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NBA Free Agency 2012: A quick peek at Point Guards

Will one of these guys be having awkward interviews with KFAN in a few weeks?
Will one of these guys be having awkward interviews with KFAN in a few weeks?

Let me start of by saying that, honestly, the Utah Jazz are just not in the market for a point guard. Sure, Devin Harris isn't John Stockton or Deron Williams -- but he's still a very good point guard when he's allowed to play his game. And yes, some of the guys our front office seems to have anchored themselves to require a non-Devin Harris PG to start, but that doesn't mean we need to look for another PG to take his place. In fact, the more and more quantitative evidence I look at the more and more I start to see how the Devin Harris of 2010-11 and 2011-12 was a Devin Harris trying TOO hard to set other guys up at the expense of his own game. Still, because we gotta do every spot on the floor we're going to talk about free agent point guards.

There are two 'streams' for free agents -- the first is an upgrade to who you have already, the second is just to add depth. As a result, we'll be looking at two streams of PGs in this quick peek. Five PGs who we could look to add for depth, and five 'potential' starters (including Devin himself).

On the Books for 2012-2013:

Currently the Utah Jazz are full at PG. Devin Harris is on the books (1 yr left, $8.5 million). Earl Watson is on the books (1 yr left, $2.0 million). And all indications suggest that Jamaal Tinsley's option will be picked up by the Utah Jazz (1 yr left, $1.4 million). That's one capable, legit NBA starter at the spot, and two veteran back ups who can both give you a mostly mistake free 12-22 mpg on any given night. While he's not on the books, there is also the case of Unrestricted Free Agent Blake Ahearn to consider -- dude would come dirt cheap. The Jazz are 'full' at PG. That doesn't mean we're full of GREAT PGs though. Of the three guys on the books, none of them are dangerous enough from deep, and all have flaws to their games. That leaves the door open for an upgrade.


Upgrading The starter:

First of all, again, Devin Harris doesn't need to be upgraded. Secondly, if you do go out to sign a free agent, and spent the money needed for this upgrade, you HAVE to move Devin Harris. This is the hard part, it's not like you're just signing a free agent to fill in an empty spot. PG is full, and if you want to play that PG you're going to have to move parts. You will have to move Devin. That's not going to be particularly easy though -- and it seems like something our team would not do. Still . . . if you wanted to read about a potential upgrade here goes nothing . . .

According to the comprehensive list at there are eight point three hojillion free agent point guards this year. I narrowed the list of "upgrade worthy" PGs to four that I liked, for various reasons. Here they are (in my order of attractiveness as a FA):

2011-12 Career Stats
Player Current Team Age Salary Conditions MPG PPG APG USG% AST% TOV% 3pt%
1 Steve Nash Phoenix Suns 38 $11.7 Ancient . 31.4 14.5 8.6 21.2% 41.9% 19.5% 42.8%
2 Goran Dragic Houston Rockets 26 $2.1 Expensive . 19.0 8.0 3.3 21.4% 26.8% 19.2% 36.4%
3 Kirk Hinrich Atlanta Hawks 31 $8.1 An Upgrade? . 33.0 12.5 5.4 19.1% 27.0% 14.5% 37.8%
4 Chauncey Billups Los Angeles Clippers 35 $2.0 Uninterested . 32.2 15.5 5.5 22.0% 28.4% 13.5% 38.9%
x Devin Harris Utah Jazz 29 $9.3 Incumbent . 28.1 13.1 5.0 23.1% 30.4% 15.7% 31.5%

Why Nash? Why Chauncey? Well, when you have the theoretical possibility to sign an MVP or Finals MVP to your team you don't think twice. They are vets. They get the calls. They have tons of experience. And they both have clutch ability and just KILL IT from three. They wont come cheap. I expect Nash would take a discount to go to a contender -- which we aren't. Billups is interesting TO ME, however, I seriously doubt that he's interested in the Jazz, and vice versa. Still, when there are MVPs on the market you HAVE to still take a look. I honestly think that their interest in our team is so low that we'd have to pay a lot to lure them here. This realistically leaves Kirk and Goran.

Dragic is going to look so good to some dumb GMs that he's offered AT LEAST $10 million a year. He averaged 16 and 7 last in per 36 minutes. He's super young. He's pass first. And he can hit the three. And he spent his formative years in the league playing behind Steve Nash. If the key to NBA success is some veteran/rookie apprenticeship then that only makes him that much more valuable. Dragic will be much sought after.

