The Triple Team: Jazz beat Wizards, led by Malik Beasley’s 25 points. How does he do it?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Jazz bench cheer for the Wizards to miss a foul shot in the remaining minutes as the Utah Jazz host the Washington Wizards at Vivint Arena, Dec. 22, 2022.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Why I like Malik Beasley

I mean, besides that he led the team in scoring with 25 points tonight.

So much of NBA basketball is matching your aggression level to your skillset. In the case of Beasley, his skillset is:

• An excellent 3-point shooter

• An only okay driver and finisher

• Not a good passer

• Not a great one-on-one defender, he’s just a little skinny/small

• Has a good nose for loose balls

Given that set of tools, what does he do? Well, he takes nearly every 3-point shot presented to him — and he makes them at a very high clip, 39%. That means that half-court possessions ending in Beasley threes are definitely good possessions, and much of the transition possessions are too.

He even takes ones where the defender is close — defined as within four feet — but he makes these at a 35% clip, too. Most of the league’s guards aren’t confident taking this kind of shot, with Kuzma so close, for example.

He has the fourth-most threes in the NBA right now — and coming off the bench, too!

Tonight, the drive game was working, too. Beasley doesn’t get all the way to the rim on his drives, but prefers to take floaters and pullups between 7 and 12 feet or so. He’s been really good at finishing those shots, too, making 55% in that zone.

He really rarely passes, only averaging 1.5 assists per game. But he also almost never, ever turns the ball over: his turnover percentage is bottom-10 in the NBA among wings.

On defense, he dies on screens. He competes in isolation, but isn’t perfect on that end. But again, his foul rate is low — so he’s not hurting his team in multiple ways.

Off-ball, he has an above-average number of steals and rebounds for his position this season. Look at his positioning on this play, it’s inch-perfect. He’s bouncing on his toes, ready to jump in the paint to help or jump out to the shooter if the pass is made. He does the latter, and gets the steal.

In the end, I think he’s a really nice role player. I’m not 100% convinced he’s going to be one of the 3-5 Jazz players who are on the next championship-contention Jazz team, mostly due to contract reasons. But he really might be, or he might be a really nice trade piece that sets the Jazz up well for the future.

2. Collin Sexton, back and competitive

Collin Sexton was on a minutes restriction tonight, playing 17. He scored 18 in that time, though, on 6-7 FG, so he was extremely effective.

He brought a couple of things that the Jazz had been missing without him. First of all: guard athleticism. No one else on the Jazz can cook a mismatch like this:

Jordan Clarkson can beat mismatches too, but he does it with herky-jerky movements, getting his defender off balance, and pivoting. Sexton does it with sheer quickness.

Secondly, Sexton brought a measure of spice on the defensive end. He was matched up against Bradley Beal, and it was almost a perfectly representative Sexton defensive performance: not all that effective (Beal had 30 points on 13-20 FG), but energy-raising and making his opponent’s life pretty difficult.

Good defense. In the end, as Beal indicates, Sexton is too small.

Still, it’s something that Will Hardy appreciates.

“With Collin, his energy was infectious getting into Bradley Beal — albeit on a couple plays he got called for fouls. I think he kind of stirred the game up some. And then Nickeil (Alexander-Walker) guarded him after that and I thought there was a wear down effect on Beal. Even though he was scoring, he had to work very hard for some of those two point baskets.”

That’s probably the best plan with regards to Sexton on the defensive end: put him in to raise the energy level of the game, then pass off the opposition’s best players to longer defenders.

3. Who impacts team rebounding?

The Jazz are the league’s second-worst defensive rebounding team, but they were great tonight: they only allowed 3 Washington offensive rebounds.

It made me curious: which players impact rebounding positively, and which impact it negatively? We’ll use CleaningTheGlass stats to compare how the Jazz rebound when each of these players are on and off the court.

A few notes:

• The Jazz’s defensive rebounding numbers are way better with Walker Kessler on the floor, as you’d probably expect.

• Jarred Vanderbilt, a loose ball magnet, actually makes the Jazz a worse rebounding team on both ends of the floor. Many rebounds aren’t loose balls, but battles of size, and Vanderbilt loses a lot of those.

• Rudy Gay’s defensive rebounding numbers are far better than Simone Fontecchio’s, which might help explain why the former plays over the latter.

• In general, bench lineups are better rebounding lineups than the starters.

• Interestingly, the players who help with defensive rebounding make the team worse at offensive rebounding. Welp.

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