We are one week into the NBA season and the Jazz have a lot for fans to be excited about! They have had two close games, a blowout in their favor and a 9 point loss to the Lakers that was never really close in the second half until Coach Vogel benched his starters.
So what’s with all these new pieces and how are they meshing? It hasn’t been perfect but the Jazz have found ways to win. Let’s look into some important numbers.
24: This is how many points per game Donovan Mitchell is averaging through four games. That ranks him first among shooting guards in the NBA. Overall he is tied with Stephen Curry for the 13th highest scorer in the NBA.
How is Donovan doing this? Is it his new SPIDA shoes? Well those are pretty cool but if we look closer at the numbers it starts with an increase in his efficiency. Last year he averaged 23.3 points per game in the month of October but he got there much differently than this year. This year Donovan is more consistent with his numbers and makes a higher percentage of his shots.
Last year Donovan made 36% of his three point shots and 45% from the field in the month of October. This year he is making 43% of his triples and 51% overall from the field. Granted, he has only played 4 going on 5 games in October this year and last year he played in 7 games before Halloween. I don’t think his three point percentage this year will surpass his entire field goal percentage last year. That would be an insane Kyle Korver like trend. The only way to do that would be to take less threes but it’s a valuable shot we need Donovan to take several times in a game.
36: This is the percentage of three point shots the Jazz are making. While that is decent it is expected that the Jazz will improve as a team once Mike Conley and Joe Ingles can step it up. One player to highlight here is Royce O’Neale. With more playmakers on the Jazz, guys like Royce are getting open shots. When two defenders rush out to defend Bojan, he passes to a wide open Royce O’Neale for an easy open shot. No matter how good you are it’s easier for an average shooter to make an open shot than for a great shooter to make a contested shot. This is why the value of a stretch four is so prevalent in today’s NBA.
The one area we can improve on here is the corner three. It’s become a staple for the Jazz so we need those empty circles to be filled here on the left two corners so that we can score more. The key to winning as people like Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall would say is “to score more points than the other team”. That means we have to make shots at a higher percentage than other teams do and a lot of average teams are average because they don’t space the floor out with the corner three.
101: This is the number of points the Jazz are averaging per game. They still found a way to win one game against the Suns where they didn’t score in triple digits. Overall they are undefeated when they score 100 or more points and even undefeated when they score 90 or more. Their lone loss came to the Lakers when they made an abysmal 86 points. The exciting part we will talk about here is the Jazz offense still hasn’t fully clicked yet outside of a few players and yet the Jazz defense is still good enough to win some games when needed. Eventually Utah will need more offense to win games at times.
121: Let’s look at an important number that doesn’t involve the Jazz. This is how many points the LA Clippers have averaged per game in their first four games. They are showing that even without Paul George their supporting cast can get buckets to help out Kawhi Leonard. I don’t think they keep this number up but it’s up to the Jazz to hold them below this number and have a season high in points themselves.
Even against the woeful Kings the Jazz had 113 points which isn’t even up to the 121 point average that the Clippers have. They did have a lot of Salt Lake City Stars guys playing in the fourth quarter. However, the Jazz will need to bring their A game against this L.A team that they didn’t bring against the Lakers. The Lakers are currently a two headed monster but as of now the Clippers are just a one-headed weird-laughing monster surrounded by a deep supporting cast. Tonight will be a possible playoff matchup so count on both teams to bring high intensity. The Clippers did lose to the Suns recently so they are beatable.
Prediction: I think the Jazz will make modest jumps offensively and end the season as a top 5 defensive team and a top 10 offensive team. When the season started we thought that might be the opposite as we got some good offensive weapons in the offseason. As of now one of those weapons in Mike Conley doesn’t seem to be fully loaded but he had a decent game at home against the Kings. If the Jazz fans can be loud and supportive even when he struggles then he will break out of it. I don’t think it will be against the Clippers if that pesky Patrick Beverley is guarding him but if he can get others involved then the Jazz should be in great shape.
Tonight I think the Jazz will lose a close one and finish October undefeated against teams not from L.A. I won’t rule out all hope but it will be a tough one and the expectation is that the Jazz will beat these teams at some point this season. They know they have a winning track record against LeBron so I think we will beat the Lakers at home later in the season but the Clippers are a team that we can hopefully take advantage of before Paul George comes back. We have another chance to beat them on the road on Sunday.
Final Score Prediction: Jazz 110 Clippers 114
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Kawhi is not playing tonight so I am switching my prediction. Instead the Jazz will win 107 to 100.