Jazz comes to Motown

Essentials

  • Teams: Utah Jazz (19-19) at Detroit Pistons (14-23)
  • Date: January 12, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After defeating the Milwaukee Bucks last night on the road, the Detroit Pistons will be back home tonight to host a Utah Jazz team that also played last night, but fell at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.

Typically, any discussion about the Jazz these days usually revolves around Al Jefferson and his offensive contributions to the team.

Jefferson has long been known to be an underrated player capable of producing points in bunches from the low block with an effective hook shot and/or push shot that he easily gets off over defenders.

Jefferson’s game has been a little different this season given the sudden regression in his post game.

Indeed, there was a time when Big Al was seemingly just unstoppable with his back to the basket regardless of the player defending him. He was never the quickest player, but he understood how to utilize angles to his benefit especially when he unleashed a drop step on defenders and then reversed course and went to his ever-effective hook shot.

This year though, the former Celtic has been awfully predictable in his execution of post moves, favoring the right hook shot every single time it seems, and he’s had trouble converting these types of shots. Per MySynergySports, the Jazz center is only converting 40.1 percent of his shot attempts in post up situations.

And yet, Utah greatly benefits from his presence on offense because he still does a multitude of other things on the court to get himself into scoring position against opposing defenses. He’s a decent midrange shooter and has proven to be effective on occasion in the pick-and-roll, especially playing alongside Paul Millsap considering that he not only stretches defenses but also puts the ball on the floor — very underrated in this aspect — to get to the rim and finish.

The Jazz offense looks a bit more potent with Jefferson on the court because he allows his teammates to play to their strengths, whether that’s cutting or shooting open jumpers and the numbers reflect this. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that Utah scores 99.4 points per 48 minutes on 45.8 percent field goal shooting with the center on the court as opposed to 94.4 points per 48 minutes on 41.7 percent shooting with the big man on the bench.

Thus, tonight we will get the opportunity to watch Jefferson in action, but it won’t be a picnic in any way shape or form because he will have his hands full with Greg Monroe.

In terms of pedigree, Monroe isn’t yet the equal of Jefferson, but it’s still worth noting that both have played for losing teams throughout their NBA careers. Nonetheless, the Pistons’ starting center is still evolving as a player and although his post game can certainly use a bit of refinement, his passing game is a joy to watch and it opens up the offense for the rest of his teammates in a way that Big Al cannot.

In some respects, one could say that Greg Monroe is this generation’s version of Anthony Mason; a player with point guard skills trapped in a big man’s body, but that knows how to utilize the skills at his disposal. Hence, the Georgetown product has not yet reached the point where he can dominate the game from the low block, but he is quite good in the high post as well as pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops because he can catch the ball and assert himself offensively or just switch things up and be the hub on offense and feed shooters and cutters when defenders rotate to him in the paint.

Greg Monroe and Al Jefferson couldn’t be more different players, but their games are still important enough to their respective teams that their matchup tonight should present a rare opportunity to watch two offensively gifted centers go head-to-head with the outcome of the contest relying heavily on their productivity.

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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Tags: THN-UTA Utah Jazz

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