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Utah Jazz mailbag: A look at what to fix before the playoffs and whether team chemistry would suffer from a buyout addition

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) run to Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00)
Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) run to Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) after he made an acrobatic shot during the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

As we near the NBA All-Star break, which will be followed closely by the March 25 trade deadline and the home stretch of the season, I wanted to understand the most pressing things on the minds of Utah Jazz fans.

The playoffs are just three months away (so long as the planned start date of May 22 stands), and although there is still a lot of basketball to be played, that time is going to fly by. So, I turn to the readers to find out what questions need to be answered, what the Jazz need to fix and what concerns are still lingering.

First off, Jeff Green was an offseason acquisition that didn’t work out for the Jazz. He was part of a bench unit that included Tony Bradley and Ed Davis as backups for Rudy Gobert. I don’t think Green was the cause of any chemistry problems, I just think the Jazz weren’t that deep of a team and there were players that didn’t fit.

As for adding someone significant following a buyout, I feel like you’d have to be really lucky to get a player on the buyout market that would really impact things, especially with this Jazz team.

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I consider the situation is when the Philadelphia 76ers picked up Marco Belinelli before the 2018 playoffs. That was a really incomplete team, the Sixers were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round and while Belinelli was a huge boost for them, he was also a huge defensive liability.

That’s usually what you’re going to find on the buyout market. It’s not like the huge difference-making players are just available for the taking. That’s not to say there aren’t good two-way players that could be useful, there are always exceptions.

But, the Jazz’s eight- or nine-man rotation is pretty set. It’s not as if they’re going to get someone that would get more playing time than Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson or Derrick Favors. So, what we’re really talking about is someone that would be playing limited minutes and not really have too much of an impact on anything, even the chemistry of the team.

If they can get someone that could come in and play a handful of minutes as the ninth or 10th man I don’t see any reason to hold off for fear of upsetting the balance of the team.

Also, let’s not forget that Jordan Clarkson was a midseason addition and he never disrupted any chemistry.

This kind of goes along with the question above. Is it possible that there’s a trade out there that could upgrade the Jazz? Sure. Can I think of one where getting rid of one of the current main rotational players wouldn’t disrupt the chemistry of the team? No.

I don’t pretend to be as smart as the people working in NBA front offices, or have the kind of deep knowledge base that they have with the analytics and background information available to them, so I could be absolutely wrong. But it also feels like the Jazz are very happy with where they are and the trajectory that they’re on with this group.

The Jazz aren’t really a team that makes impulsive changes so I’d be inclined to believe the Jazz think the best chance for improvement is through continued internal work. But, if there’s a trade to be made on the fringes of the team and it felt like an upgrade, why not?

There are so many ways of looking at this issue.

You could certainly look at it as a slow-start problem. You could say the Jazz are being observant and slowly figuring out a team through the first half, only to come back in the second half with a better understanding of how to attack and pick apart the opposition.

You could point to the fact that they’re able to come back and win those games and look at it as a sign of maturity and growth. You could rely on the oft-used cliche that basketball is a game of runs and the Jazz just seem to get their run late.

Whatever way you want to look at it, I really do believe that this is something that should be addressed and hopefully fixed before the playoffs.

Postseason basketball is such a different beast. Teams are going to be sniffing out any and every weakness their opponent has and looking to exploit them. So, if the Jazz are seen as a team that just doesn’t come out of the gate strong, they run the risk of falling so far behind that they can’t make up the lost ground.

What can they do to fix this? If I truly had the answer the Jazz and every other team would probably be banging at my door trying to pay me for my superhuman advice. This isn’t really something that’s tangible. It’s more about focus and energy and readiness. They just have to do better.

There have been a few recent games where the Jazz have had problems with offensive rebounding — one of the most egregious examples being their Feb. 19 contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, in which Kawhi Leonard burned the Jazz with consecutive offensive boards in the fourth quarter — so I understand why this is a problem that’s fresh in people’s minds.

But, I don’t think this is actually a problem. Through the first 30 games the Jazz posted the 12th best field goal percentage in the league but were the third best offensive rebounding team.

Donovan Mitchell and Clarkson are 35th and 39th in total rebounding among guards league wide. Mitchell, Clarkson and Mike Conley are all in the top 30 in offensive rebounding among guards and Royce O’Neale is 15th in the league in total rebounding among forwards. Those are all pretty impressive numbers if you ask me.

There’s always room for improvement and if the Jazz could do a better job of rebounding it would certainly make them more lethal. The simple answers are better communication and basic positioning and boxing out. That’s how the non-center players can do better. It also would be nice if Gobert had a better sense of where he was batting the ball when he taps out offensive rebounds, that kind of awareness could result in more offensive boards or just cut down on transition opportunities for the other team.

Listen, Gobert is an exceptional player with an incredible game and tons of skill. But no one is above criticism, and I think this is one of the few things you could criticize Gobert on.

If he had better touch, was more coordinated or finished with more finesse the Jazz might be unstoppable. I just don’t know if that’s who he is and I don’t know if those things are going to change, so probably best not to hold your breath on that.

As for developing a hook shot or even something else that he could use away from the basket, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that either. He definitely could work on it but that’s more of an offseason task than anything. It’s not going to happen between now and May 22.

No two championship teams are alike and teams have won titles in all manner of different ways with different styles of basketball. The playoffs are always tougher and they’ll test every single team’s ability to adjust and adapt.

I think the Jazz are a really versatile and dynamic team. Whether they are able to maintain a high level of versatility in the playoffs remains to be seen. This actually might be the biggest question that the team has to answer and there’s no way to answer it other than getting there and doing it.

If you would like to have your question answered, you can send it to me at stodd@deseretnews.com with “mailbag” in the subject line, or you can send it to me via Twitter @NBASarah with the hashtag #UtahJazzMailbag.