FanPost

Examining the PG Situation

  3973822280_7de93aaa09_z_medium

                       via flickr user: Clint Gardner

 

Jazz Point Guard Depth Chart

  

April 2010

Deron Williams

Ronnie Price

Sundiata Gaines

October  2010

Deron Williams

Earl Watson

Ronnie Price

April 2011

Devin Harris

Earl Watson

Ronnie Price

Currently Under Contract

Devin Harris

 

 

For the one of the few times in the last 30 years, the team enters the season uncertain of what to expect from the point guard position. The team has one point guard under contract, and it’s not clear what to expect from him, given that he plays in a style not obviously conducive to the flex offense. Heading into the lockout and a possible continuation of the team’s midseason overhaul, let’s take a look at what the Jazz have cooking at the point.

Ronnie Price

Ronnie plays fast and hard and barely under control. Sometimes this causes nightmares for opposing teams, especially when that team is the Lakers. Sometimes this causes nightmares for the Jazz coaching staff, especially when Ronnie is not able to get the team into its desired sets. The principal things he contributes to a game are speed, intensity, and a scorer’s mentality. The speed and intensity are chiefly employed on the defensive end, where he can hound opposing point guards the whole length of the floor.

Though I’ve never actually watched the Jazz practice, my guess is that the biggest way he helps the team is by practicing incredibly hard. While there is definite value in setting an infectious tone of hard work, he’s been the team’s third string point guard for four seasons running. Over the course of the season, he sometimes fights his way up to the backup spot… but during the off-season he always gets demoted in favor of someone who more traditionally fills the job description of an NBA point guard. Price is a serviceable player in short minutes, but it doesn’t look like he will grow into anything more than that At a certain point, the team might be better served devoting that roster spot to a younger player with more potential. Also, dropping to a rookie minimum contract probably wouldn’t upset the front office.

Having Ronnie Price on your roster is like still hanging out with your high school buddies fifteen years later. Yeah, it beats drinking alone… but it’s also time to grow up and start making new friends; it’s safe and vaguely comfortable, but you would be better served to break out of your rut and take a chance on some new faces.

 

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                       via flickr user: dabruins07

Earl Watson

Earl was an unheralded off-season acquisition who wound up providing stability and veteran knowhow during a tumultuous season. He played pesky man-to-man defense and caught an absurd number of teams sleeping on the lob pass to Jeremy Evans. By January, he had a strong grasp of the offense and was playing effectively within the system. However, because he is in his thirties and most of his teammates are in their twenties, some fans would rather usher him out in order to speed up a franchise youth movement.

Personally, I think teams benefit from having a diversity of players not only in game skills but also in experience, background, and mentality. Even a developing team needs some 3, 6, and 9 year vets to provide different perspectives. I realize that Raja Bell was signed to be the veteran leader of the team, but going forward I think Watson is better positioned to play that role. For one thing, he still is a productive player- unlike Bell whose attempts at leadership will continue to be undermined by his lack of production when the lights go on. Moreover, Earl plays point guard and thereby serves as the coach on the floor and a person that teammates need to pay attention to and respect.

He’s an above-average player, a good teammate, and a willing backup. Since I don’t expect his game to suddenly fall off a cliff as he ages, I hope that the Jazz re-sign him for another 2-3 years. Besides the Miami Heat, every contender has at least 2 or 3 steady and competent backups who are also able to play long minutes should a starter go down. Earl Watson is just such a player, and it would be a pity if another team snatches him away either because the Jazz nickel and dime him on a contract offer or because they mistakenly presume his contribution will be easily replaced.

 

Devin Harris

If you can overlook the Carlos Arroyo / Milt Palacio days, you could say that the Jazz have a storied history of quality point guards. (Of course, if you can ignore the Titanic, Harland and Wolff has a storied shipbuilding history.) The mantle passed from Rickey Green to John Stockton to Deron Williams and now to Devin Harris. Green, Stockton, and Williams all made All-Star teams while wearing Jazz colors. (Green, purple, and blue, respectively.) Harris has not been on the Jazz during an All-Star weekend yet, but is unlikely to return to All-Star form given the influx of young point guard talent the league has seen of late. Whether he was in All-Star form the year he was named to the team is a matter for another time.

Devin is good at pushing the ball and at finding lanes to get to the rim. Collapsing the defense and kicking the ball out for an open look is a time-honored approach to playing basketball, even if it’s not a principal objective of the flex offense. Going forward, the Jazz need to figure out not only what he’s capable of doing for the team, but whether he is a player they would prefer build around or prefer to move to another team.

This is especially true on the defensive end, which has not been an area where previous coaches have asked Devin to focus his energy. He would seem to have the foot speed necessary to stay in front of opposing point guards, and yet cutting off penetration has never been one of his strong points. His rotations and team defense have been adequate, though lacking in the sort of tenacity that makes basketball purists giddy.

While he may not meet all the lofty expectations of Utah Jazz fans, Devin is an above average point guard and still in his prime at the ripe old age of 28. Just as a Spurs team built around Tim Duncan was able to ride a speedy, slashing Tony Parker at PG to multiple titles, so too might a Jazz team built around Derrick Favors in the middle be able to ride Devin Harris at PG to the promised land. (Likewise the Dwight Howard Magic with Jameer Nelson and Rafer Alston at PG nearly toppled the Lakers, and Harris’ own Mavericks might have won the 2006 Finals had they not been whistled repeatedly for breathing on Dwyane Wade.)

 

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                       via flickr user: NBANets

Next year, Ty Corbin will have an opportunity to re-fashion the Jazz’s schemes in order to match his own particular vision for the team. It will be interesting to see what he wants from his point guard, since that position has long been the anchor of the franchise. We’ll have a clearer picture then of what the team has in Harris and what needs from the point guards in order to thrive. I’m hopeful that the Jazz can get five strong years out of Harris the way that we did out of Deron Williams.

The margins in this sport are incredibly thin. While only a little bit of ability separates good enough, good, and very good, these little differences can have very outsized results. Last year’s point guards were "good". Is that good enough? Can that same corps reach "very good" status?

The Utah Jazz team faces a lot of uncertainty about who will contribute in the coming years (and at which positions). At all the other positions on the floor, the team’s present arrangement is probably unsustainable; at the point, by contrast, the Jazz at least have the option of going with what they already have. Now front office just needs to decide if what they have is what they want.

I wish we still had Deron Williams to pencil in at the point, but as the great 20th century philosopher Stephen Stills once said, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

 

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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