Although NBA Preseason should be taken with a grain of salt, the Utah Jazz offense looked much-improved and was among the best in the league.
If the NBA Preseason were any sort of accurate indicator of regular season success, the Utah Jazz would be sitting pretty. For the second year in a row, Utah went undefeated in preseason with a 5-0 mark. That makes them winners of 10 straight preseason contests.
Not only that, but meanwhile the defending champion Golden State Warriors went a measly 1-4 in preseason play. That means the Utah Jazz are set to be 2019 NBA Champions, right? I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. The Warriors more than anything lost those contests to boredom, lack of motivation, and low minutes from their starters, while the Jazz had two ugly wins that required comebacks from their reserve group, two wins over Australian teams and a blowout victory over the hapless Sacramento Kings.
In other words, preseason should never be read too much into. While there’s some interesting aspects that can be gleaned from it, in all truthfulness it’s not anywhere close to a good indicator of how a team will fare in regular season play. However, one thing that nevertheless left me feeling impressed was Utah’s high-octane offense.
In the five-game preseason slate, the Utah Jazz put up a whopping average of 123.8 points per game. For a little comparison, in last year’s undefeated preseason, Utah averaged 112.4 points per game, and last regular season the Warriors led the league in scoring at 113.5 points per game while the Jazz posted just 104.1 per contest.
Of course, that extremely high mark of 123.8 came largely as a result of facing lackluster talent in preseason play and is by no means sustainable in the regular season. However, it was still incredible to see a team that has been reputed as having a clunky offense that struggles to find the bottom of the net surge in such a way.
Up until the final day of preseason, in which the Milwaukee Bucks benefited from playing the defensively-challenged Jimmy Butler-less Minnesota Timberwolves to put up an astounding 143 points, the Jazz were atop the league in preseason points per game. That final bout allowed Milwaukee to leapfrog the Jazz to finish with an average of 124.8 points per game, causing the Jazz to narrowly drop to second.
But even so, Utah’s offensive prowess was on full display in preseason, and I think we’ll see major improvements for them on that end of the floor this year. They played with more pace, making an effort to attack opponents in transition when the opportunity arose. Renowned 3-point threats such as Joe Ingles were quicker to pull the trigger on good looks – he put up six attempts from deep per game in just 20.7 minutes, compared to 5.7 attempts in 31.4 minutes in last year’s regular season.
The Jazz were also the most efficient team in the league during that span, as they led all NBA teams in preseason shooting percentage (50.9 percent) and 3-point percentage (42.1 percent). Diluted talent aside, it’s still pretty shocking and encouraging to see a jump-started Utah offense perform in that way. The Jazz use a balanced attack and crafty ball movement to utilize every player of their roster as a scoring threat. That tactic worked seamlessly in preseason.
And while, again, I know that not all of this will translate over once the Jazz start playing regular season contests with heightened talent, stakes and motivation, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Jazz offense is on the right track and could very well be prolific in 2018-19. Last season, Utah had the best defense in the league by a wide margin when Rudy Gobert was healthy. However, they often received criticism, and rightfully so, for a mediocre offense that had a tendency to stall.
If the Jazz can build on the offensive dominance they displayed in preseason, finishing merely in the top 10 of the NBA in points, offensive rating, field goal percentage and three-point percentage (they didn’t do so in any of those areas last year), while maintaining their staunch defense, this team will be an absolute force to be reckoned with this upcoming season.
Because of Utah’s stellar D, even a capable offense, which I wouldn’t go so far as to say they had last year even in spite of Donovan Mitchell‘s brilliance, will make them a juggernaut.
The incredible scoring rate the Jazz posted in preseason won’t be sustainable in the regular season. However, I believe a lot of the offensive habits and improvements most certainly will be. Quin Snyder is renowned for getting the most out of his players. The Jazz use a brilliant team-first approach where any player can be an offensive weapon. They are disciplined, cohesive and capable of wearing a defense down.
Add all that together, and you’ve got a dang good recipe for success even on the offensive end where the Utah Jazz have historically struggled, and despite not having an abundance of scoring superstars to create shots and shoulder an immense load. Preseason should overall be taken with a grain of salt, but there’s no denying that Utah’s offense appears to have undergone major improvements.
And that could go a long way in leading to an exhilarating 2018-19 season.