Dallas • Want more points? Get better shots.
That’s a pretty simple concept, but it’s one that the Jazz are embracing in the 2018-19 season. The most efficient shots on the basketball court are at the rim and beyond the 3-point line, and the Jazz have taken jumps in the percentage of shots they take from each spot.
Fully 41.6 percent of Jazz shot attempts this season are coming within three feet of the rim, good for third in the league (only the Lakers and Hawks are above them). And thanks to Rudy Gobert (though Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors, and Donovan Mitchell are very good rim finishers too) the Jazz are elite at finishing those shots off: making 66.2 percent of them, good for fourth in the league. Put it all together, and no one makes scores more points at the rim than the Utah Jazz.
That’s an improvement over last season, when the Jazz took 35 percent of their shots at the rim, good for 11th in the league, and made 64 percent of them, or 11th. The Jazz were good near the basket, but so far this season, they’re elite.
The explanation is due to a system-wide emphasis on throwing high passes this offseason, including and especially to Gobert, who is having his best scoring season of his career.
“We’ve really emphasized getting the ball up in the air, we have a couple of guys that do a good job rolling," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We need to reward them because they impact the game.”
But that’s not all: the Jazz also take the most shots in the league from the corner three, about 11 percent of their shots overall. They’re not the most prolific 3-point shooting team — that would be the Houston Rockets. But they’re 8th overall in the percentage of their shots that are coming from 3-point distance. The percentages aren’t great so far this season, shooting only 34.7 percent from deep, but that figures to improve. Believe it or not, the Jazz have only hit 29 percent of their corner threes this season, a number that will assuredly improve.
NETO REHABBING WITH STARS
The Jazz on Tuesday announced that they have assigned point guard Raul Neto to the Salt Lake City Stars, the Jazz’s G-League affiliate.
Neto, who has been cleared to return to practice, participated in a closed practice on Tuesday and and will again on Wednesday as part of a rehab assignment, the final step in his return to active duty for the Jazz. This marks the fourth Jazz G League rehab assignment, following Danté Exum’s last March.
Neto suffered a right hamstring injury, missing the first 13 games of the 2018-19 season. Entering his fourth season with Utah, the guard appeared in 41 games last year, with averages of 4.5 points, 1.8 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per contest, also seeing action in eight postseason games.
Jae Crowder is a good example of the change that the whole team is going through. Crowder has split the number of mid-range jump shots he’s taken in half, as he’s learned the Jazz’s system and what Snyder wants from his players.
“Spacing is key, that’s what we talk about here,” Crowder said. “As I’ve been getting comfortable in the offseason and in training camp, I’ve been aware of my spacing, I know where I’m at on the court, and it’s been helping me stay away from the long twos.”
The other cause of the Jazz’s increased efficiency is more patience in the paint. Jazz players have been taught to drive with their eyes out, looking for shooters and also giving Gobert a chance to get all the way to the rim for lobs.
“When you’re able to keep the ball a little bit longer and read a little bit better, the efficiency you get from the rim and threes is greater,” Snyder said.
The end result has been an uptick in Jazz offense: they rank 12th right now in the league in points per 100 possessions after ranking 16th last year with largely the same roster. And when taking into account the Jazz’s difficult schedule, that’s a real win for the first month of the season.
“As long as we’re getting open shots, it makes sense that you take more efficient shots. We’re looking for ways to get better with the team, and in many ways we have to do it with a team that’s similar from a personnel point of view,” Snyder said. “This is one way to do that.”
So far, it’s working.
JAZZ AT MAVERICKS
At American Airlines Center
Tipoff • Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. MST
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 7-6; Mavericks 5-8
Last meeting • Jazz, 117-102 (Nov. 2)
About the Jazz • Jazz are healthy, except for Raul Neto, who is with the SLC Stars on a rehab assignment for a hamstring injury... Jazz have won three in a row... Jazz have won last five matchups against Dallas over last two seasons
About the Mavericks • Dallas beat Chicago 103-98 on Monday night to move to 5-8... Wesley Matthews missed Monday’s game due to a hamstring strain and is considered day-to-day... Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t played this season due to a foot injury... Luka Donicic leads the Mavericks with 19.6 points per game