Analysis: Utah Jazz Have Some Big Problems

» October 29, 2009 1:36 PM | By Erick Blasco

In recent years, the Utah Jazz have lacked athleticism in their frontcourt, have struggled on the road, and have been unable to avoid waves of injuries to key players.

After losing in Denver to the Nuggets 114-105, early returns on this year’s Jazz are that not much have changed.

Utah’s offense was okay—their defense was another story.

Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer are okay defenders, but neither is a true stopper. Brewer had no defensive first step and was lit up by Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Ty Lawson one-on-one, while Kirilenko was routinely outmuscled by Anthony on drives to the hoop.

In fact, despite Anthony registering 30 points, the Jazz were saved by the fact that he missed three shots in the shadow of the basket.

Worse, Utah simply doesn’t have the athletic frontcourt to challenge penetrators attacking the basket. Mehmet Okur drew a pair of charges, but he’s not mobile enough to come over from the weak side and challenge an assault on the rim. Paul Millsap isn’t a shot-blocker, and the landlocked Carlos Boozer may be the worst interior help defender in basketball.

For all the talk of Utah’s toughness, they allowed 14 offensive rebounds, many coming as a result of not boxing out.

As a result of Utah’s lack of shot blocking, they often have to sell out on their help, leaving perimeter shooters with open jump shots.

The only Jazz player who played quality defense was Ronnie Price who showed quick feet, quick hands, and terrific toughness. Of his highlights, he pick pocketed a Ty Lawson dribble, showed strong hands digging in and tying up Kenyon Martin, and drew a charge when Arron Afflalo tried to run him over.

Utah’s offense on some nights will be good enough to compensate for their defensive deficiencies, but not with the performances they received from some of their stars.

Aside from his non-existent defense, Carlos Boozer played as if his mind were on another team. He refused to play in the pivot, instead fading away and bricking all seven of the jumpers he took. Of his shots at the rim, he only converted three of seven looks, and he tallied seven his 12 points in garbage time.

If Boozer isn’t going to dominate down low, he should be shipped out for some much needed shot-blocking. If Miami and Chicago are rumored destinations, perhaps packages involving Joakim Noah and Jermaine O’Neal could be had. Sure, the Jazz would need a lot more than Noah, and O’Neal’s brittle play would give Sloan indigestion, but the Jazz are going to be stuck as a good, but not great team with their current frontcourt.

Kirilenko made some plays—6-12 FG, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO—but was a non-factor in the fourth quarter, Brewer still can’t shoot straight—2-5 on jumpers, and after a hot start, Okur cooled off—5-11 FG, 13 PTS.

Millsap played hard, working down low, driving to the hoop, posting up, and even knocking down an 18-footer, but he didn’t play smart. He committed three turnovers, and had a tendency to drive into situations he couldn’t get out of. Plus, an awful high-looping outlet pass was intercepted by Anthony. Carmelo paid back the gift by including Millsap in a poster dunk.

Kyrylo Fesenko should a good combination of fluidity and force, finishing strong on the receiving end on several Deron Williams screen/rolls.

Ronnie Price tended to overpenetrate, but he hit a nifty running layup over Chris Andersen.

With Utah’s role players running hot and cold, and Boozer nowhere to be found, Deron Williams had to try and save the Jazz, and he didn’t disappoint—9-15 FG, 2-3 3FG, 8-8 FT, 3 REB, 13 AST, 5 TO, 28 PTS.

In fact, of Williams’ five turnovers, one was a drop by Boozer, one was a rare five-second violation when he looked to pass to cutters in the post that never opened up, and a third came after catching an outlet pass and being shocked by Ty Lawson impeding his path, leading to a travel. Throw in a palming call, and only one of Williams’ passes misfired.

However, while Williams is a star, unlike LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Dwyane Wade, he isn’t a transcendent player who can reel off basket after basket after basket against good defenses.

And while the Jazz are a good team, unlike the Lakers, Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, and San Antonio, they don’t have the kind of smart, tough, athletic interior frontline that can take games over on the defensive end. Expect the notes to come out flat for the Jazz come playoff time.

