Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 114-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets from Salt Lake Tribune jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Do they play jazz for each other?
The Jazz had 18 assists tonight. That’s not a terrible number – it ranks 15th in their games this year. If you look at these assists, many of them were rather superficial assists: dribbling handoffs, swinging the ball to a player to initiate offense, a let-off pass in transition.
It was relatively rare (and usually Mike Conley) that he would actually openly pass a teammate if that made sense, rather than that teammate getting the ball and making a quick shot of their own accord. I just thought the Jazz could have moved the ball more and gotten easier shots for each other instead of paying attention to their own attempts.
This was, I thought, the most obvious of the possibilities. Rudy Gobert waves a pass me the ball sign but two players pass him by and then Jordan Clarkson gives a stern look instead. Gobert is open and they have to get him the ball.
Another example: Rudy Gay stands wide open in the corner. Wide, wide open, again, waving his arms. Maybe Mitchell just doesn’t see him, but forces a stern look again.
The Jazz are 27th in the league in assists this season. Honestly, I think that number will be artificially low because they do and should do a lot of pull-up threes: Mitchell and Conley are just great at it, and it’s a good offense. But when those shots aren’t there, I think there are opportunities for the Jazz to move the ball a little bit more.
When we asked Rudy Gay what happened in today’s game, he had a similar thought:
“I think this is a team that is really talented and can do a lot of different things. Sometimes as a team we can drift away from who we are and it shows. We’re a good team, but we have to stick to our principles, stick to what Coach Quin teaches,” Gay said.
So what does Quin teach?
“Ball movement, defensive versatility, but mostly playing for each other.”
I think tonight Jazz was a bit lacking in making that happen and it showed in the stats and the bottom line.
2. Pick one: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jared Butler, or Trent Forrest?
The Jazz have a decision to make: who gets the 10th man-minutes?
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is struggling to find his NBA skills again. In New Orleans, NAW was a prankster and made some of the worst shots I’ve ever seen on a basketball floor. But he’s fortunately toned that down since he got into jazz. He’s shown his passing in the last few games, which is nice, but he’s not as good a passer as the other two, not as good a defender as Forrest. But he can shoot a little: He’s at 33% for his career but only 31.6% on even catch-and-shoot threes this season.
He’s also new and doesn’t know the system as well as the other two and didn’t play against Brooklyn (coach’s decision).
Jared Butler can electrify: he is definitely the best shot of the three. The variety of his shots is really impressive for someone so new to NBA basketball. He’s also capable of making incredibly beautiful passes; this one against the Knicks was great.
But he’s also the smallest and least effective defender of the three. For example, he’s beaten here for his size, and he’ll never get bigger.
He also demands the greatest role offensively: Butler is currently not a quick decision-maker, preferring to dribble so much that several players mocked him for it after the game. And that bigger role could take away from others you might prefer to have on the ball, especially in the playoffs.
Trent Forrest is so good at so much basketball. He can drive to the rim and finish by contact. He defends well, navigates the screens decently and is really smart off the ball. His playmaking and passing are beautiful; I’m not sure any player on the Jazz is as adept at finding both open 3-point shooters and the rolling lob man as Forrest.
However, he’s a terrible marksman, and that’s the most important skill in the NBA. He’s worse than Russell Westbrook. He’s better than Ben Simmons — but he’s not 6-11 like Simmons and he’s not the rebounder or defender that Simmons is. And even Simmons struggled to stay relevant in the playoffs. Speaking of which, Trent isn’t currently eligible for the playoffs either. The Jazz would have to upgrade him to a standard contract and I think they will.
I think it’s clear that Quin supports Forrest in that decision, but I think it’s undecided that those last 10 games could decide what happens in the future. Or, frankly, the Jazz just couldn’t play any of them in the playoffs as long as they’re healthy.
3. Presence of Terry Stotts
Many Jazz fans have asked me about former Portland coach Terry Stotts’ performance at the Jazz’s last home game against the Clippers. He sat alongside jazz GM Justin Zanik, assistant coach Mike Wells and French legend Boris Diaw. Here’s a proof photo if you’d like:
He is also with the team in New York.
Here’s the deal, according to team PR: Stotts is here as a guest of the organization. The situation is similar to that of Tom Thibodeau, Tom Crean or Frank Vogel, who have visited the team in recent years. These guys and Stotts have all been fired from their teams and then have some more time in their careers. They basically hang out at jazz practice, watching how the jazz works, and sometimes having conversations with the coaching staff about various basketball ideas that may or may not be helpful to Snyder.
I remember talking to Snyder about Thibodeau when he was a visiting coach in 2015, and he called Thibs the “Dean of All Defense” at the time. He said Thibs provided “some ideas, some thoughts and some coaching” to Jazz, but mostly it was about doing the right thing from a guy well-respected in the organization. I don’t think Stotts is an interview for an actual role on the team, I think it’s just an occasional visit.
It was cool to see Stotts with some of his former Blazers players during the Clippers game (think of the big deadline day trade between the two teams). He’s clearly well loved and respected, and even in my interactions with him, I’ve always had a positive impression.
Publisher’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.
https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2022/03/21/triple-team-jazz-offense/ Jazz offensive stagnates in loss to Nets; What does Terry Stotts do with jazz?