The Utah Jazz have been running Jerry Sloan’s flex offense since roughly the Cretaceous period, and that continued last season when Sloan unexpectedly resigned mid-season and Tyrone Corbin slid over into the big chair.
But is it time for a change?
In reporting that Jeff Honracek is going to meet this week and re-sign as an assistant coach with the Jazz, Brian Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune put out this interesting tweet.
Hornacek said Corbin could make changes to Jazz’s offensive and defensive schemes, moving to systems that better fit current roster.
It’s an interesting idea. The strength of the Jazz roster right now is a front line of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and rookie Enes Kanter.
Favors is a tremendous athlete who, both in New Jersey and in Utah, got a high percentage of his offense off cuts (27.4 percent of his shots with the Jazz) and converted on a high rate of those (he shot 64.3 percent on those shots with the Jazz). Favors got more shots that way in Utah at the expense of being the roll man in the pick-and-roll, a play where he was not as effective in New Jersey when he did it a lot (he shot 46.7 percent with the Nets on that play). (All stats via Synergy Sports.)
Where he was effective was in transition, something the Jazz do not utilize as much. Jefferson got 38.3 percent of his shots in the post and scored a pedestrian 0.89 points per possession out of that (he shot 42.7 percent when posted up). Speed up the game and replace some of those slower post-up plays with transition opportunities for Favors and others and you might have something.
But clearly, the cuts and back doors of the flex offense worked for guys like Favors and you don’t want to get rid of all of it.
The real question the Jazz need to ask is “what kind of team do we want to be?” They have a roster that is in flux as they rebuild in the post Deron Williams years, which adds to the questions. Utah must figure out what kind of team it wants to be then get players that fit the system. That may include an evolution away from the flex offense, but it should be a slow one as it clearly works for some key players in the future of this franchise.
You heard it right after LeBron James talked about where his talents were going — other older players jumped up and said they would not have done this. They would not have willingly joined forces with other superstars to chase rings.
Former NBA player and current Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin gets that.
He told the Deseret News the culture is different than when he played and says AAU basketball — the traveling high school All-Star teams that play through the summer — is the reason.
“Just thinking back in the day when I was younger in the league, superstar guys wanted to have their own show. It’s changed,” Corbin said. “These kids they grew up in AAU, being on all-star teams, and they’re used to playing with superstar guys. And they want that kind of team because … they have a chance to win big every night. They want to win championships and not have to be the only guy getting it done.”
Added Corbin: “I think it’s a change for this new generation of kid who’s used to being on these superstar teams from the AAU thing.”
So if you hate the Heat, blame AAU basketball. Which is fine, AAU gets blamed for a lot of things (the deterioration of fundamentals among younger players, isolation basketball, the lack of a midrange game in the NBA, global warming).
Also know what AAU spawned and what LeBron James did this summer resonates through the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Small market owners see what happened with Miami, what Carmelo Anthony did with Denver, and they want their control back. (If they ever had it, but that’s another story.) You see Utah trading away Deron Williams before he can even think about becoming a free agent because they believe they can’t keep him after his deal is up. Small and middle-sized market owners want the ability to keep their stars, and that is going to be a big part of the subtext of the CBA talks.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin went with the kids. He went with the hot hand.
The Utah Jazz starters had trailed the Washington Wizards by as many as 12 points, so when the youth movement — led by rookie Derrick Favors and his 9 fourth quarter points on 4-of-4 shooting — made a comeback they got to stay in. Four of the five Wizards starters (all but C.J. Miles) did not see the court in the fourth quarter.
The kids sent it to overtime, but when they got in trouble Corbin sent in Paul Millsap and Earl Watson.
Al Jefferson sat, and after the game was fuming mad, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
When he stood during timeouts, he did so far from the team huddle, with his hands on his hips. When the buzzer sounded, he was the first off the bench and into the locker room. And when approached by the media following the defeat, he refused to comment, forcefully waving reporters off with his left hand.
Yes, it’s rather obvious that Jefferson isn’t a happy camper these days.
I get why Jefferson was frustrated — with Deron Williams in the house he thought he would be in a playoff team this season. But with Williams gone the Jazz are rebuilding around young players and for Jefferson it might look a lot like Minnesota.
Jefferson put up nice numbers Monday night — 15 point (on 14 shots), 16 rebounds and he was just a -3. But Washington’s JaVale McGee was giving Jefferson problems. More importantly, for Corbin and the Jazz it’s not about this year, this game, it’s about building for the future. That means getting Favors and Gordon Hayward and the other young players big minutes, and if that comes at the expense of veterans so be it.
Jefferson may well find the rest of this season very frustrating. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz try to move him after the lockout, or if they will be able to in that climate.