Quin Snyder sent a message with the first play of 2020-21′s Jazz action — as he typically does.
The play was run to get Bojan Bogdanovic a post-up look. Getting Bogdanovic involved at all would have been cause enough — giving the Croatian his first chance to contribute to the Jazz offense since March 9 was a nice way to say “welcome back.” But that this play was a post-up was notable too: Snyder’s not typically a coach who loves post-up play, as it’s relatively inefficient.
Bogdanovic, though, might be an exception. “Talking to Quin and the coaching staff, I think that they will try to post me a little bit more, because we had success last season,” Bogdanovic simply explained.
Last year, he averaged 1.09 points per possession on his post-up plays, per NBA.com. That’s much better than the Jazz’s 0.98 points per possession that they normally get in their halfcourt sets. So, logically, the Jazz are going to give Bogdanovic more opportunities to do his thing.
It’s one of a few changes the Jazz want to make this offseason in order to help out the offense a little more. Last year, the Jazz’s offensive-oriented additions in Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson only bumped the Jazz from 15th offensively to 10th in the NBA. In other words, there’s still much more to go before joining the ranks of the league’s elite.
Another change: leaning into the 3 ball. Last year, the Jazz scored 1.14 points per possession on 3s, and 1.07 points on 2s — despite employing perhaps the league’s most efficient two-ball finisher in Rudy Gobert. So again, that means it makes sense to get more shots from the Jazz’s 3-point shooters all the way around. Bogdanovic, Clarkson, Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang and Joe Ingles are all above-average 3-point shooters, and so the Jazz want to encourage them to shoot.
“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that if you’ve got a bunch of guys that can make shots, that you probably need to try to shoot more of them,” Snyder joked. “Even I can figure that out.”
That was on display in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Phoenix Suns. In the first half when both teams played closest to their regular-season rotations, the Jazz took fully 63% of their overall field goal attempts from deep, 31 of 49. They ran the full gamut: kickouts to the corner, Mitchell pulling up, Ingles pick-and-roll stepbacks, Clarkson isolation looks and more. It all requires the team understand that an average 3-point look is a good shot for an offensive possession, one they shouldn’t pass up.
It would mean more shots early in the shot clock, but Snyder wants that. The Jazz were slow again last year after a one-year pace surge in 2018-19 — last year, they ranked just 24th in pace. That meant too many of those 0.98 point per possession half court looks and not enough of those 1.20 points per possession transition opportunities.
You might imagine the Jazz sprinting the floor with their speedy athletes like Mitchell and O’Neale, but Bogdanovic shouted out an unexpected transition contributor: Ingles. The man known as “slow-mo Joe” was actually among the league’s most efficient transition players last season, because teams would lose track of him as he ran up the floor. The result: open pull-up 3s, ones he made 54% of last year.
“I think Joe was leading the league in the first five seconds of the offensive possession,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s good for our team, and we have to trust ourselves and take those early shots. Sometimes it’s not going to be a ‘good’ shot, but that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do this season.”
In short, the Jazz want nickels and dimes of improvement, by adapting their approach in a number of different areas. But if they can be just a little more efficient, it could really pay dividends: The league’s No. 1 offense last season, Dallas, was just four percent better overall — 1.17 points per 100 possessions compared with 1.12 for Utah.
Of course, after what happened in last year’s playoffs, the Jazz will be the first to tell you: small margins can make all the difference.