Charlotte, N.C. • Kyle Korver is back with the Jazz.
Those of you who were Jazz fans nearly a decade ago, the first time the Utah employed Korver, will be roughly familiar with what he brings. But at 37, what does he still have left?
First, the ridiculous shooting is still intact. Korver is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range this season, a number just above his career average of 43 percent. What’s really impressive, though, is the variety of shots Korver can hit.
Sure, there’s the simple catch and shoot spot-up three. Korver has nailed those literally better than anyone else in the league over the last two seasons, averaging 1.61 points per possession this year in the small sample and 1.41 points last year according to Synergy Sports. His quick release means he can get the shot off no matter how his opponent is closing out — he’s yet to be blocked on a jump shot this season. And if he does feel uncomfortable with the closeout, he’s good at taking one dribble, waiting for the defense to fly by, and then hitting the shot anyway.
Some players lose the ability to come off screens and hit shots in motion as they age, but Korver hasn’t. He’s stellar at quickly maneuvering around a screens around the perimeter, then catch and shooting uber-quickly. He’s scoring 1.28 points per possession on those screen plays, according to Synergy, one of the best numbers in the league, and some of them are just impressive to watch: teams know the screen is coming, that it’s for Korver, and that they have to stop it… and they can’t. Korver’s team-high 22 points against Minnesota on Monday night in his final game as a Cavalier was a good example.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder is going to take advantage of this better than Cleveland coach Ty Lue did, though. While Korver can just shoot off a screen and make the semi-contested shot, in his plays for Cleveland, so many of them are clear setups for Korver that allow the defense to put all of its attention on him. Snyder is more clever. Having coached Korver in Atlanta with Mike Budenholzer, Snyder knows how to use Korver’s shooting ability to open up opportunities for other players.
This video compilation from Korver’s time in Atlanta is all from one initial action, Korver coming off the screen up at the top of the arc. And the first few clips are what you’d expect: Korver catching the ball and making threes. But as the video goes along, you start to see wrinkles. Korver starts to find the screener for a shot, or Korver fakes coming off the screen to set something else up. It’s cool, actually, how many outcomes there are from just one set.
One of the Jazz’s favorite actions is “Spain” pick and roll, which is kind of a 3-man pick and roll where someone sets a screen for the screener and rolling big man then pops out for the shot. The Jazz have had Rubio with the ball, Ingles pop out for the shot, and Gobert roll to the rim, but now imagine that with Ingles ball-handling and Korver popping out. The result is going to be a ton of easy layups and dunks at the rim for Gobert and Ingles.
That’s just a couple of different ways to use Korver, but again, Snyder is so good at coming up with clever play designs where misdirection is the key threat. So far this season, many of those have just been mucked up by a clog of defenders in the paint. With Korver and Ingles together, it’s going to be much harder to do that. With the Jazz, Snyder hasn’t had a shooter who can make shots on the move like Korver can, and it may just open up a whole new world.
What Korver is not: a dribbler. He’s not going to be coming off of screens and driving into the paint, or if he is, he’s probably not going to do it well. This is a change for the Jazz, where they’ve tried to have a system where every perimeter player is capable of doing that. If Korver catches the ball, he’s either shooting it, taking advantage of his gravity by passing it to someone open, or resetting the play out top.
Here’s the big question: at 37 years old, can Korver still hold his end up of the bargain on the defensive end to stay out on the floor?
The stats are actually pretty promising. Korver doesn’t get a ton of blocks or steals or anything, but the Cavs have been better with him on the floor defensively this year, by about 2.1 points per 100 possessions. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, which tries to take into account the teammates Korver plays with on the Cavs bench unit, rates Korver as a slightly below-average defender, but not a horrific one. Alec Burks ranked significantly lower, for example.
There are times when Korver gets beat for speed by players who are quicker than he is, but he stays in the possession and impacts the play most of the time. Again, don’t expect regular blocks from him, but here he gets beaten by Stanley Johnson with a quick first step, but sticks with Johnson and eventually gets the ball.
Korver also is very smart about his positioning, and only rarely gets completely burned, even in situations you would think are mismatches.
Korver is an active help defender, too. He’ll make the right stunts and rotations, and at least prevent the easy basket. This “help the helper” situation is a good example.
All in all, Korver is intriguing. There’s a certain reality to acknowledge here: the Jazz are acquiring a 37-year-old bench player from the worst team in the league with second round picks and an expiring contract. It’s probably not fair to expect greatness.
But it’s also clear Korver can help the Jazz, in the obvious ways and the subtle ones too. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jazz to end some of their games with him on the floor, thanks to the gravity his shooting threat provides. And he’s less of a defensive liability than one would expect at this point in his career; he’s actually pretty solid on that end, still. Overall, the Jazz made a significant step forward through the trade.
JAZZ VS. HORNETS
At Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
Tipoff • Friday, 5:00 p.m. MST
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 10-12; Hornets 11-10
Last meeting • Jazz, 106-94 (Feb 9)
About the Jazz • New acquisition Kyle Korver’s status is to be determined for Friday’s game, dependent on physicals for the players in the trade and travel factors… Jazz are 1-6 when Donovan Mitchell is unavailable or leaves a game due to injury… Rudy Gobert has 87 dunks through the Jazz’s first 22 games
About the Hornets • Kemba Walker is far and away Charlotte’s leading threat, averaging over 27 points per game... Second year guard Malik Monk was a “very limited” participant at Thursday’s practice, leaving his status in doubt for Friday’s game... Other than Walker and Monk, only Hornet who averages double figures is Jeremy Lamb