Matt Gade, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES — It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Utah Jazz are struggling offensively this preseason.
For one thing, Gordon Hayward is the only player on a 19-deep team in the beginning stages of a massive rebuild who averaged double-figure scoring in the NBA last season.
While the fourth-year pro returns with his diverse offensive arsenal, the Jazz lost four of their top five scorers when Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Randy Foye and Mo Williams took their combined 56.1 points per game to various different locales this past summer.
That drastic shift of scoring responsibility, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin admitted, “changes the dynamics of the team.”
And that’s not the only problem.
Throw in the fact that starting point guard Trey Burke is out after having finger surgery.
Don’t forget that likely rotation players Marvin Williams (Achilles) and Brandon Rush (knee) remain sidelined indefinitely.
And keep in mind how Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans have never been counted on for consistent scoring in their pro careers before now.
This all adds up to the Jazz having plenty of built-in excuses to justify an offense that has been less than prolific or potent so far this offseason.
“That’s what exhibition is all about. That’s what a team is all about,” Corbin said the day after the Jazz scored only 82 points in a loss at Oklahoma City.
“When we may not have it individually going, we have to count on our system and the group of guys being in the right place, seeing the right screens, coming off hard, making the right passes and doing it together more than one or two guys.”
Going into tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah has averaged just 87.0 points in five preseason contests.
“That’s the tough thing and the fun thing about figuring out with the group of guys that we have,” Corbin said. “When we’re struggling, where do we get that basket that breaks the ice for us and gets us going? Right now, we’re trying to figure it out.”
If the rest of the team only shot as well as Andris Biedrins, the Jazz would be 5-0. The new big-man addition has made 75 percent of his shots so far.
And the team?
Try a lowly 39.6 percent from the field.
“We have a lot of guys who are kind of being put in positions that they haven’t been in yet, asked to do things that they didn’t necessarily have to do last year,” Hayward said. “I think that’s our only issue right now. I think we’re going to find ways to score and we’ll be fine scoring. We’re just learning how we’re going to score right now.”
As many expected, Hayward, who’s negotiating a long-term contract extension with the Jazz, is leading the team in scoring. Problem is, the 6-foot-8 small forward is scoring 15.0 points per game on just 36.9 percent shooting. Last season, Hayward averaged 14.1 ppg while hitting 43.5 percent from the field.
Hayward, who’s being asked to help facilitate while creating his own shots, has hit 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I don’t think we’re worried about it too much,” Hayward said. “I think that’s what the preseason is for — to iron all of these things out and kind of find your role a little bit. I think we’re trying to do that. I think that will come.”
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