Kevin O’Conner is doing a way better job than we can possibly give him credit for. At different times this off-season we were nearly suicidal with how things were going for our Jazz. While other teams were having the media focused upon them, O’Conner made some pretty keen moves. He took gambles on guys who had injury abbreviated contract years by signing Raja Bell and Francisco Elson. He waited out for the market price for our free agents to be established before making moves accordingly. He even found ways to turn an unrestricted free agent’s signing with another team into a trade, which was then spun with some draft picks for a starter. More than anything else, though, Kevin O’Conner found a way to bolster our ranks with systematic redundancy. We’re seeing the results of this first hand as fans, even if we forgot about it.
Quickly, the Utah Jazz floundered in the playoffs for a number of presidential terms despite having a really awesome Point Guard and a really awesome Power Forward. Among the moves that brought the Jazz to the top of the conference were moves to bring in a solid but unspectacular point guard (Howard Eisley), and a solid but unspectacular back up bigman (Antoine Carr). Essentially, systematic redundancy.
This is doubling up on your strengths to add versatility to the potential line ups and rotations the head coach can put on the floor. Adding depth at strengths appear to be force multipliers in the NBA, as opposed to adding shallow depth spread out with no support.
Looking through the Jazz rosters over the last 25 seasons the most significant upswing in playoff success in a given season appears to be predicated upon systematic redundancy. We don’t have to look too far back to see this with this core. The Jazz won 9 playoff games in a season where our roster had Deron Williams and Derek Fisher at point, and Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, and Andrei Kirilenko at power.
Unlike a number of teams that thinks isolation plays = offense, the point guard is the most important position in our offense. It doesn’t matter which era, we’ve had more success in the seasons with Stockton/Eisley, Williams/Fisher, and now Williams/Watson than in other seasons where it was Stockton/Jim Les.
Earl Watson has been getting it done for us this season. He’s not a stats monster, and he doesn’t play monster minutes. But he’s head of the monster we call the swarm. He could have taken a job somewhere else where he would have gotten a lot of burn, but Kevin O’Conner was able to get him to sign with the Jazz. He’s the latest in a long line of guards to come in to try to keep things together when Deron rests.
Brevin Knight was supposed to be awesome. He was a scrappy defender with an amazing assist to turn over ratio who would be a steadying veteran presence for the Jazz bench. Instead we got all the worst qualities, a guard who couldn’t shoot, who did turn the ball over, and despite playing against us for eternity, never really got us into our sets when he was in the game. I really drank the Brevin Knight Kool-aid and was burned for it.
Jason Hart, well, he was so bad that a shooting guard twice replaced him on the point guard depth chart – first in Sacramento, and secondly in Utah. That guy was Ronnie Price. I love this guy, but I know in my heart’s heart that he’s not a point guard. He’s a ‘natural born scorer’ (as Boozer once called him) who is best in small doses. Having Earl on the roster means that we don’t need to force a round peg into a square hole anymore. This has allowed Ronnie to do what he does best – go nuts and cause havoc. Actually, I’m not going to go over all the point guard miscarriages we’ve had in previous seasons. I’m going to get back to the point that Earl Watson is doing everything we wanted from previous free agent signings.
What is that? Basically: don’t mess things up when the starters are out.
While he’s not super comfortable / confident just yet (who else remember Howard Eisley rebounding the ball and going up the court and knocking down buzzer beating threes, instead of taking a time out to get Stockton on the floor? I remember that), he’s growing into his position. Jerry Sloan is, like any good farmer, recognizing this and planting more Earl Watson seeds / playing time to cultivate later down at harvest time.
We’ve seen this a few times this season where Earl remains in the game while the swarm goes back to the bench, and Deron plays the 2. This allows our most dangerous scorer to focus almost completely upon running through screens and knocking down jumpers. It’s working. It would not be possible if our back up PGs were horrible.
I am getting late for work, and I don’t have a real conclusion to this article, so thank you Kevin O’Conner, for understanding the need for systematic redundancy. And thank you Earl Watson for signing with the Jazz.
I can’t wait to see the comments from this post . . .