Inspired by baseball manager Billy Beane, many NBA GMs are attempting to apply "moneyball" principles to building an NBA team. Pat Riley pioneered the idea of "reclaiming" washed out NBA players, most notably Ike Austin, and most recently Greg Oden. Other teams such as the Nets, Rockets, Lakers and Thunder have recently attempted "reclamation" of players with varying success, such as Gerald Green, Andray Blatche, Jonny Flynn, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Robinson, Jordan Hill, Kendall Marshall, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Hasheem Thabeet. Even the Jazz have gotten into the act in recent years with players like Raja Bell, Josh Howard, DeMarre Carroll, Jamal Tinsley, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins, with limited success.
With their new coach, coaching staff and system, and a heightened focus on the development of young players, I think the Jazz are uniquely positioned to have some success with "reclamation projects." (Quin Snyder has been credited with helping even older, established players markedly improve their skills and abilities.) However, rather than following the Jazz's past model of attempting to reclaim once-successful, but over-the-hill players, or players who have questionable NBA talent, I think the Jazz should focus on younger players with very unique talents, athletcism, size or abilities, but who have some flaws that have kept them from having success in the NBA.
Some players available to the Jazz who meet this criteria are:
1) Jeremy Evans (age 26)--a current member of the Jazz, but who has been neglected in his development--who can jump out of the gym, but is probably too slight of build to ever be a successful PF. If Evans could further develop his shooting, ball-handling and perimeter-defense skills, he could potentially become a very unique SF, because of his athleticism, height, length and post-up abilities. Why not send Evans down to their new D-League affiliate (which a team can now do with a veteran player, with his permission) for an extended period of time, and have him play every minute of every game at SF--with an opportunity to hone his SF skills. Then bring him back up to the Jazz and let him perfect those SF skills against backup players. At least that way, the Jazz will learn if he can ever become a good SF, rather than just wonder if that might be the case--while he sits on the end of the bench.
2) Terrence Williams (age 27, #11 pick in the 2009 draft), who was a triple-double machine his last year of college, who has good size, athleticism and skill level (in all aspects) as a SG, and who as a rookie in 2009-2010 showed great promise, but because of apparent maturity issues, has never made it in the NBA. There are very few good options for the Jazz at backup shooting guard, and it may be worth taking a chance on Williams--with Quin Snyder there to monitor his attitude. The Jazz could sign him to a veteran minimum, non-guaranteed contract, or partially guaranteed contract, so that if his maturity issues become a problem, they can just waive him without much of a consequence for the Jazz.
3) Kyrylo Fesenko (age 27), former Jazz man, who has humongous size, has great athleticism, has good mobility and some very good skills, but has had conditioning issues, free throw shooting issues, and maturity issues. With a new shooting coach on staff, with the Jazz relationship with the P3 Peak Performance facility, and with Fesenko showing increased maturity--by coming to the States and going to the D-League in an attempt to get back into the NBA, rather than just staying in Europe, and by getting married--it may be a good time to take another chance on Fesenko. Again, the Jazz could sign him to an unguaranteed or partially guaranteed veteran minimum contract, and if his maturity issues become a problem, they could just waive him without much of a consequence for the Jazz.
4) Ekpe Udoh (age 27, #6 pick in the 2010 draft), who has good size and athleticism, is a good defensive player, and has not shown any bad character issues, but has not developed his offensive skills. Give him a minimum one-year contract, and see if he can develop some offense--a high reward, low risk prospect.
5) Andre Blatche (age 27), drafted right out of high school in 2005 draft), who had major maturity issues while with the Washington Wizards, but has rehabbed his career with the NJ Nets, and has shown a very good attitude the past two years, while playing on a minimum level contract. Is a very talented, mobile big man with a good outside shot and overall good skill level. For some reason, he is still available, and could probably be signed on a contract of less than $5 mil. per year (similar to the Trevor Booker contract). The Jazz could sign him to a contract similar to the contract they gave to Trevor Booker, and if he doesn't work out, let him move on to his next team.
6) Jeremy Tyler (age 23), is a young PF, who has good athleticism and size, but is still very raw in his skill level--but has now been in the NBA off-and-on for three years. Another high reward, low risk prospect, who can be signed on a short-term, cheap contract.
7) Michael Beasley (age 25, #2 pick in 2008 draft), has exceptional size, athleticism and skill level as a SF, was a fantastic scorer in college, but because of maturity issues and a lack of good court sense has failed to have much success in the NBA. Again, the Jazz could sign him to an unguaranteed or partially guaranteed veteran minimum contract, and if his maturity issues become a problem, they could just waive him without much of a consequence for the Jazz.
What are your thoughts about this type of strategy?
Who are some players would like to see the Jazz focus on as potential "reclamation projects," and why?