The Utah Jazz Need To Fix Their Shot Selection

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Shot selection is a problem for the 2019-20 Utah Jazz, specifically guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.

The issue reared its head again on Monday, when Utah dropped a home game, 112-102, to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Jazz shot 3-of-20 (15%) in the range of 3-10 feet from the rim in the loss. Mitchell alone was 0-of-6. The shot chart from the game is an analytics nightmare:

Things get even uglier if we limit the shot chart to just Mitchell and Conley:

On the season, Mitchell is now 29-of-78 (37.2%) in the paint (non-restricted area), which wouldn’t be quite as big a problem if he wasn’t taking nearly a third of his attempts from there.

Things aren’t any better for Conley. He’s taking 29.1% of his shots from the paint (non-restricted area) and shooting 33.3% from there.

From here on out, we’ll call that area the “Zone Where Possessions Go To Die (ZWPGTD).”

Utah as a whole is taking 21.3% of its shots from the ZWPGTD. The Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets are the only teams taking more shots per game from there. The New York Knicks are the only team with a worse field-goal percentage in that range than Utah’s 32.0%.

For context, the league is scoring 1.04 points per shot attempt this season. The Jazz are getting 0.64 points per attempt in the ZWPGTD. It should come as no surprise then, that Utah is 26th in points per 100 possessions and 20th in effective field-goal percentage.

Mitchell and Conley are both below average in true shooting percentage. They’re first and third, respectively, on the team in field-goal attempts per game.

This may not be a huge problem for now. FiveThirtyEight‘s playoff forecast still gives the Jazz a 97% chance of getting in. It predicts they end up going 53-29 this season. But if they continue to doom themselves on offense, they’ll have another playoff run cut short.

Few would argue that last season’s Jazz had more offensive talent. On that end of the floor, Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic are almost certainly upgrades over Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors. But the team-wide nosedive into poor shot selection has neutralized the talent boost.

Last season, Utah finished 14th in points per 100 possessions. The biggest difference is that they just played smarter.

In 2018-19, just 14.4% of the Jazz’s shots came from the ZWPGTD. Just under 40% of their shots were from three, and 11.8% were corner threes. This season, the ZWPGTD attempts make up 21.3% of Utah’s attempts. The three-point-attempt rate is down to 35.9% and the corner-three-point-attempt rate is 9.0%.

Are teams doing more to take threes away from opponents? Maybe, but there are a number of possessions in which Jazz players are turning down fine, or even good looks to dribble into bad ones.

There are plenty of pick-and-rolls with Mitchell and Rudy Gobert wherein Mitchell goes full bore into a floater in the ZWPGTD without letting anything else develop around him. And that’s a fine play if the ball-handler spots a disadvantage and wants to attack it, but Mitchell is often dribbling straight into two or three guys.

This may be easier said than done, but the fix is taking open threes when they present themselves. Giving Gobert time to collapse the defense with his rolls would help too. Passing out of some of the drives, instead of hoisting up contested ZWPGTD attempts would keep defenses honest.

Long story short: the floaters are just bad.

“Conley’s floater is a terrible shot,” Salt City Hoops’ Clark Schmutz tweeted. “He needs to give it a rest for a few games. Historically it’s been okay but it’s killed the offense. Donovan’s floater game is even worse. He needs to retire it forever. Like forever. Don’t ever shoot it.”

There are still some philosophical holdouts on this whole “mid-range vs. threes debate.” Great two-point shooters like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are the last hope for those who still grumble, “too many threes,” as they watch today’s game.

The debate should be way beyond settled on the ZWPGTD. Last season, the league shot 40.3% on all attempts from there. That’s a dismal 0.81 points per attempt. You simply cannot give a fifth of your offense to the Zone Where Possessions Go To Die.