SALT LAKE CITY — Last Saturday, Utah Jazz rookie point guard Nigel Williams-Goss received an inbound pass, took one dribble and then passed the ball to Jeff Green, allowing the 6-foot-9 forward to take the ball up the court and initiate the Jazz set.
Don’t take that as a case of a rookie deferring to a veteran. Take it as an example of how the Jazz want to play — or at least one of the ways they want to play.
With more than two weeks remaining until the regular season begins, it’s natural to theorize on how the Jazz’s rotation will look. Who will back up Mike Conley? Who will start at power forward? At small forward? Where will the likes of Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Green and Dante Exum play the majority of their minutes?
It’s a fun way to pass the time as the season draws nearer, but it’s mostly a guessing game without an answer. That's because, if you ask the Jazz, none of those labels matter anyway.
“I think, in some respects, just the randomness of how you play puts pressure on the defense,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
We have heard about Snyder’s advantage basketball system before. Will 2019-20 usher in the random basketball system?
In reality, the principles that Snyder has put in over his first five years with the team will still be there. The Jazz will run an offense with a lot of movement and actions and the ball swinging from side to side. So where does the randomness come from?
“The way we are rotating through things right now, it’s kind of like positionless basketball,” forward Georges Niang said.
No one is going expect Rudy Gobert to be bringing the ball up the court, but just about everyone else can initiate the offense, take guys off the dribble, create for others, etc. The offensive attack can come from anywhere. That makes things pretty hard to guard.
Green might just be at his best in transition pushing the ball; Bogdanovic has the freedom to go off the dribble and create; Royce O’Neale’s ballhandling continues to improve and Ingles is lethal in the pick and roll. Those four will be getting the majority of the minutes at the four — not that they care what you call the position.
They can act like big men or they can act like point guards — and sometimes both things in the same possession. That's the beauty of having versatile players.
“I don’t believe we are all fours — we are all players,” Green said. “Guys that can play multiple positions, guys who can do a lot of things on the floor: create, handle the ball, shoot it."
And guys that should make the Jazz’s offense downright lethal.
It won’t be the first time the Jazz have run out a variation of a smaller lineup. Over the last two seasons, Jae Crowder played the role as a small-ball four. When the Jazz ran out Crowder along with the regular four starters, the Jazz outscored opponents by 14.2 points over 100 possessions, according to cleaningtheglass.com. The defense suffered without usual starter Derrick Favors on the floor, but the Utah offense performed at an elite level.
With that as a backdrop, and considering the offensive upgrades the Jazz made this offseason (Conley, Bogdanovic, even Green), the Jazz should be among the league's best offensive teams.
“It’s fun,” said Green, who shot 35% from 3-point range last season while prominently playing as a stretch big. "You have guys that can score at any given moment. We are all unselfish, and when you play for each other it makes the game fun. Everybody is going to touch the ball, everybody is going to share the ball, and we are happy for each other. That’s the biggest thing.”