Anybody around here remember what a swish sounds like, the sweet popping of the net when no iron is drawn?
Neither do the Jazz.
They sought to upgrade their shooting during the summer, and that was the cause of much anticipation and elevated expectation regarding the team’s prospects now. But a fourth of the way through this season, on the whole, they are suffering from a lack of accuracy. And when the shots don’t drop, the Jazz’s collective force and focus tend to lag alongside. Or is it the other way around?
Quin Snyder is more concerned about the elements that lead up to field goal attempts — spacing, screens, ball movement, unselfishness, court awareness, tough resistance. It’s a strange dichotomy that vexes them. When the Jazz do create for themselves good shots and miss, they start either dribbling into traffic, often causing bad shots, bad passes, turnovers, or they hesitate to take proper shots, lacking the confidence to let them fly.
All who have consistently watched the Jazz play recognize this. They shoot when they shouldn’t and they don’t shoot when they should. Too frequently, they shoot when they should and … then, break stuff.
Simple raw numbers back it up.
So do your eyeballs.
A year ago, the Jazz were limited by a lack of firepower, a fact that revealed itself throughout the season, with exceptions scattered here and there, but especially in the playoffs. Opponents on the reg realized they were well-suited to load up on Donovan Mitchell everywhere and, if they could, do the same to Rudy Gobert near the basket.
That left guys like Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder to float and fling away because … nobody was within shouting distance of them. In cases like that, the attack is worse off when the open man doesn’t shoot than when he does and misses. At least that was true back when the Jazz could occasionally reel in a few offensive boards. Currently, they rank 29th in rebounding at that end.
Either way, the team went out to correct that problem by adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, and others, figuring that those guys not only would provide plenty of additional points, but also take pressure off the other Jazz weapons.
So far, it hasn’t. Some of the players who already were here are lagging behind their own standards.
Twenty-one games isn’t enough to draw absolute conclusions, but it is a sizable enough sample to make you wonder, particularly measured against the aforementioned raised expectations for excellence.
Last season, the Jazz made 3,314 of their 7,082 shot attempts, which is 46.8 percent. It was a number that ranked them 10th in the league. This season, they’ve made 791 of 1,756, for an overall shooting percentage of 45, which ranks them 18th.
That’s part of the sorry news.
A happier development is the Jazz now are making a greater number of their deep shots — 37.3 percent versus 35.6.
They ranked fifth last season in effective field-goal percentage at 53.8. They currently are 16th in league FG at 52 percent.
The thing has gone in arrears.
Two other problematic areas on attack revolve around assists and turnovers, with the Jazz at times handling the ball as though it were a slippery bucket of slime, averaging 16.1 goofs a game, ranking 24th in ball security. Last season, they turned it over 15.1 times, on average, ranking 27th. They currently rank 16th in pace versus 13th last time around, meaning an increased rush to score can’t be used as an explanation or as an excuse.
They rank 27th in assists, getting 21 per game, a key stat, considering the desire for the Jazz to move and share the ball. A year ago, they ranked eighth, averaging 26 assists. Are the Jazz averaging fewer assists because they are making fewer shots, or are they making fewer shots because the set-up isn’t as refined?
The Jazz have a tendency to start seasons slow, and come on strong. That was the norm when they were more familiar with each other and it’s their hope moving forward now.
It’s hard to believe their shooting — and overall groove — won’t improve. They rank 23rd in offensive rating. A year ago, they were 15th.
That familiarization will aid them away from Vivint Arena, considering they currently have a road record of just 4-8, while sitting pretty at home at 8-1.
The reason that is so important is, if they still have their sights set on ascending to a position as one of the best teams in the West, with intentions to contend for a championship as they get more connected, winning on the road is not just a signal of better things to come, it is a requirement. Title teams in the NBA have winning road records, that’s the way it’s been for the past 40 years, and it’s likely to stay that way.
It is necessary, then, for the Jazz not only to do the things that lead to better shooting, they have to actually shoot better when those things are done.
“We have to use games to get better,” is the way Snyder put it.
They have to remember — and earn — the sweet sounds of dusting the net, drawing no iron.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.