Over the last 25 games, the Jazz have the No. 1 offense in the league.
They have a 117.1 offensive rating over that stretch, which has pushed them to up to the seventh best offensive season overall after a very rough start on that end of the floor.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle knows something about good offense — it’s his Dallas Mavericks team that ranks No. 1 for the season as a whole, and No. 2 over the 25-game stretch. But before last Saturday’s game against the Jazz, he was asked why and how the Jazz have been able to turn the offensive meter up to 11 in the last six or seven weeks.
“Quin Snyder. Donovan Mitchell," Carlisle deadpanned, though he went on to build on his initial quick answer.
“They play the space and pace game better than anybody in basketball right now. The numbers will tell you that,” Carlisle said. “Their starting unit is the most productive, effective, efficient unit in all of basketball. And they’ve got another unit that comes off the bench that’s in the top two or three.”
It’s true. The Jazz’s starting lineup with Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert is now outscoring opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Meanwhile, lineups with Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson out there at the same time — the current bench configuration — have been outscoring opponents by 6.5 points per 100. That comes with some caveats, though. It’s in a much smaller sample, only about 150 possessions overall. And it wasn’t good in Monday’s loss against the Rockets, though the Jazz were able to score 117 points in the contest.
Interestingly, it’s been the half-court offense that’s really shined. The Jazz have attacked in transition the second-fewest times of any team in the NBA over the 25 game stretch, only 11.9% of the time per Cleaning The Glass. But their half-court offense is the best in the league, and when they have missed shots, they’ve been the most effective team in offensive rebounding situations by far. When the Jazz get the offensive board, they score 139 points per 100 possessions — the average NBA team scores only 110 points per 100 in those situations.
That points to one particular point of elite play: Jazz center Rudy Gobert. When asked about the No. 1 offense, Snyder first answered by talking about Gobert, who ranks third on the Jazz’s points per game table. “I think Rudy [Gobert’s] improvement is a subtle thing that maybe doesn’t jump out as much," he said.
Gobert has been excellent — with the exception of the loss to the Rockets. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game over the stretch, shooting 71% from the floor. But he gives credit to the other weapons on the team. “We’re making the right decisions, and we’ve got so many weapons on this team. It makes it hard for the defense to guard us.”
Mitchell is scoring over 25 points per game on 48% shooting from the field. And of particular note is the 3-point attack from those weapons. the Jazz have gotten 40% or greater 3-point shooting from four players: Bojan Bogdanovic, Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Georges Niang. With Gobert and Mitchell atacking inside, and shooters from the perimeter, the Jazz have been too tough to stop for most opponents.
Really, it’s the chemistry of the lineup that has been the key. The Jazz have moved the ball more, working their way up the passes per game leaderboards after a slow start to the season. And they’re leading the league once again in drives, with 57.5 per game. Beautiful drive and kick sequences with oodles of ball movement have been common.
“I think just developing a connectivity, not just between a ball handler and a roller or someone driving and kicking ... there’s a lot of different ways that our guys have worked together to attack,” Snyder said. "And then the balance that we have, there’s guys that understand what their strengths are. They’re able to find and feel the game and feel each other and that’s made us more efficient.”
While the Jazz’s overall level of competition increases over the next couple of weeks, the quality of defenses they’ll face doesn’t, really. The Spurs rank 15th defensively; the Nuggets, 10th. Portland is 29th. Dallas is 16th, Houston is 18th. And the final team they play before the All-Star break, Miami, ranks 12th. The Jazz should have opportunities to keep the offense flowing against these teams, and their rematch in Houston on Feb. 9 looms large due to its redemptive possibilities.
The possibility looms: For the first time in the Snyder era, the Jazz might be more confident in their offense than their defense.
Jazz vs. Spurs
At AT&T Center, San Antonio
Tipoff • Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. MST
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 32-14; Spurs 20-26
Last meeting • Jazz, 125-105 (Feb. 9)
About the Jazz • Jazz are healthy, though Miye Oni is in Utah with the G-League SLC Stars. ... Jazz are the league’s best 3-point shooting percentage team and its eighth-best 2-point shooting team. ... Jazz commit the sixth most turnovers in the NBA and force the fourth fewest.
About the Spurs • LaMarcus Aldridge missed Monday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls due to a thumb injury, and he is considered day-to-day. ... Spurs’ last nine games have been won or lost by six points or fewer. ... San Antonio’s strength is its bench: The Spurs have been better when Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are off the floor.