45. Can Jazz Fix Postseason Net Rating?

Sep 5, 2021, 10:35 AM
Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic defends Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kevork Djansezi...
Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic defends Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just 45 days from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Today, in our sixth installment we look at the Jazz need to fix their postseason net rating.

Can Jazz Fix Their Postseason Net Rating?

The Jazz ended the 2020-21 season with the best net rating in the NBA, a traditionally strong indicator of future postseason success.

Per 100 possessions, the Jazz outscored their opponents by a full 9.0 points, the best in the league by nearly three points.

The huge disparity was fueled by owning the league’s fourth-best offensive rating at 116.5, and the NBA’s third-best defensive rating at 107.5. (Net rating is the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive rating).

The Jazz stellar offense was fueled by the dynamic pick and roll play by Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell’s 26.4 points per game average, and a record-setting three-point shooting season as a team.

The elite defensive rating was a result of Gobert’s brilliance protecting the rim en route to his third Defensive Player of the Year Award in four seasons.

But while the Jazz offensive rating improved to second in the NBA during the playoffs at a staggering 120.1 over 11 games, their defensive rating tanked to 121.7, fifth-worst of all playoff teams, resulting in a negative 1.6 net rating.

While the team’s equation worked to near perfection during the regular season resulting in the league’s best record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, it was clearly too easy for the Los Angeles Clippers to pick apart in the second round.

The Jazz must now answer why.

Was it simply because Mitchell was playing injured and Conley missed the first five games of the series against Los Angeles, taking away the team’s third-best player and best guard defender?

Or did learn that Royce O’Neale, their one above-average perimeter defender wasn’t enough to keep the Clippers guards from repeatedly attacking Gobert in the paint? Or that Gobert is incapable of defending a smaller wing on the perimeter full-time while also being asked to defend the rim?

During the offseason, the Jazz drafted Jared Butler, traded for Eric Paschall, and signed both Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside as free agents.

While Whiteside is one of the NBA’s better-shot blockers, he does little to address the team’s defensive needs on the perimeter. Gay is more athletic than the outgoing Georges Niang, though he isn’t the quality defender he was in his prime.

Paschall lost his role with the Golden State Warriors to Juan Toscano-Anderson due to injury and inferior defense, while Butler is unproven at the NBA level.

If the Jazz are hoping to see their postseason net rating improve, it must come on the defensive, and for now, it appears they are gambling on the health of Conley and Donovan Mitchell, and reserve minutes from Gay.

Will the numbers bear it out? That’s one of the 50 storylines for Jazz fans to keep an eye on heading into the NBA season.

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45. Can Jazz Fix Postseason Net Rating?