Opening Statements 57: Wizards vs. Jazz | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements 57: Wizards vs. Jazz

Updated: February 26, 2017

Utah arrives in Washington equaling the Wizards in the loss column (22), but two up in the win column (36 to 34). The Jazz have won two in a row and six of 10, and this is the second of a three-game mini-road trip on the other side of the All-Star break. They beat the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday and face the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. After a bad loss to the Sixers on Friday, the Wizards are looking to truly show that their effort was a speed bump (unlike all of last season, which was actually a road block).

Three things.

#1) Trey Burke.

This is Trey Burke’s first meeting against his old team. The Wizards will face the Jazz in Salt Lake City on March 31. Burke is shooting a career-high .502 eFG% and a career-hight .419 from deep after respective averages of .447 and .329 over three seasons with the Jazz that just didn’t work out before Utah traded 2013’s ninth overall pick to Washington this past summer for a 2021 second round draft pick.

However, many of the reasons why Burke did not succeed in Utah still exist as frustrations in D.C. Sure, he can shoot better now, but he’s still terrible at running a team, and he can’t play defense. His steals per 100 possessions are down 43 percent, turnovers up 6 percent, and personals fouls up 18 percent. Or, bigger picture: when Burke plays, the Wizards are outscored by 8.2 points per 100 possessions. When he rides the bench, no matter who else is on the floor, the Wizards NetRtg is plus-6.4.

Scott Brooks was asked about Burke’s adjustment by a Jazz beat reporter before the game.

And I later followed up by asking about Burke’s strengths as an off-ball scorer, versus when he’s asked to create and run a team. What wasn’t addressed was Burke’s poor defense, which is this team’s number one problem — both in consistent effort from the starters (as evidenced by the Philly game), and more glaring from the team’s backcourt off the bench.

#2) Big or Not.

Three of Utah’s most-used lineups feature two loads, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, playing next to each other. And when those two are on the court with any other combination, the Jazz are plus-10.1 in NetRtg, with a DefRtg of 96.0. Two other frequently used lineups feature the stretchy Boris Diaw at 4 alongside Gobert. When those two are paired, Utah’s NetRtg is plus-6.8 and DefRtg 100.9.

Scott Brooks said before today’s game that he wants to get Jason Smith more burn than the six minutes he got in Philly, so expect Smith next to Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi to counter Utah’s big lineups, especially if Markieff Morris struggles on the glass. With how Diaw plays, Brooks could also very well try more small lineups, especially a 3-4 combination that might feature Bojan Bogdanovic and Otto Porter (or Kelly Oubre).

But does Utah’s frontcourt mean the Wizards might try Mahinmi next to Gortat?

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Brooks, the coach indicating that he wants to start with how his team traditionally plays, first.

#3) Kelly Oubre.

Brooks apparently made Oubre’s play in Philadelphia on Friday a topic during Saturday’s practice.

Before Sunday’s game against Utah, Brooks was asked by The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner about his blunt assessment of Oubre, what that might do to motivate him, and how the coach addresses his players otherwise.

Part of Brooks’ answer (his full video answer below):

“I don’t coach age, I coach players, and I expect you to play at a certain level and try to reach that level every night. With Kelly, I think his issues are when he doesn’t play well, he’s not focused. You can go back and say, ‘Well, he’s only 21,’ but like I said, I coach players.”

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.