NBA Daily: Kyle Korver Already Helping Utah

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The Utah Jazz are now well over a quarter into the 2018-19 NBA season, and needless to say, they are struggling. With a record of 11 wins and 13 losses, who would argue to the contrary? Many had them pegged as locks for the three seed – and some even for the two seed. Sure, their schedule has been atrocious. They’ve played at least two more road games than anyone else in the league and have faced only a handful of teams below .500. But that doesn’t provide a legitimate excuse for multiple blowout losses and incredibly streaky play.

Dennis Lindsay and the Jazz front office had gambled on continuity during the offseason deciding to bring back essentially the same team sans Jonas Jerebko. There are still plenty of games to play, and it’s too soon to say that gamble failed, but the Jazz brass realized something needed to be done.

As of last week, the Jazz were 28th in the league in three-point percentage, shooting a dismal 31.9 percent. On shots that the NBA classifies as open – nearest defender being four to six feet away – the Jazz were shooting just 31.1 percent. On wide-open looks – defender being six or more feet away – that number slightly increased to 34.6 percent. The problem here is that the Jazz were generating the second highest amount of wide-open looks in the league, but were in the bottom six at actually making them.

Enter Kyle Korver.

Lindsay’s intentions were clear with bringing in Korver. The Jazz have a shooting problem, and he brought Korver here to correct it.

Through two games, Utah’s three-point percentage has already increased from 31.9 percent to 32.6 percent, and that’s with Korver shooting one of five from three in his second outing. I know that stat seems gimmicky, but a 0.7 percent increase in just two games with an already 20+ game sample definitely shows one thing: shooting is contagious.

The three-point shot is a large part of what helps Utah win games. In fact, last year during their end-of-season tear where they went a league-best 29-6, they were ninth in the league at 36.8 percent from three.

Utah does not lack a strong defensive presence. But their size and length can become a huge hindrance on the other end of the floor. In a league that is ever expanding its bounds to and beyond the three-point line, Utah’s starting lineup (and most of the reserves if you will), mightily struggle to spread the floor on offense, primarily due to their lack of three-point shooting ability.

With their starting lineup this year, the three ball has not been friendly. Rudy Gobert can’t shoot the three. Derrick Favors, Donovan Mitchell, and Ricky Rubio are all shooting well below league average at 30.8, 28.1, and 32.4 percent, respectively. Joe Ingles, a career 41.2 percent three-point shooter (and much higher the last few seasons), has even struggled so far, posting a slightly-above-average clip of 37.9 percent.

Bringing in Kyle Korver was a strong move by Utah’s front office to directly tackle one of their biggest problems right now. Regardless of how well Korver shoots the ball, his sheer presence on the floor will open up so many opportunities offensively for Quin Snyder. He draws such a large amount gravity that teams will be forced to respect his position at just about any location behind the three-point line.

Through two games, Korver is shooting 45.5 percent from three on over five attempts per game. These are numbers that will actually last. Before the trade, he was shooting 46.3 percent for the Cavaliers on over three attempts a game. Add in the fact that he’s a career 43.2 percent shooter from three, and it is easy to see why he’ll make such a huge impact for the Jazz offensively.

While three-point shooting is Korver’s bread and butter, it is important to note that he is impactful at quite a few other areas on the floor as well. Historically, he is one of the best free-throw shooters to ever play the game. His height allows him to guard multiple positions, and while he is 37-years old and less athletic than he used to be, he is a highly-skilled system defender. You can’t necessarily count on him to be a lockdown savant in one-on-one situations, but Korver has an incredibly high basketball IQ – this is why he is still relevant in the league at 37. Within a solid system like Snyder’s, Korver can excel on defense.

The Jazz giving up Alec Burks was not detrimental to what they’ve been doing all season long. While Burks was having one of the better seasons he’s had in a Jazz uniform since his series of injuries a few years ago, he just didn’t quite fit the system. His inconsistent play – coupled with his inconsistent playing time – wasn’t moving the needed in the right direction for Utah.

Kyle Korver has fallen into place – almost seamlessly – into what the Jazz are doing. His ability to provide instant offense via the three-point line adds a severely needed boost to their otherwise lacking – and often singular – offensive attack. Whether he turns into an integral part of the closing lineup is unclear, but if anything has been shown in his first two games with the Jazz, it’s that he’s instantly earned solid rotation minutes and will certainly instill more confidence in the team from beyond-the-arc.

Korver has made many stops during his lengthy career, but one of the most memorable pre-All-Star locations was his two-and-a-half years with the Jazz. In the 2009-10 season, he scorched hoops throughout the league at a 53.6 percent mark. That percentage is still the NBA record as of today.

The last time the Jazz traded for Korver mid-season – back in 2007 – they were 16-16. They went on to win their next 19 of 22 games and finished the season 54-28. Could this trade rekindle that same magic? There’s certainly a possibility. Korver is considerably older, and that doesn’t help. But he also has heaps of experience, including deep runs in the playoffs and even a four-game stint in the NBA finals.

The Korver experiment still needs time to ride its wave in Utah. But as the season progresses, his impact from behind the three-point line will certainly be instrumental in helping the Jazz reach the playoffs.

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