A glut of post players and a shoot-first point guard to get them the ball. Gordon Hayward struggling. Good at home, and at home only.
Just what Utah Jazz team is this? Because through 12 games, the 6-6 Jazz have so far not entirely distinguished themselves from last year’s Jazz, which most thought overachieved to finish 36-30 in the lockout-shortened season, sneaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed and were swept into summer by the San Antonio Spurs.
“I think we’re different in a lot of different ways,” center Al Jefferson said.
He went on to cite Derrick Favors’ offensive development, and the Jazz’s aspirations to be more of a running team.
With the addition of three key players — two were former lottery picks, the third a former All-Star — the Jazz were thought to have gotten significantly better.
“They have a lot of depth,” former NBA coach Flip Saunders said. “What that usually means is you have a lot of players who are about the same talent level.”
With that depth, the Jazz were expected to push the pace, be a more breakneck team, get into offensive sets quicker.
So far, that’s been more of a rumor.
“In exhibition,” Hayward said, “we ran a lot and were up-tempo. We kind of eased back a little. I think we’re still working on finding the time to push forward and — because when you have such good post players — we’re still working on when to ‘go’ and when not to.”
The Jazz are seventh in the NBA with 16.4 fast-break points per game, a number that is down slightly from last year’s 16.8 points. But the Jazz are taking (and making) more 3-pointers per game, much of which can be attributed to Randy Foye and both Mo and Marvin Williams.
“We run first,” Jefferson said, “then we pull it out on offense. I think we’re more of a pick-and-roll team than we were last year.”
Statistically, the Jazz average effectively the same number of points (98.1) as last year (98.9), are shooting a bit worse (43 percent) and are still in the bottom third of the league in fouls committed.
As usual for the Jazz, they are allowing far fewer points at home (88) than on the road (101.4).
“I think we’ve been better defensively,” Hayward said. “I think that’s a tribute to the guys we got this offseason.”
Of course, 12 games is not a natural benchmark at which to evaluate a team. When asked which ways he expected his team to be better than it has been, coach Tyrone Corbin said it was too early to go on record with an assessment.
“I’d like to reserve that a little bit,” Corbin said. “It’s so early in the process, and we’re doing different things and we’re moving guys around. I would like to, if I can, put that off for a little bit.”
Corbin has spent the early season trying to figure out what it is he has. For two games, he has moved Derrick Favors and Foye into the starting lineup, going with a big look that Corbin employed in last year’s playoffs.
The biggest change from last year’s team, according to players, is not one that necessarily yields immediate on-court results.
“Last year you had guys that didn’t accept roles,” Jamaal Tinsley said. “And this year I think guys are just happy to be here and want to be here. And not saying anything about the guys last year, you just have to want to go to win games.”
“I think that we’ve stayed together a little bit more through tough times,” he said.
P Sacramento at Utah
Friday, 7 p.m. TV • ROOT
Utah at Sacramento
Saturday, 8 p.m. TV • ROOT