Utah Jazz: Quin Snyder may want to experiment with lineups in the postseason

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

It’s generally considered taboo in the NBA to experiment with lineups in the postseason. For the Utah Jazz, it may be their best shot to make a run.

For head coach Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz, conventional wisdom may not be the best idea come playoff time.

By the time the NBA postseason rolls around, most (if not all) NBA teams have their rotations figured out. In fact, they normally are whittled down to about eight to nine players, with the regular starters playing upwards of 35 minutes a night.

The philosophy held by most coaches is that you want your team’s best players out there for as long as possible to wear down your opponent. In principle, it makes sense.

For starters, the Jazz trot out a “traditional” lineup, starting career 21.1 percent 3-point shooter Derrick Favors and “three career made 3-pointers to his name” Rudy Gobert at the 4 and 5 spots, respectively.

Their leading scorer is sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell and three of their best 3-point shooters are over the age of 30.

Nothing about the Jazz really makes sense in today’s ever evolving NBA, but their countercultural ways may serve them well heading into the 2019 postseason.

The one mystery left is the point guard rotation.

Before anything else is said, the following statistics may seem cherry picked or inconsequential. They’re meant to paint a picture. 

Ricky Rubio has now been with the Jazz for 144 games, starting in 143 of those appearances. He is averaging 13.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists on .411/.332/.864 shooting splits.

Not stellar numbers, but he’s now pretty familiar with Snyder’s system and provides solid defense with an above average basketball IQ to boot. His biggest issue in his Jazz tenure (and for his career) has been availability, which has forced Quin Snyder to experiment with different lineups.

It’s those lineups that offer a lot of intrigue heading into the postseason.

For instance, the lineup of Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Korver, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder and Derrick Favors (1-5, respectively) is outscoring opponents by 52.1 points.

The sample size is 29:14, which, isn’t very large, but that same lineup has outrebounded opponents by nearly 24 on the defensive end just over eight boards on the offensive glass.

The lineups of Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Ingles, Crowder, Gobert as well as Raul Neto, Korver, Ingles, Crowder and Favors are outscoring opponents by 23.1 and 23.0 points per game in 81:02 and 84:21 minutes of action respectively.

Obviously Mitchell will be one of those aforementioned players that will be playing upwards of 35 minutes a night (he averaged 37.4 minutes per game last postseason), but those lineups are a testament to the depth that Utah boasts.

Now, obviously the NBA is more than which team outscores the opponent. The team that has the most points wins, but games are won on matchups on both sides of the ball, rebounding, turnovers, etc etc.

Luckily for the Jazz, they have a savvy coach.

Due to a variety of injuries, Snyder has had to use 10 different starting lineups this season. The most commonly used one is Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles, Favors and Gobert. They have a 34-21 record together. Last season that same lineup had a 28-12 record together.

That lineup has proven that it works despite having two players that have next to no spacing ability and a point guard that shoots below league average in terms of 3-point percentage.

It’s not that Rubio is bad or a bad fit, it’s just that Mitchell offers more upside.

The above lineups do feature Mitchell, but he’s not the sole reason those lineups have had success. Korver is a career 42.9 percent shooter from distance and is knocking down 39.7 percent of his attempts this season.

Ingles is a career 40.8 percent shooter from distance and is knocking down 39.0 percent of his attempts this season. Crowder and Neto provide spacing and Favors thrives as a “small-ball five”.

Again, Mitchell offers more upside.

Mitchell has 39 games this season where he’s recored 0-4 assists. Not that exciting.

Mitchell has 34 games where he has recorded 5-9 assists, including one game where he recorded 11 assists against the Timberwolves.

These stats are coming where Mitchell has recorded 26% of his minutes at the one, 304 assists on the year. That’s third best on the team, behind point forward Ingles and Rubio, respectively.

That’s a great 1-3 punch (literally).

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Quin Snyder may trot out his normal starting five in the playoffs and this could be all for naught. In the ever-crowded and competitive Western Conference it may be smart for Snyder to change the Jazz’s tune.