Three ways the Jazz are similar to the Cavaliers

Sunday evening, Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers locked up a championship. The Jazz missed the playoffs for the fourth time in as many years.

At first glance, the Jazz and Cleveland don’t seem all that similar but are they really all that different?

There are at least 3  ways that the Jazz and Cavaliers are similar:

Roster: 

With Thompson, Love, Lebron, Jefferson and Mozgov all playing most of the Champs’ talent plays in their front court. Mozgov is a starter on many NBA teams, yet he was unable to see the court in the finals. The Cavaliers have so much depth they can’t play the big men who deserve to see the court, especially in today’s NBA. Other than Kyrie their guards have struggled mightily.

Gobert, Favors and Hayward are one of the best-starting frontcourts in the league and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lyles pushes them for time next year. Even Jeff Withey who hardly played when all front court players were healthy made a positive impact defensively. Much like the Cavaliers, we only had one guard who was somewhat consistently productive this season. Rodney Hood was most of the firepower for our guard line.

We both have a 6’8″ play maker who has a sick chase-down block in his repertoire. I’m not saying that Gordon is anywhere close to the player that Lebron is but there certainly aren’t many players who can play make at his size.

Inspiration:

Until last night, Cleveland was famously Championshipless. It was obvious that getting Cleveland a Championship was a powerful motivator for Lebron and co.

Similarly, Utah has never sniffed a Championship. The difference is that the Jazz are the only professional team of the three major U.S. sports in Utah so, the chances of  Utah getting a championship somewhere else are zero.

The team that brings a Championship to Utah will instantly be crowned legendary. I mean Karl and John almost brought us a trophy and they’re legends to most Jazz fans.

Style of play:

Cleveland plays slow, plays defense and is a rebound factory. Cleveland basically shut down Golden State’s historic offense and owned them on the boards.

In this respect, the Jazz are more Cleveland than Cleveland in the regular season they were better defensivley and ran at a slower pace.

If slowing it down, playing defense and rebounding are what it takes for the Jazz to compete with teams like Golden State in the future, the Jazz future could be bright.

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Alec Burks has the same disease as Kyrie Irving

In Cleveland, Kyrie Irving has been a shot making maven.

In Oakland, he was an off-the-dribble disaster. He missed a whole bunch of shots and most of them were off-the-dribble.

Last week, Zach Lowe talked in podcast Kyries struggles off the dribble.

To this point in the playoffs,  52 percent of Irving’s shots were off-the-dribble jump-shots compared to only 13 percent catch-and-shoot jump-shots , according to NBA.com. Kyrie loves shooting off-the-dribble but should he?

During the playoffs, Irving has shot 45 percent on shots off the dribble while shooting 49 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities , according to NBA.com. On three-point-shots the difference is staggering. Irving has shot 53 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities while shooting only 37 percent off-the-dribble.

Nylon calculus even did a piece on the difference between how players shoot off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot and Irving’s shot varied more than almost any other player.

Clearly Kyrie needs to adjust his shot distribution.

Alec Burks has a similar problem.

He dribbles and dribbles and dribbles and shoots but he’s much better when someone is passing him the ball.

Only 15 percent of Burks shots were catch-and-shoot opportunities, while shooting 40 percent of his shots came off-of-dribble.

This season, he shot 39 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities and 35 percent off-the-dribble.

This isn’t a new trend either. Last season he shot 43 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities and 36 percent off-the-dribble.

Burks, and by extension the Jazz, are better when Burks takes his shots off of another players dribble.

Besides, both Hood and Hayward are better passers than Burks. Anything we can do to keep these two facilitating the offense is a good idea and that includes keeping Burks from dribbling.

Much like Irving, Alec Burks needs to learn how to play off the ball.

 

 

 

 

Do Gordon Hayward and Dante Exum have to become elite shooters to become elite players?

Gordon Hayward is the leading scorer on the Jazz and is probably the best player on this Jazz team.

Dante Exum is our mysterious number five pick and many would say he has the best chance of becoming a superstar of anyone currently on the roster.

Hayward is a surprisingly average shooter.

Exum’s shooting is even more underwhelming.

And it doesn’t seem likely that either’s shot will change too dramatically.

Hayward is approaching his seventh season. He will probably reach the peak of his developmental progress soon.

He’s a career 36 percent shooter from behind the arc if you include his rookie year when he shot 47 percent from deep.

Maybe Hayward improves his shooting but he’s never going to be a Klay Thompson or even J.J. Redick type shooter.

Exum, on the other hand, is nearly 21 and is preparing for only his second season of NBA play. He’s young, inexperienced and as raw as frozen sushi.

I am optimistic that Exum’s development will go well and I think that Quin Snyder is the perfect coach to do it, but I can’t imagine a reality where he’ll become an elite shooter. Exum shot 31 percent from three in his rookie year and almost all of those shots were wide open. Maybe a Kawhiesque shot transformation is in Dante’s future but probably not.

Can Players be elite even if they don’t have an elite three-point shot?

We all know that three-point shooting is invaluable in the NBA and maybe it seems like our players can’t develop into stars without a killer three-point shot but is that really the case?

Admittedly, most of the best players and especially guards and wings can shoot threes. Kawhi is great, Durrant is great and Steph is straight unbelievable but not all stars are great three-point shooters.

Examples

Lebron James: 

Perhaps no aspect of Lebron’s game has been more criticized than his three-point shot. Throughout his career, Lebron has shot a mediocre 34 percent from three-point range and this year shot worse than Exum. 

Lebron is perhaps the most dominant player of our generation and he’s shot poorly behind the arc more often than he has shot well.

Lebron relies on his phenomenal athleticism and strength and is basketball savant.

Russell Westbrook:

Westbrook is a freak athlete who gets to the basket at will. He’ll outrun and outwork anyone, he is a devastating one-man fast break and a triple-double machine. When Durant went down last season Westbrook became a serious MVP contender.

Westbrook can certainly get hot behind the line but the numbers say he’s borderline bad at shooting. 

During the regular season, Westbrook shot just under 30 percent from three and his career average is just over 30 percent.

Demar DeRozen: 

DeRozen is not quite the star that Lebron or Westbrook are but he was an All-Star this season and his team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He’s long, a good athlete and a skilled basketball player but his jump shot leaves something to be desired. He shot a career-high 34 percent from three this year and is a career 28 percent three-point shooter.

I would argue that Hayward is already a better player than DeRozen and he’s unobjectively a better shooter.

John Wall:

It’s no secret that John Wall is not a good shooter but he is a three-time All-Star and is still widely considered the alpha dog on his team, even though Bradley Beal is becoming a star as well. 

Wall is one of the few players who could rival Westbrook in a footrace as well as one of the longest point guards in the league. He’s also a phenomenal passer and is becoming a great mid-range shooter.

This year Wall shot 35 percent from three and is a career 32 percent three-point shooter. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that John Wall’s full name is Johnathon Hildred Wall? 

Tony Parker: 

Parker is a four-time NBA champion and won the finals MVP in 2007.

He is known for being one of the quickest players in league and has an incredible feel for getting to the hoop and making mid-range shots. 

The last couple years Parker has been quite good from deep but he is only a 32 percent three-point shooter and has had some of his most productive NBA seasons during some of his worst three-point shooting years. 

Conclusion:

Hopefully, Hayward will become a better shooter and Dante almost certainly will, but I think we’re living in a fantasy land if we believe either will ever shoot above 40 percent from three in a season. I hope they prove me wrong but I don’t see it happening.

Maybe Exum Develops into a star and maybe Hayward becomes a better star but they don’t have to be elite shooters be great.

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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News