when longtime referee Monty McCutchen was hired last December to helped ease tension between players and referees as the NBA Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.
Now it’s up to the team to get it together.
“I don’t think our goals have changed to reflect higher scoring,” Snyder said. “I think what you’re seeing, it stands to reason that if pace is way up, that scoring’s going to be way up so oftentimes points don’t tell the story of at what level you’re defending.”
“If it’s a real slow game, chances are it’s going to be lower scoring and you could still not be defending at the level you want so we look at efficiency,” he continued. “So odds are, if it’s a 40-point quarter you’re not being efficient, regardless of the pace so I think we’re aware of all those things but there isn’t kind of an acknowledgment, nor should there be, from us, from me, as a staff, as a coach, that it’s OK because people are scoring more that we could give up more, that’s not the way to approach it.”