Hinrich, on the other hand, is pretty much a known commodity. He started over 2/3rds of the season in Atlanta and may not want to give up on playing for a mediocre East team to go play for the Atlanta of the West in the Jazz. Also, he's not going to be cheap either. He is absolutely a dead-eye three point shooter though, which makes him interesting to me for sure. However, I don't know if I could truly call him an "upgrade" over Devin -- especially since I don't know if he's going to be willing to take a salary that's as 'low' as Devin's is.

If you can't get Nash or Dragic there may be little actual 'reward' to this upgrade. Also, Devin is still a damn fine PG. He needs to play his game more, push the tempo, and take his shots. He has sacrificed a lot of his own good for the good of the slower guys. When paired up with more athletic guys we've seen him excel. Going for the upgrade also means you automatically have to find a buyer for Devin, as there's no way he's a second string guy at this stage of his career.


Going for Depth:

Like the Devin problem, it seems like we already have a depth problem as well; unless, of course, you get rid of one of Earl or Jamaal. I guess, in theory, the Jazz could still NOT exercise their team option to keep Jamaal -- but I really do not see them doing that. After all, he played hard during the playoffs and is super-duper cheap. That, of course, doesn't mean that it would be foolish to look at other PGs though. In the case of Devin it was very hard to find a legit 'upgrade' who would play here. Instead, I think it's way easier to find an 'upgrade' for the bench when you look at raw talent. No, don't get me wrong here -- I love Earl and Jamaal. Earl, despite causing a fuss which was unprofessional, is a pass first, tough defender. And Jamaal, despite being horrible at scoring, is also a pass first facilitator. Both are veterans. Both are not irreplaceable though.

2011-12 Career Stats
Player Current Team Age Salary Conditions MPG PPG APG USG% AST% TOV% 3pt%
1 Patty Mills San Antonio Spurs 22 $0.9 Untested . 12.0 6.0 1.7 26.0% 24.8% 15.2% 37.8%
2 George Hill Indiana Pacers 26 $2.1 RFA (QO $3.1m) . 24.8 9.8 2.5 18.5% 15.7% 11.7% 37.6%
3 Jamaal Tinsley Utah Jazz 34 $1.2 Limited . 22.7 9.3 6.4 20.6% 38.2% 21.3% 30.2%
4 Mo Williams Los Angeles Clippers 29 $8.5 Overpaid . 30.4 13.8 4.9 22.8% 27.1% 15.1% 38.7%
5 Jerryd Bayless Toronto Raptors 23 $3.0 RFA (QO $4.2m) . 18.2 8.1 2.8 23.2% 24.9% 15.9% 35.0%

The more I look at it the more it becomes clear to me that Patty Mills is the ultimate 'Money Ball' PG of this FA class. He is super young, but unlike the rest of the guys on this "bench depth" list, he is the only guy who figures to have enough upside to one day be a starter in this league. His career numbers are horrible because he's had zero chances to play in this league though. He has also bounced around. None of this makes it seem like he's going to one day be a future All-Star. I don't think he'll ever get there. However, I do think that he has the tools to move up from being an end of the bench guy to being a true rotation guy. His defense isn't bad, and he's more than capable of driving, dishing, and hitting threes. We saw this first hand as he made plays against us in the playoffs. Next on the list would be former Spurs guard George Hill. He's fast, and can hit the three -- but he's not really a PG. He's more of a short shooting guard. But if one of my goals was to try to improve the outside shooting of our back court, I would HAVE TO look at Hill. Hill and Mills both went through that Spurs system, and played behind Tony Parker. They understand how to play in a system and were good enough for those teams.

Jamaal comes in 3rd in my rankings, but he's the most likely one to actually be on the team. We already know all about him, only Nash had a higher career AST% out of all the PGs in this post. He is, though, the worst three point shooter of the group. It would be nice to upgrade that problem spot for us, maybe even at the expense of veteran leadership and play making?

Former Jazz draft pick Mo Williams comes in next. He's going to be over paid, and maybe he'll feel like he deserves to start. He could be a problem guy, but years of watching him play for the Bucks have clouded my judgement. (Yes, I used to watch a lot of Bucks games) I guess he can play both guard spots when you go quick, and he is a legit deep threat. We could use that. I just don't know if we can a) afford him, and b) deal with his antics during the season.

Last we have Bayless. He's a RFA, just like Hill. So that's an automatic knock on him. Bayless is super talented, but I don't know if he's been taught the game yet. This is a problem as it's not like we do much teaching over here. He remains #5 on my "filling out the depth" list though mainly because of his potential and All-Around game. I'm just not too keen on having to pay him a starting salary of $4.2 million for a 3rd stringer. A second stringer, no problem. But is he one? I don't know just yet.


What I think the Jazz will do:

Pick up Jamaal's Team Option. Do nothing else, especially not get better at threes.