Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s offense has always been about advantage basketball.
That’s the idea that each half-court possession is about manufacturing advantages through screens, cuts, passes, or whatever else. That advantage might start as a small one — a defender being a half-step late due to a screen, for example — but opens wider and wider as players attack, force help from a scrambling defense, and pass to a teammate with an even greater advantage. Eventually, the result is a wide-open shot or dunk.
But in years past, some of the Jazz’s offensive problems have been due to players who inherited an advantage but couldn’t do anything with it. Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder were good players, but they had limitations: if they received the ball open on the perimeter, shooting it wasn’t always a very efficient play. Rubio could obviously run pick and roll, but if the defense forced him into a short mid-range shot, it was probably a win for them, and even a layup wasn’t a terrifying proposition given that he only made 58% of them. Crowder, meanwhile, couldn’t run pick and roll effectively — last year, the Jazz only scored 0.71 points per possession on those plays, good for 13th percentile in the league.
JAZZ AT BUCKS
When • Wednesday, 6 p.m.
TV • ATTSN
This year, that’s not the case. With Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic at the helm, the Jazz’s best lineup of Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert features four perimeter players who can shoot, pass, and dribble well, with one of the league’s elite screeners around to create those advantages.
“I think we’re going to have a plethora of weapons on the perimeter that can be able to stretch the defense and make them come up and guard us,” Georges Niang said. “[That] gives us a whole bunch of different reads that we could have, now we have guys that can really stretch the floor.”
That also means different players will be able to start possessions. Snyder’s made it clear that nearly anyone can get the ball and go in transition, even giving Jeff Green the option of initiating the offense as a “point guard.” As Snyder said at practice Monday, “We’re talking about variety and multiple playmakers.”
"Just the randomness of how you play puts pressure on the defense,” Snyder continued. “Having more options makes you harder to guard.”
The opposite of that was on display multiple times last year. Once, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich used a triangle-and-two zone defense, dedicating two guys to stop Mitchell and Ingles because he wasn’t afraid of any other ballhandler. In the playoffs, the Rockets’ strategy wasn’t quite as extreme, but it was clearly designed to stop those two players in particular.
THE JAZZ ON THEIR NEW LOOK
“If we play unselfishly, and put a lot of pressure on the rim... with the shooters we have, and the passers we have, it’s going to be very tough to guard.”
“It makes, obviously, my life easier... they have a harder decision to make on defense.”
“We definitely have a lot of options. I think we have a team that... allows us to get into a lot of different schemes and different plays that other teams might not be able to do.”
“I think we’re going to have a plethora of weapons on the perimeter that will be able to stretch the defense, and make them come up and guard us.”
“If you look at our offense, everyone’s playing everywhere ... it’s kind of an open offense. If you’re at the wing, run up the wing, if you’re up top, run at the top. I think it’s going to be really good for us.”
“The Golden Rule in basketball is the open man gets the ball. If we can keep that as part of our core value system everything will work itself out."
That being said, the Jazz won’t always be able to play their best lineup. The second unit, which relied last year on the Ingles/Derrick Favors pick and roll and Kyle Korver’s gravity as the primary scoring threats, now will be missing both of those options. And for those lineups, Snyder will need to figure out some new wrinkles.
“My job is to try to... find out about players, find out about combinations and then adjusting whatever you’re doing from the system standpoint to maximize that,” Snyder said. That’s been an early focus in training camp, multiple Jazz players have commented: Snyder will experiment with different units in practice to try to get a feel for their relative strengths and weaknesses.
So far, though, no matter the lineup, the coaches have mostly been implementing their base offense, one that Niang says “isn’t too different” from last year’s. While it may not look very different in style, it should — if everything goes as designed — result in more basketballs going through hoops.
“I think from an identity standpoint, we like who we are,” Snyder said. “That’s something that they’ll embrace. I’m confident of that.”