NBA Free Agency 2013: Utah Jazz Point Guard Earl Watson: a three year review

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Free Agency is upon us. Well, it will be in a few hours. And we have a lot of free agents on the team:

The Jazz also have non-guaranteed contracts with Kevin Murphy and Jerel McNeal to sort out, and we have yet to sign all the players we have draft rights for (Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto, Ante Tomic, Shan Foster, and Peter Fehse). All that said the team has some money to spend if they want; however, conventional wisdom states that they'll be going lean and hungry this year. Or something to that effect. Here's the great table by Peter again just so you see what we're working with:

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So all of our unrestricted free agents have put in their time here and deserve their own posts. So we start with Earl Watson.

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Who is Earl Watson?

Earl Watson is a veteran point guard who is recovering from a variety of injuries that have slowed him down. He has played nearly 20,000 minutes in the NBA's regular season alone, and is our most senior player in experience with 12 NBA seasons under his belt. He's not a dynamic player, but he brings toughness. He's older, but still has a 6'6.75" wingspan and doesn't back down. He used to be a bulldog on defense.

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What has he done for the Jazz?

Earl was that missing piece for us in a capable floor general back up point guard to help spell Deron Williams. He did a better job than anyone else we brought in from Brevin Knight, Jason Hart, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Price, Eric Maynor, and so on. Earl was a pass first guard on offense who helped us get easy buckets with our bench, and developed a great on-court chemistry and timing with Jeremy Evans. Watson is not a threat to score, but he's always looking to help his guys score. He's a great wingman in the clubs too, I hear. He has played for the Utah Jazz the last three seasons.

Defensively he brought tenacity and toughness and that was an attitude change we needed as well. He isn't afraid of getting a technical foul in order to set the tone.

More than anything he has been a superb mentor of our younger players, and has worked with all of them. He has helped make Derrick Favors more assertive. He has worked with Alec Burks on the point. He has helped Enes Kanter control his emotions. And he has helped Gordon Hayward the most by feeding his BFF Evans in garbage time.

He did not hit any game winners or flagrantly foul Kobe Bryant or anything. But he's still a good guy.

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What was his last contract like?

Earl made $2.0 million per year over his last two years with the Jazz. It's a paycut from his $5 million - $6 million dollar a year days with the Denver Nuggets and Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder. I think that he has earned the right to be upset if he goes below $2.0 million for at least the next two more seasons, he's played in 854 regular season games in his career, and is at 19,333 career minutes. He has paid his dues. I don't know if he would take a $1 million and change deal like Jamaal did, Jamaal was out of the league for a bit and clawed his way back. Earl has never missed a season since 2001-2002.

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What do the stats say?

The stats are not kind to Earl, however, we hope a lot of this is due to injuries.

His three year averages with the Jazz (regular season only) have him playing in 178 games for us, and playing 19.3 mpg in that span. He averaged 3.3 ppg (37.0 fg%, 27.3 3pt%, 67.3 ft%), 3.8 apg, 2.1 rpg, and 0.9 spg. He did not have a great assist to turn over ratio, but it was okay for non-point guards at 2.53 : 1. Statistically he did not produce much on the boxscore, but his main talents were his effort on defense.

Last year his averages all plummeted, he suited up and got in for 48 games, at 17.3 mpg. His averages were 2.0 ppg (30.8 / 17.9 / 68.0 ), 4.0 apg, 1.6 rpg, and 0.8 spg. His A:TO ratio went up to 2.75 though, which is still lower than the 3:1 you want from a veteran point guard in the NBA.

Earl's shooting is a huge problem, he did not go to the Jason Kidd school where you get better with age at this. There are no stats of heart though, and Earl's main benefit on the court comes from his leadership, toughness, and ability to help develop the younger guys. Those aren't stats though.

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Benefit to the team going forward?

Earls' benefit with the team going forward is as a player mentor. He's not going to help our team as a player, per se. He has a lot of experience and if we finally have the point guard of the future in Trey Burke then it would be a shame to get rid of all that experience without keeping him around to impart that information. That said, that wise old man spot is one Earl directly competes against Jamaal Tinsley with. If you can only pick one, do you want Earl mentoring Trey, or do you want Jamaal mentoring Trey? Or do you want Mo mentoring Trey?

Trey should be playing at least 28 mpg next year. That leaves 20 minutes still. Is Earl going to be one of those guys on the floor, or should he just be on the bench instructing guys in time outs?

It appears as thought we want him to be a player mentor coach, while at the age of 34 with modern technology, he may still want to play a few more seasons.

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Bottom line:

I think we all love Earl Watson the human being. He is our most tenured player on last year's roster as a 12 year vet. All of the younger guys look up to him, and he does parent them / primary care giver them during the season. We don't know how much he has in the tank as a 34 year old with a billion minutes on his legs. He was hurt last season to start, and he never got healthy. If he is going to be healthy NEXT year then we would really have to evaluate what he can do.

He fails at one big thing most NBA point guards need to be able to do, and that's hit three pointers. Over his three year career with the Jazz we shot 27.3 3pt%, and last year that fell to 17.9 3pt%. He's not the defensive bulldog that he once way either, though part of that is injured related. He's a pass first point guard to heart who gets the rest of the guys easy buckets; but just not in pick and roll situations where both defenders go with the screener and dare Earl to shoot.

We cannot predict that he will have a huge bounce back season next year. If his true value is in the locker room doling out sage advice then signing him to be a development coach. Or sign him to be a player mentor, on a very cheap contract. Earl would still want to play though, and that is his prerogative. I don't think what we saw him become over the last three injured plagued years translates into a rotation player in 2013-2014.

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