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The Utah Jazz have struggled on offense to start the season. Here are a few reasons why

SHARE The Utah Jazz have struggled on offense to start the season. Here are a few reasons why
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Utah Jazz’s Mike Conley (10) shoots under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers’ Rodney McGruder (19) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 105-94.

AP

SALT LAKE CITY — In the age of analytics in the NBA, the Utah Jazz have been very focused under head coach Quin Snyder in generating shots math says are the best — layups and 3-pointers — with the midrange game becoming somewhat of a lost art as a result.

Despite Donovan Mitchell being the only excellent player on the roster last season at creating his own shot, the Jazz finished fourth in the NBA in percentage of their shots at the rim (39.3%) and eighth in percentage of shots that were 3-pointers (36%), while finishing 27th in percentage of midrange shots taken (24.7).

Yes, it’s only been seven games and Utah is incorporating a bunch of new pieces into Snyder’s offensive system, which is known for being challenging to learn, but so far, the Jazz’s shot profile is significantly worse despite the fact they added players like Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, who were expected to make the offense hum more smoothly.

“You can’t overthink these things, otherwise you end up being tentative. Really, whatever you’re doing, doing it with aggression and with force and precision is going to better than doing something when you’re not as certain.” — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder

According to the subscription-based website Cleaning the Glass, so far Utah is 17th in the league in percentage of its shots taken at the rim (35.5), 18th in percentage of shots that are 3-pointers (33) and 12th in percentage of shots taken between 4 feet from the hoop and the 3-point line (31.5).

This has contributed to the Jazz being 28th in the NBA in points per game (exactly 100) and 25th in points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass, which is a widely-used metric to measure offensive efficiency because it factors in pace.

As far as shots at the rim (officially defined as within 4 feet of the basket) are concerned, Utah has been excellent the past few seasons at throwing high lobs to Rudy Gobert where only he can get them, and he’s been just as excellent at finishing, often with a dunk.

This season, however, teams have been defending the rim better, knowing how effective Gobert is.

“This is a smart league,” Snyder said Tuesday after the team practiced following a day off on Monday. “People watch us play, and they know that Rudy’s a weapon at the rim, and no one wants to give up dunks.”

In addition to teams defending Gobert differently, the Jazz aren’t getting as many 3-point shots as they would like. This is an area where perhaps advanced stats tell a different story from traditional stats, as Utah’s total percentage of 3-pointers taken compared to other shots is low, although the Jazz are ninth in the league in total 3-point attempts per game at exactly 34.

For context, the Houston Rockets lead the league with 45.4 3-point attempts per game, which amounts to 47.7% of their total shots attempted, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The Jazz are 10th in 3-point percentage, having connected on 35.6% of their triples so far.

Snyder, for one, wants his squad to shoot more from beyond the arc.

“We’ve got to continue to try to find ways to get more 3s,” he said. “I think that’s specifically an area that it feels like we’ve passed some shots up.”

Besides its shot profile being worse, Utah is also 25th in the league in turnover percentage, according to Cleaning the Glass, as 17.6% of its possessions have ended in a giveaway. To be clear, the Jazz have regularly finished near the bottom of the league in this statistic under Snyder and the team has still had success in the past, but it is certainly a factor early this season.

“You can’t overthink these things, otherwise you end up being tentative,” Snyder said. “Really, whatever you’re doing, doing it with aggression and with force and precision is going to better than doing something when you’re not as certain.”

On the good side, Utah has remained elite defensively, something that was a question after the rather significant roster overhaul during the summer. The Jazz have given up just 95.6 points per contest, by far the best in the league.

Bogdanovic, who is shooting a rather blistering 45% from downtown, feels that he and his teammates need to do a better job of turning that great defense into offense.

Utah is just 29th in the NBA in pace.

“Our defense, we are supposed to run more,” Bogdanovic said. “We are still trying to get familiar with each other. I think we have to play a little bit faster, especially because we play great defense.”