It's no secret how the Jazz play. They have been last in the league in pace (possessions per game) for the past two seasons. They play a slower calculated brand of basketball — valuing high-quality possessions with two brutes manning the paint. Their methodical, pound it out games rely heavily on offensive continuity and stout defense. This type of identity has been rooted in Utah since the arrival of Head Coach Quin Snyder. Through the first ten games of the season, the Jazz have continued their slow pace – ranking dead last in the NBA with 93.5 possessions per-game. As the numbers still tend to suggest that the Jazz have stayed true to their slow-paced personality — their newly infused personnel flexibility may end up challenging who Jazz can ultimately become.
Slowly but surely, Utah continues to creep back to full-health. Gordon Hayward has returned & Derrick Favors minutes are starting to increase. Quin Snyder is now in a position where he can accumulate specific units that have the adaptability to play various styles with multiple lineup combinations. For example, during a stretch in New York versus the Knicks last Sunday, Snyder debuted his four out & one in lineup of George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson & Rudy Gobert. It was the first time that pairing hit the court together. During the 10 minutes on the floor as a unit, the Jazz outscored the New York Knicks 26-12.
As the season progresses, look for Snyder to rely on units like the one that was featured in New York when his offense starts to get stagnant. All players outside of Gobert & Favors have the ability to run a pick-n-roll & also stretch the floor with shooting. Teams that can put lineups on the floor dependent on how the game flow are super dangerous.
With the Grizzlies tossing the "grit & grind" starting lineup out the window — the Jazz are the last surviving members of their kind. Featuring a frontline of behemoths Rudy Gobert & Derrick Favors is a zig to the NBA's small-ball zag. There is no question that the Jazz's bully-ball identity is felt from the opening tip — but will it close games?
The key for Jazz's success may hinge on the ability to "shape-shift." If the Jazz can beat teams in multiple ways — it will go a long way into establishing a legit contender. Not having one specific style of play can serve as a very tough endeavor come playoff time. Teams look for any lineup weaknesses and pounce at first sight. The teams that can play like a chameleon will likely go further in the playoffs.
Gordon Hayward returned to action last Sunday for the first time this season. Through his first four games of action, Hayward is off to a blistering start averaging 24.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists on 44% shooting in 35 minutes per game. Hayward has also hit his first 28 free throw attempts.
Hayward's offseason was eventful. With his wife giving birth to their second child, Hayward decided against playing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Instead, Hayward dedicated countless hours in the gym building his body and honing in on his craft for what should end up as his most crucial season of his young career.
The seventh year forward's motivation started right after the Jazz's loss in Kobe's final game as a Laker. Days after the season ended, Jazz upper management openly challenged the Jazzman in regards to his offseason. As Dennis Lindsey told "The Big Show" in early October — the Jazz invited Hayward to break through "glass ceilings" and put in the work which will allow Hayward to the same stratosphere with like's of Durant, Leonard & James as the game's best wing players.
Through the first four games, it's clearly evident that Hayward can be one of the best forward's in today's game. His improvement as a player has steadily inclined over the years. It will be intriguing to watch how his game meshes with George Hill as the season evolves.