The Utah Jazz started the season with two losses, one to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and one to the Phoenix Suns. A slow start to the season was expected, and possibly expected to last all year, but Jazz fans can take solace in the fact that the team competed. Each loss was only by three points. The bright spots, as expected, have been the young core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. This is somewhat of a best case scenario for the Jazz as they hope those players play well and progress, but also hope to garner a top draft pick in a rebuilding year.
The bright spot for the team as a whole is the defense, as Utah held OKC to 40 percent from the field and Phoenix 37 percent. This will be an important trend for the Jazz, as their bigs are built to control the glass. If they can make it difficult for teams to get good looks and rebound the ball well, they will put themselves in good position to win ballgames. Good FG% defense and turnovers will help Utah get into a fast paced, transition game, which they should thrive in and will help them avoid having to execute a half court offense. Struggles will likely continue on the offensive end, as the team learns who it can go to in certain spots, and as players adapt to more important roles.
There is certainly room for improvement on the defensive end. As mentioned, Utah has been making it difficult for their first two opponents. In fact, they are third overall in effective field goal percentage allowed (through Friday) at 42.7%. As good as that is, their defensive rebounding percentage is ranked 22nd in the league (though offensive rebounding is good for third), they are forcing turnovers at a pace only good for 23rd in the league, and they are sending opponents to the free throw line too often.
Alec Burks: After Burks’ terrible preseason, it was reasonable to be worried about what he could bring to the table for Jazz. However, during the first two games of the season, Burks has been fantastic for the Jazz and has averaged 19.5 points per game. Burks shook off some rust in the game against Phoenix, hitting four mid range jumpers. This is important for Burks seeing as how awful he was throughout the preseason outside of the paint. Also, all 24 of his points against OKC came at the rim or the free throw line. Though Burks has been good, he could have been much better as he’s still missing too many free throws. Burks has been very bad from the free throw line throughout his career, and is still shooting under 70 percent so far this season.
Singin’ the Blues
John Lucas III: Lucas is being forced into a big role right now, with Trey Burke’s injury and Jamaal Tinsley still getting into game shape. Lucas has been averaging 34 minutes per game, which is simply too much. He is shooting under 24 percent from the field, which is terrible enough, but what the numbers don’t show is just how bad the shots he is taking are. Lucas’ shot selection just seems very bad, as he just seems too eager to shoot, very often out of rhythm and ignoring his primary duty of distributing. Only averaging three assists per game is not good enough for a PG in 34 minutes per game.
The Jazz started the season 0-2, and their first win may not be coming for quite some time as they depart on a rough four game road trip after a back to back game against the Houston Rockets. At least Jazz fans can still hope for a good draft pick, no matter how bleak things get.