The Utah Jazz are among the worst fast-break offenses in the league. Is that because they’re among the worst at forcing turnovers?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) keeps the pressure on as the Utah Jazz host the Detroit Pistons in their NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019.

Coach Quin Snyder has been fond of saying this season that how the Jazz play on one side of the ball inevitably will impact how they fare on the other side.

It’s a simple enough concept — if Utah commits a live-ball turnover, for instance, the team’s transition defense is likely to be stressed. How far does it extend, though?

After all, while the Jazz have seen marked offensive improvement during this stretch of eight wins in nine games, they nevertheless remain ranked 27th in the league (heading into Wednesday’s games) in fast-break points. So then, can we suppose that, by extension, that figure is correlated to the team ranking 28th in deflections and 29th in opponents’ turnovers per game?

“Maybe? Do they tie together?” Joe Ingles asked non-rhetorically. “I don’t have a clue what numbers tie together and what don’t.”

For his part, Snyder acknowledged there can be a direct link between them, if not definitive causation. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean he’s about to implement some drastic change to bolster those numbers.

“There is a tradeoff because turnovers — a lot of times if you force them — can end up as easy baskets,” he said. "It’s a little bit like offensive rebounding. Are there offensive rebounds on the table if you send five guys to the offensive boards? Yes. But it is really hard to be a good offensive rebounding team and a good transition defense team. The problem is if you’re not either.”

And so it is that trying to force more turnovers is not really in the Jazz’s game plan.

“It’s hard because, obviously, we have a style defensively,” Ingles said.

“We’re more of a position-oriented defense. That kind of makes sense to me because of Rudy [Gobert],” Snyder added. “Extending, playing passing lanes, and doing some of those things — we try to do those selectively, but as a general rule, I want us to be disciplined. If we don’t force as many turnovers that way, I guess I will take that tradeoff.”

While the coach conceded that with a two-time Defensive Player of the Year anchoring things, he probably could afford to turn others loose to gamble more often and rely on Gobert to simply backstop everything and make even more plays, he’s not at all convinced that’s the right way to go.

For that matter, the fulcrum of Utah’s defensive scheme agreed.

“We try to be active, but at the same time, we want to be disciplined,” Gobert said. “Our defense is not based on getting the most turnovers, but it’s based on lowering the [opponent’s shooting] percentage, and being physical, and making sure guys don’t get the shot they want to get.”

That said, the Jazz do acknowledge that while they aren’t going out there trying to force opponents to cough up the ball, generating a few more miscues through additional nuisance activity would not be unwelcome.

To that end, there is a concession that bumping up the number of deflections they get is an actual area of focus.

“I think we can be disruptive, I think we have at times. … We track deflections per quarter and [assistant coach Jeff Watkinson] stands over the bench and yells at us every quarter what we’ve got. The games that we are getting more deflections, we’ve played a lot better. It’s a pretty consistent thing this year,” Ingles said. “Obviously you don’t want to gamble and foul and do all that, but we can do a better job of getting our hands out and up, and just trying to make it more difficult on a passer or denying a wing, or whatever it is.”

Snyder agreed the team was going for “balancing aggressiveness and deflections with turnovers.”

As for those then generating more fast-break points, well, again, nobody’s going to turn down easy buckets, but there’s also not exactly a consensus that ranking low in that area is a deficiency, per se.

“I think we’re fine with the way we’ve been playing,” Gobert said, while simultaneously acknowledging it certainly couldn’t hurt to control the boards, find better outlet passes, attack the defense, and see what happens.

Ingles, meanwhile, sees the benefits of getting out on the break more often, but — bringing things full circle — noted that Utah’s defense needs to be more consistent to make it happen.

“We’ve got a team that can run and should run. There’s been patches this year where we’ve been taking [the ball] out of the net a lot, which [makes running] hard to do,” he said. “If we can play the defense we want to, and get rebounds — I think we’ve had some bad [opponents’] offensive rebounding games, too — if we can do all that, we’ve got the capability. We’ve got bigs that run, we’ve got guards that run, so it’s something we can definitely improve.”


At United Center, Chicago

Tipoff • Thursday, 6 p.m. MT

TV • AT&T SportsNet

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 21-12; Bulls 13-21

Last meeting • Jazz, 114-83 (March 23, 2019)

About the Jazz • Utah scores 34.3% of its points via 3-point baskets — the eighth-highest such total in the league. … Jordan Clarkson’s 20 points vs. Detroit on Monday marked the first time this season a Jazz bench player reached that plateau. … The 81 points Utah limited the Pistons to tied the team’s season-low opponent scoring total (the Kings also scored only 81 vs. Utah on Oct. 23).

About the Bulls • Chicago leads the NBA in both steals (9.9) and opponents’ turnovers (18.4) per game. … The Bulls rank third in the league in defensive rating (104.2), but are 29th in offensive rating (103.7). … Guard Zach LaVine is averaging 23.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists, while shooting 39.8% from 3-point range.