Utah Jazz: Improvements Made Easy

Justin KeyCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2012

The shortened NBA season is going to feel a lot longer for the Utah Jazz if the early onslaughts are any indication of who this team is.

With fewer than five games under their belt, the Jazz look more like helpless victims walking through a cattle shoot than a basketball team.

Ouch—growing pains.

Utah (1-3) is giving up more points per game than any other team in the league not led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They’re also second in the league in point differential, losing by over 13 points a night on average.

And if the collective defense of Utah isn’t bad enough, their offensive numbers are stagnant and staggering, too. The Jazz’ 90.5 PPG is good for 23rd in the league. The team is shooting 40 percent from the field while letting opponents sleepwalk to effortless buckets with over a 48 percent clip.

Only the Dallas Mavericks are allowing teams to shoot a higher percentage from the floor than the Jazz.

The players look bewildered and, at times, absolutely incompetent.

Much of these early results were to be expected. The Jazz are one of the youngest teams in the Association. Nine of Utah’s 13 players are 26 years old or younger. Five of the players are either in their rookie or sophomore season, and only one of the five can legally order an alcoholic beverage.

But it hasn’t been all bad news either, and any avid Jazz fan would point that out.

Sophomore players Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward have been bright spots in rather dismal obscurity. Favors is almost averaging a double-double (9.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG) in less than 25 minutes a night, and Hayward is contributing nine points and four assists on a nightly basis without having found a consistent shooting touch.

Rookie Enes Kanter is also finding ways to contribute by pulling in six rebounds a game while seeing minimal playing time. Meanwhile his rookie counterpart, Alec Burks, has yet to crack the lineup when the Jazz aren’t getting brutally butchered.

This makes the Jazz enigmatic. On one hand, their youth looks bright, while on the other it’s the youth that makes wins hard to come by.

However, second-year coach Tyrone Corbin could make minimal tweaks in Utah’s rotation that would improve Utah’s woes, which at this point are pretty much everything.

Move Hayward to Shooting Guard

Hayward has been the starting small forward for the Jazz this year, replacing Andrei Kirilenko.

A quick look at Hayward’s profile says he’s a SF. At 6’8” his body is the archetype for the position. However, he naturally plays better on the perimeter. While Hayward’s frame is large, the kid weighs only 210 pounds and easily gets moved around by other wing forwards.

Moving Hayward to his more natural position also gives the Jazz more options offensively. He has tremendous ball-handling skills and is a playmaker. He’s averaging four assists a night with only one turnover.

He’s leading the Jazz in assists on a nightly basis.

Putting the ball in his hands more would benefit Utah’s rather stagnant offense. It may help him find his shooting touch as well by having more consistent contact with the ball.

Bench Raja Bell

Jazz fans have been screaming these words since November 2010.

Nobody can figure out why Bell plays at all. Jerry Sloan played him. Corbin’s playing him, too.

Everybody is scratching their collective heads and is left with shoulders as dusty as Bell’s aging skills.

With Bell as the Jazz’s starting shooting guard, Utah is left with no ball-handler at the position. He’s incapable of creating his own shot or attacking the rim.

And his shot is nonexistent.

Bell is shooting less than 30 percent from the field and 15 percent from downtown in 20 minutes per night, leaving the Jazz playing 4-on-5 offensive end of the floor.

While he may be Utah’s vocal leader, his game seems to be doing more of the talking these days.

Start Josh Howard

All three of these concepts coincide with one another.

By benching Bell and moving Hayward into the starting SG position, it leaves room for Josh Howard to start.

Howard is third on the team in scoring and is only playing 23 minutes per game. It also offers the defenseless Jazz a solid defender on the wing for the NBA’s stronger and quicker small forwards.

He can handle the ball and create his own shot.

While Howard isn’t shooting particularly well this year, he does have the ability to get hot and bail out the Jazz when the shot clock is dwindling, and he runs the floor incredibly well.

This systematically gives the Jazz another slasher coming off the bench with Burks, who is shooting over 60 percent from the field in the garbage time he’s seeing.

There is room to grow in Utah and the pains will be harsh. But with all the bright spots lingering around, a simple adjustment at the SG position could possibly be the easy remedy.


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