The NBA’s hottest team is also suddenly its most accurate from three-point range. Quin Snyder’s Utah Jazz are winners of seven straight and 12 of their last 13, and they’re leading the NBA at 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.
During the seven-game conquest, the Jazz have run a long-range clinic, hitting 100-of-243 (41.2 percent) from distance.
They’re obliterating their 2018-19 mark of 35.6 percent, and they own a comfortable lead over the rest of the league. The gap between Utah and the No. 2 club (Miami Heat, 37.9 percent) is equal to the gap between the No. 2 and No. 6 teams. Four Jazz standouts are shooting better than 40 percent from deep: Georges Niang (46.4), Royce O’Neale (44.2), Bojan Bogdanovic (41.7) and Joe Ingles (40.9).
Eight other clubs are attempting 35-plus triples per 100 possessions, and 24 are hoisting at least 30 attempts per 100 possessions. But none of this year’s offensive juggernauts can pull off the efficiency that the Jazz have unleashed.
Utah runs a well-balanced system, and its three-point prowess is built on much more than clever set plays. Snyder has created a culture in which smart players regularly find quality looks when improvising.
These forays enhance offense from beyond the arc in a variety of ways and with a variety of contributors. Some key cogs like Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles create a bunch of their triples off the bounce, while others like Bojan Bogdanovic hunt for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Yet, one of the most integral pieces of the Jazz three-point attack hasn’t even attempted a trey yet this season: Rudy Gobert.
The Stifle Tower is known primarily for his defensive prowess, but he amplifies Utah’s three-point potency. His rim-diving gravity and endless screens open up acres of space for the Jazz marksmen to get into a rhythm.
In this sequence, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is guarding O’Neale and has to stunt toward the middle to help on Gobert’s roll to the rim. Consequently, Mitchell found O’Neale with loads of room on the left side for a spot-up triple:
It’s only natural for weak-side defenders to want to help stymie a big man diving toward the hoop. But Utah’s playmakers like Mitchell and Ingles are always aware of this and ready to sling the ball across to open shooters.
In the following clips, Gobert provides the rim-rolling gravity and facilitation all by himself. As the defense confronts him on the roll, he alertly turns and finds open teammates for easy shots. While he’s not as smooth as Draymond Green or Ben Simmons on these passes, he’s extremely coordinated for a long-limbed 7-footer and seems to get better every year:
Gobert is also one of the better screeners in the NBA, thanks to both his sturdy 7’2” frame and his effort. He’s constantly active in picking, flipping the screen or re-screening. He adjusts his angles so shooters can sneak free via curl cuts and flare cuts. He’s also adept at toeing the fine line between legal and illegal screens.
Gobert might move a little during some of his picks, but he doesn’t overdo it or make it obvious.
As proof, the French star is part of Utah’s most productive two-man lineup from three-land. The Jazz uncork the most treys per game (8.6) when Gobert and Bodganovic share the floor, and they maintain a crisp 40.8 percent in the process. It’s a testament to how Gobert consistently generates high-quality looks even as he’s not taking them himself.
Meanwhile, a large chunk of the credit goes to the Jazz shooters for getting open and sliding to the best shooting locations. Most of them are great at taking optimal angles to make life difficult for defenders. This compilation illustrates the Jazz shooters’ proficiency in collaborating with Gobert’s screens:
The Jazz are also well-trained in attacking the middle, dishing the ball to the perimeter, and then sneaking a return to the three-point line to get it back. The repeated drive-and-kick movement is tough to defend, and it often results in open looks for the initial driver.
Watch how Mitchell and Ingles attack the middle, give the ball up and then scoot back to the arc, a la Stephen Curry. These kinds of plays require alertness and chemistry from everyone:
Utah is as smooth as any club when it comes to specific, designed plays as well. Many of Snyder’s sideline out-of-bounds (SLOB) sets involve misdirection that sends defenders scrambling the wrong way. These quick-hitting plays don’t involve a ton of intricate passing, yet they catch the defense off-balance.
Bojan Bogdanovic regularly gets open looks on the following set. He inbounds the ball to the middle, fakes a flare toward the corner, and then comes back toward the middle off a screen for a catch-and-shoot bomb:
Mitchell has been on the receiving end of some crafty SLOB plays as well.
In the following set, Snyder uses Bogdanovic as a decoy flaring to the weak side, then has Mitchell cut to the hoop and back up to the top off Gobert. The shot didn’t go in, but these are the kinds of quality opportunities the Jazz create in crunch time:
As we previously noted, the Jazz aren’t over-reliant on set plays to earn their three-pointers. In fact, 22.1 percent of their triples are unassisted, which is the NBA’s seventh-highest mark. Sometimes their most favorable chances from distance come from Mitchell or Ingles creating off the dribble.
Ingles is a master at using a ball screen on the run toward the bucket, then circling back around the screener to use him as a shield for shooting space. Here are a couple of recent examples:
When Mitchell isn’t creating his own three-point looks, his superlative downhill speed routinely generates chances for teammates. One of Utah’s greatest freestyle approaches is simply letting Mitchell attack the seams and find open shooters sliding into the gaps.
Mitchell, Ingles and Bogdanovic get the lion’s share of triples, but they’re well supported by key contributors who are also dangerous. Utah’s deep cast of long-range weapons includes Niang, O’Neale, trade acquisition Jordan Clarkson, injured veteran Mike Conley and the fast-improving Emmanuel Mudiay. All of these rotational pieces are hitting better than 35 percent from the arc, which gives Snyder countless lineup options.
That’s what makes this three-point onslaught so dangerous: It’s unpredictable. Defenses can’t hone in on just one or two threats, and they never know whether the Jazz will unfurl a drawn-up orchestration or improvise to find a weakness. Given Conley’s injury and the relative lack of frontcourt depth, Utah’s perimeter success came at the perfect time and looks pretty sustainable.
That annual Utah Jazz second-half push is upon us, and it looks like it’s coming a bit earlier than usual this year.
Dan is a TBW staff writer. After playing college ball at Franciscan University, he covered the NBA and NBA Draft for Bleacher Report for four years and the FRS Network for three years. He now co-hosts the Unlimited Range podcast and continues to campaign for Doris Burke’s promotion to lead analyst at ESPN. Follow him on Twitter: @DanO_Bball