Analytics have changed the NBA forever.
Three is more than two, the math clearly says. The league average of 35 percent on 3-pointers ends up in many more points than the league average of 40 percent on mid-range 2-point shots.
So in 2018-19, the game can be a battle of shot location: Who gets the shots they want from deep, and who has to settle for a point less? For the 2018-19 Jazz defense, they’ve been winning that battle. Only two teams rank higher than Utah in terms of mid-range shots allowed.
But they’ve been losing the war, and a large part of the reason is that teams have been making those mid-range shots. Opponents' field goal percentage on midrange shots (anything between 4 feet away and the 3-point line) is higher against the Jazz (44.3 percent) than any team in the NBA. Last year, the Jazz allowed only 38 percent from there.
That’s the thing: While you want teams to take those shots, you don’t want them to be uncontested, either.
“We have to get those shots contested one way or another. Last game (against Sacramento), Rudy (Gobert) was just too far back,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “It was Rudy protecting the rim at the expense of getting uncontested midrange. People will take that shot, it’s a better shot than challenging him one-on-one at the rim.”
And if Gobert can’t contest it because of a rolling big man, the guards have to be involved in the play, too. “Our guards on the pick and roll, their ability to stay connected to the offensive player, and need to be able to get a rear contest,” Snyder said. A play like this, from Joe Ingles early in the year, is an example.
The guards being more involved in defending screens also means that the penetration isn’t so vertical; there’s some side-to-side movement, too, rather than just heading straight for the rim. That should make shots harder too, Snyder said.
Finally, there’s just good old regression to the mean. Yes, the Jazz are allowing the highest percentage in the league from mid-range this season, but it also would be the highest figure since they started tracking the data in 2003 if it continued for a full season. There’s significant reason to believe that teams will just start knocking fewer of these midrange shots down.
Help from any, or all, of these remedies would go a significant way to solving the Jazz’s defensive issues so far this season.