As the Utah Jazz now resume basketball activities, there are major issues they need to fix regarding stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
After so much time off due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be a lot to iron out for all rosters. But the recent gap also exposed some harsh truths about the two best players on the Jazz.
In a recent story, Tim MacMahon reported that Gobert feels he should receive more lobs from Mitchell (via ESPN):
“Gobert rarely hesitates to let teammates know if they miss him when he is open around the rim. He’ll occasionally point up during play in animated fashion, sometimes as he is running back on defense, to note that a lob should have been thrown … Gobert knows his lobbying for lobs wears on teammates to the point of being counterproductive, like the wide receiver who gripes at the quarterback after every play when a pass isn’t thrown his way, regardless of the pass rush.”
Gobert led all NBA players with 306 dunks recorded last season, according to Basketball-Reference. But even when including alley-oops layups, the big man paired with Mitchell for only 28 lob connections during their 2018-19 campaign.
Considering that Gobert attempted 125 alley-oops in 2018-19 (17.6 percent of his total attempts from the field), this is certainly a major offensive focal point for the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
As such, McMahon continued, the two players have specifically worked on their “lob chemistry” in individualized practice sessions to further avoid the blunders like the one seen above during their game against Denver back in January:
“Utah coach Quin Snyder and his staff have attempted to help facilitate that trust, especially between Mitchell and Gobert. That duo have had dozens of two-man workouts under the watch of coaches, with a focus on ironing out intricacies of their pick-and-roll partnership and lob chemistry. They also occasionally join coaches – usually some combination of Snyder, Jensen and Johnnie Bryant, the assistant who works most with Mitchell – for small-group film sessions at the team’s facility.”
Gobert made 16 alley-oops following passes from Mitchell, per NBA.com. This accounted for 4.5 percent of his total field goal count, down from 5.9 percent last season. This would average out to approximately 0.36 connections per 36 minutes when looking at their total time spent (1607 minutes) on the court together, down from 0.48 last season.
For a better understanding of how that compares to other lob threats around the league, we looked at the top combinations on this play type. Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie assisted DeAndre Jordan on 46 alley-oop opportunities this season. This means they averaged 2.76 alley-oops per 36 minutes shared (599 minutes) on the floor.
While these two players are no longer on the same roster, Houston’s James Harden and former teammate Clint Capela were also successful on 46 of their alley-oop possessions. Capela, now on the Atlanta Hawks, was able to catch 1.53 alley-oops per 36 minutes that he played alongside Harden (1,082) in 2019-20.
Other prolific pairings in the NBA this season include Dinwiddie-to-Jarrett Allen (40), Trae Young-to-John Collins (36), LeBron James-to-Anthony Davis (34), Chris Paul-to-Nerlens Noel (33) and Elfrid Payton-to-Mitchell Robinson (33).
The data makes it clear that there is certainly room for more lob connections between the two players. However, considering how rare these opportunities are even for the most prolific duo, perhaps there are other aspects of offense to worry about in Utah.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report.
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