Erick Blasco is a contributing writer for Erick is attending Brooklyn College on a full scholarship. He is majoring in Television/Radio and minoring in English with the hopes of someday becoming a professional basketball analyst. Questions and comments can be sent to

4 Responses to “Analysis: Utah Jazz Have Some Big Problems”

  1. Basketballogy Says:

    There were some good points in this, but (and please forgive my frankness), mostly, this “analysis” read like an overreaction from a disappointed Jazz fan.

    I too was pulling for the Jazz in this game, but seriously, the game played out pretty much like I thought it would, therefore I’m certainly not ready to scream that the sky is falling for the Jazz just yet.

    First, the Jazz simply aren’t an elite team, nor are they on the cusp of being one. I thought they played right around expectations last night.

    Second, the Nuggets are an interesting match up for the Jazz, and many other teams for that matter. I cannot think of a team I dislike more than the Nuggets. They are pretty much the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the modern NBA.

    While some criticize the replacement officials, at least they called fouls. The regulars seem to want to operate under the very mistaken notion that calling a lot of fouls diminishes the game and its flow. Talk about backwards thinking! The players can adjust if you make them, and the game will be fine, but by refusing to call “too many fouls,” the regular refs allow a gang of thugs a substantial and unfair advantage over opponents. This was especially evident as the Thuggets were allowed to man handle the Lakers in the playoffs; the Lakers were just talented and deep enough to overcome it.

    Unfortunately for the Jazz, they weren’t able to overcome the 5 on 8 advantage the Nuggets often play with.

    Third, you wrote as if Derron Williams walks on water. Rather than make excuses for his 5 turnovers, take a closer look at his so called defense. Williams didn’t appear to care in the least about playing both ends of the floor, consequently Billups abused Williams like a rental car, and even rookie Ty Lawson, in his first ever NBA game, lit Williams up like Times Square. Williams padded his stats at the expense of his team’s defense, and winning percentage.

    Seriously, Williams played defense like a Spanish matador, and as his man blew by him, the Jazz were forced to stop penetration be leaving their own men. As a result, the likes of Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony got a lot of extremely easy baskets…

    And that is not Boozer’s fault. Nor Kirilenko’s fault.

    Likewise, while Okur had a really nice shooting touch that game, he was barely mobile, and Nene was having a field day with him… again causing the Jazz to rotate and defend at a disadvantage.

    Williams and Okur may have had good offensive performances, but they gave it all back on the other end of the court.

    Jazz fans have anointed Carlos Boozer the team scapegoat, and demand Boozer blood atone for their disappointments.

    Yes, Boozer had a horrible shooting night, but you could see it was a confidence thing. His shot selection and his moves were fine.

    To make excuses for Deron Williams’s 5 turnovers and not mention Boozer had a team high 11 rebounds in only 32 minutes is just intellectually dishonest.

    Yeah, Boozer had a tough shooting night, but he still did what he could for his team.

    What gets me most about the Jazz is how they built their team. They run out and pay the big bucks for a talented but undersized power forward, and then pair him with a center who wants to stand on the arc hucking 3s and leave all the dirty work inside to the undersized power forward.

    I love Williams, but in size he is a bit of a tweener as well, and the Jazz can’t seem to decide if he is a shooting guard or a point guard.

    I like Okur, but he certainly doesn’t want to play inside, and he really struggles to defend both on the perimeter and inside.

    AK47 is actually an excellent defender if he is helping from off the ball, but is a bit tall to defend guards, and a bit skinny to defend forwards one on one.

    In other words, the Jazz has a lot of really odd pieces in important positions that they are trying to force together.

    Speaking just about last night’s game…

    The Jazz scored 30 in Q1, then 25 in every other quarter and finished with a very respectable 105 points. Despite Boozer’s substandard performance, their offense was fine.

    Their problem is what it has been for years: defense for all 48 minutes, particularly on the road.

    In that case, the damage was done by Williams more than any other, as he let Denver’s guards run a muck and break down the Jazz’s interior.

    By the way, both teams had starters in the game all through the 4th quarter… there was no garbage time.

