How big of a problem are the Jazz’s turnovers?
On the surface, it seems like the answer is obvious. The Jazz currently rank 27th in the league in turnovers, their lowest league rank in any statistical category. In Utah’s one-point loss against Oklahoma City, the Jazz committed 25 turnovers; while in their 16-point win over Dallas, they committed only seven. Check and mate, right?
Not so fast, according to Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
“The thing that’s interesting about that — how many points did we score [Friday] night? We scored more than any team in Jazz history in 40 years. We scored 129 in regulation. The execution is more than turnovers," Snyder said. The 147 points the Jazz scored was the highest scoring performance by the team since April 1982, when they played the wildly pacey Denver Nuggets in a 151-136 Jazz win.
Nor does the Jazz’s season rank in turnovers bother Snyder.
“We were 30th in turnovers last year in the second half of the year, from the All-Star break on — 30th. But we were a pretty good team,” Snyder said.
That’s true too. The Jazz committed a turnover on 16.2 percent of their possessions after the All-Star break, the highest percentage in the league. And yet, the Jazz went 18-6 over that period.
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The picture probably isn’t quite that rosy: The Jazz were 17th in the league offensively during that stretch. It was really their league-leading defense that carried the Jazz to that record, a figure made even more remarkable given that they were throwing the ball to their opponents and starting fast breaks frequently.
That’s not to say Snyder likes to see his team turning the ball over, but there is a sense that the Jazz are willing to risk a turnover in order to get a dunk at the rim. A lob pass to Rudy Gobert might result in a dunk two out of three times, but a bad pass or catch will result in a turnover on that third instance. On the aggregate, though, that’s still a pretty good play.
And the data show that the Jazz are getting really good shots out of their offense. They’re fifth in the league in the number of shots they take at the rim (39.4 percent), and the only team in the league with two players with more than 100 dunks (Gobert and Derrick Favors). From outside, they’re second in the league in the number of efficient corner threes they’re taking, and third in the league in terms of the percentage of wide-open threes they take. Sometimes, taking a risk is necessary to get a good look.
What does infuriate Snyder are the easily avoided careless turnovers, the ones that happen above the break or even in the backcourt.
“The turnovers that we had Friday night weren’t trying to make the right play on a lob pass to Rudy, they were things that we were just careless. And those are the things that we have to improve,” Snyder said.
“The mentality that we have to have has to be one of precision, and it has to be one of appreciation, where we cherish a possession. If you’re in that mindset, you can be aggressive and you won’t be mistake prone," Snyder said. "When we don’t have that right mindset, when we’re not valuing each possession, valuing the ball, that’s when we throw a pass we don’t need to throw.”
But for Snyder, those turnovers aren’t his biggest problem, but one of many issues he wants his team to focus on.
“Whether it be turnovers, transition defense, not communicating, the enemy for us is mistakes,” Snyder said. “Turnovers is one example of that. The more mistakes we make, the more things we have to do really well. Against the very best teams, you can’t overcome mistakes.”