Warriors' top defense faces top offense as they visit Jazz
No Draymond Green, but Jordan Poole is back
The Golden State Warriors are ringing in the new year with what should be one of the season’s most exciting games. The Utah Jazz have quietly been putting in yet another consecutive strong regular season and flying beneath most people’s radars so hard they might as well be Airwolf. This will be the tail end of a back-to-back for Utah — though they did hold out Mike Conley (rest), Eric Paschall, and Joe Ingles last night against the Minnestota Timberwolves.
For the Warriors, it’s new year, new me, but not in the best way, more of a roster-shuffling way. As has been the case recently, the team will be getting a player back (Jordan Poole) but not everyone. Draymond Green remains in Covid protocol so his return is unknown, but reportedly his symptoms are mild enough that is sounds like he would return the the court as soon as his tests clear. But really, the juicy bite of the apple is the impending return of the missing Splash Brother.
Ok 2022, you seem like you may be alright.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (27-7) at Utah Jazz (26-9)
WHEN: Saturday, January 1, 2022 // 6:00pm PDT
WATCH: NBATV; NBCSBA
“How will the defense hold up?” Was a good question before Green was out
For those that don’t follow too closely, it might be surprising that the Jazz and their defensively-focused center are owners of the NBA’s top-ranked offense. Against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State managed to hold their own defensively — work that was mostly done in the second half, but effective overall nonetheless.
The Jazz offense is the best in the league, and after blasting wayward Minnesota last night, they wrestled the best net rating away from Golden State. While I often point to rankings, I think with this Jazz and Warriors matchup today, it’s more important to just notice the scale of discrepancy. The Jazz and Warriors have been a tier above all other teams so far this season.
From basketball reference, you can see how elite the Jazz offense is. Though they don’t play particularly fast, they take a ton of threes, get fouled a bunch, and have the best shooting efficiency as a team:
They have five players that average double-digit scoring per game, led by Donovan Mitchell’s 25.4 points per contest.
Looking at the team’s offensive profile on Synergy, they are extremely tough in the half court, where the team averages a NBA-best 1.034 points per possession. With Mitchell and Gobert, you’ve got plenty of inside out pressure to handle, but the entire offense is extremely good at getting efficient looks.
Here’s a screen grab from Synergy, note how strong the entire roster is when it comes to scoring efficiency. That “PPP” column is stands for “points per possession” and it’s abundantly clear that the Jazz offense excels at getting their players good looks at the basket.
So, how do you stop it?
First, it’s important to understand how the offense thrives. As anyone who has watched Gobert play can attest, he’s not much of a threat as a post up player. This isn’t Shaq parked down on the block, drawing double teams and directing cutters. It looks like a much more dynamic pace and space modern offense, with the majority of attempts coming at the rim.
Without Draymond Green marshalling defenders, it’s going to be a tall order this evening. Gobert is a vertical spacer, and one that the Warriors have generally ameliorated mostly through Green’s excellence.
Today, Kevon Looney seems to be the starter, and though he’s not the strategic mastermind that Green is, Looney holds up shockingly well in and around the post. Looney is also a strong rebounder (yet another Jazz strength to plan around).
Golden State and their asymmetrical warfare
The term asymmetrical warfare refers to “unconventional strategies and tactics adopted by a force when the military capabilities of belligerent powers are not simply unequal but are so significantly different that they cannot make the same sorts of attacks on each other.”
For the Warriors, the strategy today will be just as heavily focused on what they do on offense, as it is on slowing down Utah on the defensive end. The Jazz are flying below a lot of people’s radars this season because of a pattern that has emerged in the playoffs, where the Jazz perimeter defenders get so thoroughly cooked off the dribble that their entire system collapses.
The Warriors don’t just have one of the league’s best offenses, they just so happen to get their on the strength of one of the most lethal perimeter threats that has ever existed.
So sure, the Warriors will have to figure out a way to slow down the Jazz without their best defender, but they’ve also got a ton of firepower that should give Utah’s defense fits.
Without Green, the offense has been 1.2 points worse according to Cleaning the Glass. Golden State has split the two games without Green, going 1-1 in his absence. It’s not a huge set of data, but one pattern that appears to be a trend is that Kerr will likely rely much more heavily on Juan Toscano-Anderson. Here’s the link to the site page in case the screen capture is too small, but look at the changes when playing without Green:
You can also see this in the rotation, where Toscano-Anderson changes from a seldom-used sub late in the first quarter, to shouldering heavy minutes when Green isn’t available.
This is going to be a great game, and though the Warriors would love to have Green on hand for this one, it’s a great chance to see how they do while playing short-handed like this.
I also predict that Kuminga is going to get some significant run against the Jazz. His quick athleticism and willingness to attack the basket are emerging as true strengths.
Sorry for the late post! Happy new year Dub Nation HQ!!!