    I’m all for reading good analysis of teams and games, but this wasn’t good analysis. It was a collection of good points, stretched into praising Williams and bashing Boozer, but mostly was an overreaction. This was 1 game, and it played out pretty much the way everyone expected it would, with the Jazz not defending well on the road, and the Thuggets taking advantage of their physical natures at home.

  2. Erick Says:

    You have a few strikes against your arguments right from the onset.

    First of all, the regular refs have been employed for the regular season. The refs working the game weren’t replacements. And you didn’t give any evidence as to why the refs supposedly were giving the Nuggets an advantage.

    Secondly, calling Denver’s team the Thuggets makes you sound like a Nuggets hater and not an objective basketball fan. At best, it diminishes your credibility, and at worst, makes your comments ignorable. But I appreciate that you took the time to bring a lot of stuff to the table, so I will respond.

    Third, Deron Williams defended Anthony Carter, Arron Aflalo, and Ty Lawson the majority of the game. I just rewatched it. He made a few boneheaded mistakes, namely not running back after a free throw leading to a Carter layup, and fouling Billups on a three at the end of the 3rd.

    His other defensive plays until garbage time (and excusing broken plays like 3-1 fast breaks resulted in:

    *2 helps and recoveries leading to Carter and Afflalo missing threes.

    *Going under a screen leading to a Lawson missed three.

    *Forcing Carter and Billups into missed layups.

    *Forcing Billups into a missed jumper.

    *Forcing Lawson to miss a tough runner.

    *Forcing Lawson to miss a layup (though Williams was blown by on the play).

    He also allowed opponents to penetrate allowing to two made threes.

    So adding up the totals, d-Will’s basically allowed opponents to shoot 3-11 on him with three free throws for 11 points. That’s roughly 11 points for 12 possessions, not that bad at all. Did you even watch the game?

    Kenyon Martin and Nene got their offensive rebounds because Boozer and Millsap were under the rim staring instead of chasing after their man and boxing out. Also, Utah gave up a ton of rebounds in their zone, which is expected.

    Okur was immobile, but at least he drew two charges.

    Boozer’s rebounds were okay, but how many boards did he give back by not boxing out, or getting outjumped?

    There was garbage time. Down 17 points with 4 minutes is garbage time. Down 17 points with 4 minutes is garbage time.

    Your summaries of the Jazz in a broad context are fine, and I agree about parts not fitting, especially the Boozer/Okur combo, but Williams did a good job staying in front of his man the majority of the night. My point is that if Utah’s defense is going to be so bad, they will need spectacular performances to make up for it. Williams gave one part, Boozer couldn’t give the second part.

    Watch the game before you make statements like Williams’ defended like a matador when his opponents shot 1-9 on him. I have the game on tape if you want a copy.

  3. Tsunami Says:

    So the 72-10 Lakers lost tonight at home by double digits to the team that just got rocked by the Washington Wizards (at home).

    Means nothing, really. After all, one of the Lakers starters was missing, they are trying to get a new starter acclimated to the system, and it’s still October. They’re rusty, no big deal, they have the talent to compete in June.

    Hmm, this sounds kind of familiar….

    My favorite part of the game was when Kobe started talking smack to Kris Humphries after he got his shot swatted into the second row. then Van Gundy said something about “not wanting to get Bryant riled up”. 6-19

  4. Dave Says:

    The Jazz badly need a legitimate defensive stopper on the wing. Both Kirilenko and Brewer are excellent secondary wing defenders but neither is a cooler.

    I think the Jazz could get away with their below par interior defense if they had a top 3 perimeter defense … which I think is possible with a stopper + one of Brewer/Kirilenko + Deron Williams + better focus on bringing in backup wings who are above average defenders (not Korver, not Miles, not Harpring).


    As an aside, I’d be very interested to see the Jazz move Memo Okur (for that stopper) and go small up front with Boozer and Kirilenko starting and with Millsap coming off the bench. Try to out-quick teams defensively. I think that could be a pretty good team.

    Or, you know, get a quality defensive center instead of Memo. That could work too! Their offense would drop off pretty badly though, I think they’d need to make subsequent moves to boost their scoring on the wings if they went in that direction.

    Three good options for the Jazz to take … none of which I expect them to make.

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