Three Scrimmages, Three Signs Of Strength For The Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The scrimmage portion of the Utah Jazz season is over. The team knocked off the Brooklyn Nets 112-107 to finish the three get set 2-1, including a win over the Miami Heat and a loss to the Phoenix Suns. Going into the bubble, the Jazz had serious questions about how to replace the injured Bojan Bogdanovic, and whether they could improve on their flaws from earlier in the season. With three games under the belt, three signs of strength have emerged for the Jazz before they resume the season on Thursday.
Strength One: The Jazz Can Still Shoot
It’s evident over the last two games that the Jazz shouldn’t struggle to get enough three-point shots attempted to keep Quin Snyder happy. The Jazz attempted 41 threes against Miami and another 35 against Brooklyn. Had the starters played the fourth quarter, it’s like the team would have crossed the 40 attempt barrier once again.
That’s really good for a team that is losing one of the best three-point shooters in the league this season. Not only did Bogdanovic connect on threes at a better than 40 percent rate, but he also attempted more than seven threes a game. In fact, the Croatian sharpshooter averaged the fourth most attempts of any player shooting more than 40 percent from deep.
Finding a way to replace that many attempts, while still running an offense and keeping Rudy Gobert involved is tricky, but the Jazz have done it well over their last two outings. Though the Jazz shot poorly against Miami, they connected on 13-35 threes against Brooklyn, including 10 in the first half when the starters were playing.
As the old saying goes, it’s a make or miss league. The Jazz could very well lose games by simply not connecting on enough three points. But one this is for sure, they can’t connect on enough deep balls if they can’t find enough attempts, and so far that hasn’t been a problem.
The Jazz aren’t going to lose games when Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson connect on 10-17 three-point attempts. That’s what they did against Brooklyn, and it will give them a punchers chance against any team on any night in the NBA bubble.
Strength Two: Mitchell And Gobert Are Jelling
Outside of Bogdanovic, the other leading storyline emerging from the Jazz hiatus was whether or not Gobert and Mitchell liked each other. The truth is, they still might not. But so far on the floor, it hasn’t mattered.
Mitchell has seven assists to Gobert over his last two games with nearly all of them coming in a simple two-man pick and roll game. Mitchell said before the scrimmages started he was hoping to improve his passing in Orlando, and so far he has done that.
The All-Star guard’s ability to get into the paint, read what the defense is offering, and capitalize has been a big improvement for the Jazz. It’s also kept Gobert involved on the offensive side of the floor, a point of contention at times throughout the season, and gives the Jazz easy scoring opportunities without Bogdanovic.
“I think we’ve both been doing a great job on each of our ends making it easier for each other,” Mitchell said of the connection. “When he rolls, somebody else is open, or he’s open, or my layup is there.”
As the opponent improves, the difficulty of making those reads will increase, but its a significant sign of development for a player who has to have the ball in his hands a lot for the Jazz to be successful.
The Jazz don’t need their two all-stars to be friends away from the court. But, they both have to be involved in the team’s gameplan for the Jazz to be successful, and they’ve been stapes through three games in Orlando.
Strength Three: Mike Conley
Heading into the NBA’s hiatus, Mike Conley was playing the best basketball of his season with the Jazz. The guard averaged 16.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds, shooting .459 from the floor, and .458 from the three-point line over the Jazz last seven games before the league came to a halt.
With Bojan Bogdanovic out for the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery, the Jazz will need more of that production from Conley.
“I came with a clear vision on what to expect and what I’m supposed to be for this team,” Conley said of the season’s return. “I’m really just excited right now. I’m really excited to go out and just play — play with a clear mind and tell people what I can do.”
In Orlando, Conley averaged 15.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and one assist in just over 21 minutes per game during the three scrimmages. If Conley can keep those numbers up, he’ll provide a major scoring boost to the Jazz in Bogdanovic’s absence.
The veteran guard’s struggles with the Jazz early in the season were one of the more disappointing factors over the first sixth months of the year. Finding comfort in his role in Orlando will pay dividends for the Jazz in the playoffs, and into next season.
The Jazz will reopen the NBA season Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans. The game tips-off at 4:30 pm MT and will be broadcast on TNT and AT&T SportsNet.
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