As the resident newbie covering the Utah Jazz, I figured the best thing to do before really starting was go back and watch every game of the season.
So, fresh off of my bingeing marathon, I divided my thoughts into three categories; first overall impressions of the team, things that caught my eye but are no cause for immediate panic and problem areas that need correcting.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of my thoughts, and I’m sure that there are things here that are well-known to Jazz fans. Instead, look at this as observations from a crash course on the 2019-20 Jazz season. Here are some things that stood out:
At the risk of sounding like a complete outsider and making everyone think “tell me something I didn’t know,” I’ll try to keep these brief.
- The reasoning behind the Jazz being lauded for their defensive prowess and Rudy Gobert winning two Defensive Player of the Year awards is abundantly clear to me, now more than ever. There is something to be said for the elevated level of attention to detail on the defensive end that is so present with an elite defensive team. That’s not to say that they have been perfect, just that the defensive principles in place are impressive.
- Donovan Mitchell just turned 23 in September and plays with the vision and athleticism of a much more seasoned player. He is an absolute force who I am extremely excited to cover.
- It is insane how complete of a player Bojan Bogdanovic is and how little the national audience knows about him. I can tell you from experience covering the Eastern Conference while he was in Indiana that he is nowhere near one of the most talked about players, and I think that’s doing a disservice to his accomplishments on the basketball court.
- It’s good to see that shooting struggles did not keep Mike Conley from impacting the game in the other areas he is capable of doing so. Let’s be clear, he started out the season in a very rough way as far as offensive production is concerned, but you wouldn’t know it with how he handled himself in every other aspect of the game.
- It is clear that wrinkles are still being ironed out with this team, most notably with the reserve unit, and there have been some rough days in the early part of this season, but for the most part I think that there is a lot for Jazz fans to be happy about.
No Need to Panic
- It can’t be easy to have a semi-lengthy injury right when you come to a new team, as Ed Davis did. It seems like Quin Snyder is allowing Davis time to figure things out and get into a rhythm with the team. But, if things don’t turn around soon for Davis there will need to be a conversation about Tony Bradley, who did an incredibly impressive job as a backup for Gobert and then again when Gobert was out with an ankle sprain. There is a point where that kind of effort and production has to be rewarded. I think it’s fair to give Davis his time and a chance, but I’m keeping a close eye on that situation.
- I’ve noticed some rumbling and concern at the way that Emmanuel Mudiay will sometimes make a fast and hard drive into the paint with what seems like no backup plan, resulting in a bad pass or a kick-out pass to a non-existent player. Actually Conley has been guilty of the same misstep quite a few times. This is an extremely common trait among young players and players who are new to a team. As this is the case with both Mudiay and Conley, I see no reason to panic ... yet.
- On first watch it seemed like the Jazz were turning the ball over with offensive fouls at a higher clip than their opponents, and after digging around some of the advanced stats it turns out, I was right.
The Jazz don’t have the worst turnover rate in the league (third worst), but they do lead the league in frequency of turnovers in transition (17.5% turnover frequency), isolation plays (13.2% turnover frequency) and post-ups (23.3% turnover frequency), and are second-worst in offensive screen turnovers (11.4% turnover frequency).
The transition, isolation and post-up turnovers come from mishandling the ball (your run of the mill turnover) and from offensive fouls, which are also the cause for offensive screen turnovers. As the Jazz are league leaders in both screens set and screen assists it does give the impression that they would have more opportunity to make mistakes. But these stats are frequency percentages, not total sums, so when compared to the rest of the league, no matter the total amount, they are turning the ball over at a higher clip. The bottom line is these are areas that need to be cleaned up if the Jazz want to succeed with their preferred type of offense.
- The Jazz are missing out on some prime opportunities when the defense gets caught with a mismatch on Gobert after a switch. There might be some people that would put this in the no need to panic category, but the guy is 7-foot-1. He’s the easiest thing to see on the court and if a 6-foot-3 guard gets switched onto him in the post, the Jazz have to take advantage of it. Those are free points that are being passed up.
- I appreciate a player who can operate in the midrange just as much as the next reasonable person, but there are times when it feels like Mitchell hunts out that shot more often than he needs to. Additionally, I noticed some instances where Mitchell passed up a wide-open 3-pointer in order to get the ball to the corner. Problem is, because he is so open it meant the defense was able to close out on the corner shooter and contest the shot in better defensive position.
The mentality of passing up a good shot in order to get a great shot is understandable and commendable. But, Mitchell is the leading force of this team. If he has an open look, he needs to take it and not defer.
Of course there is so much more to this team than what I outlined here, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold onto some of my observations in order to dive deeper at a later date. The good news is that I’ll be around for a long time and the season is still young.