Can Jazz get better on-ball decisions from their veterans?


(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) shoots as Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) and Boston Celtics forward Sam Hauser (30) defend, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Boston Celtics, at the Delta Center, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 123-107 loss to the Boston Celtics from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Choosing who to attack

The Jazz didn’t score for seven minutes and two seconds in the fourth, which entirely determined the game. The Celtics went on a 20-0 run during the stretch.

And what happened then? The Jazz made repeated bad choices in their offense.

One big problem: attacking good defenders. In this possession, the Celtics have Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Xavier Tillman, and Luke Kornet out there. White is excellent defensively, while the others are average to poor. So who did Jordan Clarkson choose to attack with 14 seconds on the shot clock?

Later in the quarter, Collin Sexton did the same, bringing Jrue Holiday out on a screen when he could have just attacked Xavier Tillman one-on-one. This prompted Will Hardy to pull Sexton from the game for a quick 30-second chat before reinserting him.

“I just told him, ‘Hey, for the rest of our lives together, anybody but Jrue,’” Hardy said.

I worry about this because Clarkson is in his 10th year in the NBA. Sexton is in his sixth. Obviously, they are extremely aware that Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are great defenders… but for whatever reason, these veterans are still making these mistakes. That’s why you don’t necessarily love penciling them in the lineup as more than 6th men: against bench defenders, their scoring skills can pop off, but against very good defenders, the kinds you see in starting lineups or in the playoffs, they can be pushed off their game.

2. Choosing when to shoot

I thought the Jazz’s other problem was shot selection.

Tonight, 51% of the Jazz’s shots came from outside of the restricted area but inside of the 3-point line — way, way too many. The league average is about 30%, and that’s what the Jazz usually get, but 51% reflects a team just not getting enough efficient looks for the modern era. Seven of the nine shots the Jazz took during their scoreless stretch were in that midrange area.

For the Jazz, the most dangerous spot is inside the paint, but not in the restricted area, where their floater game is just not solid enough to reliably score.

Take these two fourth quarter looks. Both Keyonte George and John Collins need to do much more to ensure their shots are either closer to the rim or simply find teammates for better looks than these 30%-at-best-odds opportunities.

Once again, I’m going to have more sympathy for the rookies than the vets here. George’s shooting percentages have been bad all year for exactly this reason — sometimes being too aggressive, sometimes not being aggressive enough. It is a tricky balance to hit in the NBA, and takes real smarts and experience. But you just hope that it comes by the end of the first contract or so.

3. $150 for a Stanley mug

In January, the team announced a new sponsorship agreement with the Stanley mug company. This makes a lot of sense: Utahns love the Jazz, and Utahns love Stanley. While there are different circles involved there, the Venn diagram does include some Jazz fans who love Stanley, and you can sell Stanley cups with Jazz logos to them. Cool.

So on Feb. 4, the team sold a bunch of them for the first time — $50 for the 32 oz cup, and $60 for the 40 oz cup. That represents about a $15 upcharge on the normal cup price on the Stanley website. They sold out that night, with about a 30 minute wait for the cup. So far, so good.

On Tuesday, the Jazz sold new cups again. This time, there were 250 total for sale, with five different Jazz logo designs corresponding to the various decades of the team. And this time, the cups were a whopping $150 — plus tax.

I’m sorry, $150? For a cup? Some fans justified the price by saying that these were the prices the original mugs were going for on eBay (though I see prices more like $100-$125 in the sold history).

In reality, though, not many fans were willing to pay that price, as evidenced by the large stacks of cups left over after the game.

Here’s my overall take: in general, I don’t love the franchise being so willing to price gouge fans. To be sure, this is capitalism, and any given good is worth whatever people are paying for it. But the Jazz are also a business that has to rely on repeat customers — and making those customers feel the pain in every transaction doesn’t feel like a great way of making sure they come back.

This extends to tickets, too. Several fans this season have talked to me about how season ticket prices have been higher than what the tickets get on the secondary market. Obviously, this is something the Jazz study, but I think there should be a discount for loyalty, not a premium.

They’ve made some good choices here; for example, by pricing Jazz+ really reasonably. I just think the organization can stand to make decisions that benefit their most reliable customers — their biggest fans — a bit more.

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