NBA Picks: Utah's Defense Gives Jazz the Edge vs. Grizzlies

Jason Lake

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 12:50 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2015 12:50 PM UTC

The Utah Jazz are 4-1 SU and ATS since trading Enes Kanter. Can they beat the basketball odds again this Tuesday versus a Memphis Grizzlies team that’s dropped the cash in three straight games?

Jason’s record as of Mar. 2: 40-37-4 ATS, 3-6 Totals

Well, we did say the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t that much of a “live dog” in Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz. But they came very close to giving us a clean sweep of our NBA Picks before missing some key shots at the end of an 82-75 loss, allowing the Jazz to cash in as 3.5-point home faves. Let’s switch our attention now to the victors: Utah is on a serious roll at 4-1 SU and ATS since sending Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline.

This is the kind of roll that just might stick to your ribs for the rest of the season. We don’t want to go too far and say that dumping Kanter was a case of addition by subtraction, but his departure does make the Jazz a better basketball pick. And this Tuesday night (8:00 p.m. ET), Utah can extend its run against the hometown Memphis Grizzlies, who have honked three games in a row ATS and five of their last seven.


The Gobert Report
If you were to go strictly by the advanced Box Plus/Minus numbers at Basketball Reference, you could say that the Jazz are indeed better off without Kanter (17.6 PER). He was a minus-4.3 in Utah this year, mostly because of his lack of defense (minus-3.0 DBPM). But we can’t ignore Kanter’s 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Those things don’t grow on trees.

The thing is, the Jazz don’t have to start four men instead of five now that Kanter is gone. His spot at center has been taken by Rudy Gobert (21.8 PER), who was putting in nearly 20 impressive minutes a game off the bench. It was just a matter of time before Gobert got the starting gig, and there’s no question about his defensive prowess; as we go to press, “The Stifle Tower” leads all NBA players with a plus-5.2 DPBM, and a block rate of 8.2 percent. Gobert’s plus-6.2 BPM is also tops among all regular Jazz players.

Check Out Our Early Look at the Top Contenders for the 2015 NBA Draft

That’s J-E, Double-R, Ha-Ha, E-Double-T
Gobert is certainly an improvement over Kanter, but that trade still leaves a hole to fill in the Jazz lineup. Not just one hole, either; Utah also sent Steve Novak (14.5 PER) and his 48.5-percent shooting from downtown to Oklahoma City. In return, the Jazz got some draft picks, plus Grant Jerrett, Kendrick Perkins and Tibor Pleiss. Perkins was waived, Pleiss is with FC Barcelona, and Jerrett is a raw rookie with a minus-9.9 PER in 28 minutes of NBA action.

That means more minutes for the only other “big man” on the Jazz bench, 6-foot-7 power forward Trevor Booker (14.9 PER). He’s having a pretty good year, but Booker was already playing about 18 minutes a game before the trade. His workload can only go up so far. This would be a problem if Utah were contending for a playoff spot this season, but for now, the Jazz (23-35 SU, 32-25-1 ATS) can kick that can down the road another year.


The Deep
The Grizzlies (42-16 SU, 28-28-2 ATS) have all the depth you could ask for in a playoff-bound team. They also have a frontcourt that can compete with Utah’s, starting with Marc Gasol (22.2 PER) and Zach Randolph (20.0 PER), with ample support from Kosta Koufos (14.1 PER, plus-2.4 DBPM). In theory, Memphis should be able to capitalize on its bench strength and exploit the thinner Jazz for the cover.

In theory. In practice, the Grizzlies shot just 44.0 percent from the field in February, and 28.7 percent from long range, while dishing out 20.3 assists per game – all team lows for the season. That’s bad news against an undervalued Jazz team that’s even better defensively now that “The French Rejection” is starting at center. We’ll take Utah and those delicious 7.5 points on the NBA Odds board.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Jazz at 5Dimes

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