Opening Statements: Wizards vs Jazz, Game 23 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Jazz, Game 23

Updated: December 14, 2014

Washington Wizards vs Utah Jazz - Nov. 17, 2012

Fresh off firing a repurposed cannon full of the memories of a time when Chris Paul was clearly better than John Wall into the Clippers’ trans-Atlantic win streak, Washington meets the un-smooth sound of Jazz sneakers on the Verizon Center court.

Wall “wanted to win” the game against Paul especially badly, even if he wasn’t ready to tell anyone about it, according to Marcin Gortat. It doesn’t hurt when Bradley Beal, volume shooter of destiny, is dropping 29 points on 17 shots, and hitting seven of eight free throws.

But the story of Friday’s win over the Clippers wasn’t so much Beal’s breakout, which most knew was coming, but Wall’s defense on Chris Paul. There’s a certain amount of baggage that comes with tell-all stats like ESPN’s new “real plus/minus” statistic, but the “defensive real plus/minus” metric indicates that Wall’s defense (or presence within a larger team defense) may be far better than a high point total from Brandon Knight would lead one to believe. Currently, Wall ranks first among point guards, second among all guards (Klay Thompson is first), and 14th overall among all players in the defensive real plus/minus category.

Against the Clippers, Wall donned his surgeon’s mask and tweezed Chris Paul turnovers out of the messy, circulating flux of the game. On two occasions, Wall was able to reach the ball while Paul was in possession and tip it off of Paul before watching it bounce out of bounds. Forced turnovers like this are brutal on the opposing team, and those stolen possessions never come back.

As TAI’s Chris Thompson wrote:

In short, Wall ate [Paul] up, harassing him into two quick turnovers, dropping a 3 in his mug, driving him into the paint with a wicked full-speed crossover before whipping the ball to Bradley Beal for another 3, and throwing in a soaring, savage block of a Glen Davis layup for giggles. The lead ballooned from 6 to 15 points, and the Clippers never came close to recovering.

The Jazz enter tonight’s game in the lower third of each popularly measured statistic: points, points allowed, rebounds, and assists. On the road, they have only scored 94 points per game, which would be good for the worst team offense in the NBA were it true for their home games as well. Even the mighty Trevor Booker, who probably could have outproduced DeJuan Blair this season were all proposed salaries equal, hasn’t been able to help the Jazz along to more than six wins so far this season. Booker, by the way, has been averaging one 3-point attempt per game (and hitting a bel0w-average 31.8% of those attempts). It’s a new supplement to his personal playbook, one that may have been suppressed like an unhealthy memory under Randy Wittman’s direction.

Joining me today is Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen), managing editor of Salt City Hoops, ESPN Truehoop’s Utah Jazz blog. Let’s get it.

Teams: Wizards vs Jazz
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 11 points.

Q #1: The Jazz are struggling again this year. I get the sense that those around the franchise believed they’d be a little better than they have been so far, even if no one believed they’d be setting the world on fire.

Is this part of the process of eventually arriving or is the rebuild derailing? Is there some aspect of the team’s play so far that sticks out as the culprit to the poor start?

@andyblarsen: Good question. The culprit to the poor start is unequivocally defense: the Jazz are 29th in the league in Defensive Rating. This was Quin Snyder’s calling card when he was hired by the Jazz, and it hasn’t panned out: the defense has actually gotten worse.

That being said … it does feel like part of the process. There are positive signs, and both the offense and defense are much more modern than Ty Corbin’s schemes last year. There’s evidence that the Jazz are taking and giving up the right sort of shots. There are stretches of play in which the Jazz show real potential, for example, they currently lead the NBA in third quarter scoring margin. It’s a matter of bringing that level of play to the rest of the game.

Q #2: Kanter and Favors are ranked 20th and 22nd overall in the NBA in DREB% (out of players with 600+ minutes), but the Jazz average the sixth fewest rebounds in the NBA. What gives?

@andyblarsen: It’s something that Quin Snyder is aware of. The biggest reason for that statistic is the Jazz’s slow pace—they’re actually 12th in team DREB%. The other issue is that the Jazz’s rebounding beyond Favors, Kanter, and Gobert isn’t fantastic, and it’s something that Snyder has challenged Alec Burks and Trey Burke about.

Q #3: While Alec Burks got a pretty hefty extension, Enes Kanter will be waiting for a qualifying offer next summer. 

Is he on his way out the door, to a mahogany table to put pen to paper for a long-term extension, or in Kevin Seraphin-land with a one-year qualifying offer?

@andyblarsen: I suspect that the Jazz and Kanter will go their separate ways. In the end, the advanced stats aren’t friendly to Kanter, and with a rising cap, there will be a ton of teams with large amounts of money to offer. Ultimately, I think the Jazz will choose to spend their money elsewhere in this free agent market.

Q #4: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about our departed friend, former Wizard Trevor Booker.

At one point earlier in the season, he was a perhaps anomalous talisman of success with the Jazz, and lineups featuring Booker were performing better than identical lineups without Cook Book. What have been your impressions of Booker so far, and how does he fit with the Jazz moving forward?

@andyblarsen: Booker’s a lot of fun. He’s got more ball-handling skills than I knew, and his emotion in playing up the crowd makes EnergySolutions Arena explode. I’m not sure he’ll ever have more than his current role, but he’s a great cog. In the long term, the contract gives the Jazz a lot of options—because it’s mostly unguaranteed next year, they could use it as an asset in a trade this summer. If something comes up, I think they’d have to give it a look.


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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.