The Utah Jazz have found themselves in a weird slump these past 8 games and it has been all too frustrating to watch. They let DeMar DeRozan destroy them in the fourth quarter on November 3rd, two days after beating the Trail Blazers in overtime. They let James Harden (who scored a new career high in points) and the Rockets have their way from deep. They followed that game up their second-worst shooting game in franchise history against the 76ers. Finally, they all but disappeared in the second half against the Miami Heat, making just 4 shots throughout the second half.
So what has happened?
Well, there are a number of things I can think of, but these might be the roots of their problems.
Ricky Rubio is not himself
Ricky Rubio is a great point guard. He can pass the ball extremely well and plays tenacious defense. The problem is, he’s never been a great scorer. So what kills me is that he’s been asked to shoot the ball more here in Utah. That’s understandable and all, but the problem here is that he isn’t consistent enough to rely on. He has all but fallen in love with trying to score for himself and has forgotten that his strength is passing the ball to his teammates in the flow of the offense, which is only hurting the Jazz. They have the third worst offensive rating in the NBA right now and that isn’t going to get better if their distributor is focusing on himself rather than setting up his teammates with opportunities to score the ball.
Sure, his shot looks better than ever. However, when he’s passing the ball first and then looking to score, good things come from that more than they do the other way around. This might stem from the lack of chemistry between him and the rest of the team, but a great point guard shouldn’t need a lot of time to gel with his teammates if he’s an already great passer who understands how to read defenses. A good majority of his passes don’t get thrown to Gobert in the paint. When they do, they’re either too low for him to catch or they get thrown into the hands of the opposing team. Rubio needs to be wrangled in a bit; he needs to go back to the fundamentals that made him what he is: a pass-first point guard.
Rodney Hood needs to be a man
Rodney Hood is a streaky shooter and he always will be, but before he went down with that calf strain against Minnesota he looked like a confident shooter and a powerful slasher who showed great patience and made great decisions. Since then he’s looked tentative and has started taking stupid shots. I understand that Quin Snyder expects him to take on the scoring load for this team, but he needs to take better shots instead of jacking up three after three. Rodney is so much better when he penetrates the lane, gets his guy on his back and takes a shot inside the paint or reads the defense for the sweet dish to a cutter at the basket. Hood is way better than I think he realizes; he just needs to calm down and let the game come to him and his points will follow.
Favors & Gobert
Up to this point of the season, Derrick Favors has been a ghost of his once dominant self. He’s healthy this year, which usually equates to high productivity, but there are a plethora of things that just don’t seem right with his game. His scoring numbers have reached double figures 4 times this year, and his shooting percentage sits at 52.4 percent, but the majority of his shots have been from mid-range. For some reason, he also thinks he’s a three-point shooter now. He has taken 15 threes this year and has made 4 of them, which is a laughable 26%. Either Coach Q has asked him to stretch the floor by shooting the three ball, or he lives in a fantasy world where he sees that shot dropping with consistency.
He also can’t seem to grab rebounds as much as he’s capable of doing. For a guy that’s more than capable of averaging 8 rebounds a game, he’s only averaging 5 this season. On the defensive side of things, he’s not as tenacious as he once was. Over the course of his career, he averages .8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. His number of steals this year is par for the course so far, but those steals aren’t paying dividends when the team doesn’t capitalize on the other end. His blocked shots are more than likely taking a hit because of Rudy Gobert dominating the paint the majority of the time, but he doesn’t seem to be anchoring the paint in tandem with Rudy. Gobert lives in the paint, that's no secret, but Favors is at his best when he’s rolling to the basket, posting up, or knocking down a 15-foot jumper.
I don’t know if Gobert and Favors have a hard time sharing the paint or what, but when those two are in the game together, it seems to limit Favors’ productivity on both ends of the floor; his plus/minus for the year is 3.5, whereas Rudy’s is an astonishing -1.5 in that category. This presents a weird conundrum for Quin Snyder to figure out, because Rudy is essential on defense, and can put the ball back in the hoop with relative ease. However, when Rudy was sidelined against the Nets, Favors was an absolute force to be reckoned with. He scored 22 points on 66% shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and made 85% of his 7 free throws.
So the multi-tiered question is this: does Quin Snyder continue to play Favors and Gobert together and hope they find a way to coexist in the paint, or does he start Udoh or Sefolosha at the 4 spot to bring Favors off the bench to play at the Center position when Rudy isn’t on the floor? The season is still early, too be sure, but these problems need to be sorted out now, rather than later.