Last season the Utah Jazz surprised a lot of people, including myself. Led by head coach Quin Snyder this team not only made the playoffs, but they upset the favored Oklahoma City Thunder. Rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell had himself one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory and Rudy Gobert was absolutely dominating the interior against opposing players coming to the basket.
Now nearly 40 games into the season and the Jazz haven’t looked the same as last season. They currently sit at the 11th seed in a tough Western Conference and barring some sort of magical run it seems like they won’t be making the playoffs. So with more or less the same roster as last season, what’s changed?
Utah has fallen this season from the 16th in offense and 1st in defense to the 21st and 6th respectively. While impossible to pin on any one player, it’s clear that the team as a whole has taken a step back.
Not putting all the blame on Mitchell for the Jazz’s offensive struggles, but some of the blame simply has to fall on his shoulders. After putting on a show his rookie season on route to averaging 20.5 PPG to go along with 3.7 RPG and APG his numbers have stayed the same, except for his percentages. His FG% and 3P% have fallen from 43.7% and 34% respectively, down to 40.7% and 29.1%. Mitchells DWS (defensive win shares), WS (overall win shares), and PER (player efficiency rating) have all fallen drastically this season. The main reason for his offense falling off in his sophomore season is that he’s simply shooting from further away, as evident from this chart (courtesy of basketball-reference)
Mitchell is simply not getting to the basket as much as well as isolating more, which isn’t his game. His dunk attempts are down and his attempts from 5ft+ away from the basket are up. Utah needs Mitchell to get in the lane and collapse defenses if they are to be successful. Outside of Mitchell, nobody on this team can create opportunities for teammates leaving Mitchell as the lone scorer and teams are simply focusing on him much more this season.
Another big reason for their offense not producing the same as last season is Joe Ingles shooting. Last season Ingles shot a whopping 44% from three. This season he currently sits at 37.1% while taking the same amount per game. In fact, the trio of Mitchell, Ingles, and Rubio have all seen their 3P% drop this season and not even the addition of sharpshooter Kyle Korver has been enough to compensate.
On the flip side, Rudy Gobert is actually having the best offensive season of his career. Putting up 15.1 PPG for the first time in his career to go along with his 12.4 RPG and an insane 66% shooting from the field. His defensive stats (besides win shares) look nearly identical to last season as well where he attempts to defend 6.5 FG at the rim per game and holds opponents to only 55% at the rim.
With that being said, opposing teams are averaging 46.9 points in the paint as opposed to just 41.6 a season ago. Teams are also shooting a percentage point better from beyond the arc against Utah this season and overall better from the field. The Jazz are also giving up 2 more free throws a game on average to the opposition.
Utah’s defense has still remained amongst the NBA’s best but has fallen off slightly. The combination of their defense not being as lockdown and their offense falling into the bottom 10 has spelled disaster for Snyder and this Jazz team.
Utah still has some playoff hope in a tough Western conference anyone going on a win streak can change the landscape of the standings. Almost midway through the season, however, it’s hard to see this team suddenly put it together. They’ve been incredibly inconsistent winning by an average margin of 16.9 and losing by a margin of 12.1. It seems like Utah has hit a wall this season and will be singing the blues come playoff time.