I know what you’re all saying, Where’s the NBA Playoffs previews? Hold on Utah Jazz fans. Those are dropping today. But first - something you haven’t asked for: More meaningless 82 game / regular season info. Today we take a look at where our current players are at in terms of cementing their names in the New Orleans / Utah Jazz history books.
For whatever reason, I’m infatuated with where people are and their place in history. I see randomness and favoritism over objectivity and actual influence. For example, in the issue of WWII we champion the allies work and consider the United States to be the biggest player - but it was actually the USSR that suffered the most by the most military and civilian deaths. Looking at NBA teams, somehow people have deluded themselves into thinking Kobe Bryant was an All-NBA defender. (Really?)
With the Jazz some guys have really put in the time, but don’t get nearly the respect they have deserved. And with a focus on our 2016-17 team there are some players who are moving on up to attain that “they deserve to be in the conversation” status when talking about the most important players at each position.
Gordon Hayward is creeping up on Bryon Russell - the guy Jerry Sloan trusted enough to defend Michael Jordan one-on-one. And if G-Time does re-sign with Utah he could end up being #1 all-time in Jazz SF minutes. We can only hope that Rudy Gobert spends his entire career here as well.
What does the data show? Well, I looked at every player on the roster who played at least one minute (sorry Travis Leslie) in the regular season. And then I threw away all the data from players who played only one or two seasons with the team (sorry Donyell Marshall and Dell Curry and Truck Robinson). The results are, well, streamlined. It helps us #TakeNote of some of the guys who haven’t yet gotten their due with the organization (halftime ceremonies / numbers retired, etc)
Point Guards, Shooting Guards, Small Forwards:
John Stockton played 48k minutes in the regular season, and 19 seasons in the NBA for the Jazz. That’s a crazy long time. No other point guard is close, and none of our current point guards are even on the qualified map (minimum 3 seasons). Dante Exum should be, but he missed his second season in the league. But even then, Exum would rank 9th on this list. If he has a long career how high can he climb?
With the shooting guards, like the point guards, we see three players going over the 10k minutes mark. All three of them have their number’s retired. (Only one PG has theirs up in the rafters next to Garth Brooks.) Our unhealthy SGs Alec Burks and Rodney Hood should be up higher if they could stay on the court. But even so they are Top 10 in SG mins in franchise history already. There’s been a LOT of turn over at SG, if you can’t tell.
And with the small forwards we have a whopping 5 players who have gone over 10k minutes. And just like with PG and SG, at SF there’s one player who has played for 10+ years on the team. It’s the guy who got a “during a time-out / mid-game” “recognition”. Sure, Andrei Kirilenko signed a big contract and was injured a lot - but he still is tops in this category. If you’re looking at minutes as an indicator of time put in, he’s right up there with Darrell Griffith. Similarly, Bryon Russell is right up there with Jeff Hornacek. B-Russ almost played 10 years with this franchise as well. Both of those SFs were here in Utah since their rookie years.
Gordon Hayward qualifies for that as well. The current marketing face of the local minded franchise, G-Time has almost 4k more minutes than Matt Harpring, who played for the same number of seasons with the team. The sky is the limit for Hayward. I hope he stays for a very long time. I am certain that the #20 will be retired at some point. Personally, #47 should be up there before though.
I would like to see Joe Johnson stick around for at least 3-4 seasons. He’s currently on a 2 year contract. We’ll see what happens in the future for him, and the rest of the Jazz wings.
Power Forwards, Centers:
Man, Karl Malone was a beast. One fewer year with the team than Stockton, but nearly 6k more minutes. In fact, the difference in career regular season minutes between Karl and John is the entire Jazz career of Antoine Carr (5.7k). After Karl there’s a huge gap - but we do see some familiar faces in the Top 5: Thurl Bailey (another member of the 10 years, 20k minutes club with Andrei); Paul Millsap; Carlos Boozer; and our very own current era Jazzman (but sadly not a draft pick rookie) Derrick Favors!
Favors is never going to catch Malone here. But in time he could be #3 if he sticks around and stays healthy. Easily.
As for the centers, obviously, the top is Big Mark Eaton who played for 25k+ minutes over 10+ years. Greg Ostertag also put in time over 10 seasons, but he’s a hair below the 15k minute mark. Mehmet Okur and the very under-rated Rich Kelley (he shows up all over the place in the franchise history books that only I seem to care about) played 7 years with the team. Kelley, for example, played for the Jazz in New Orleans and in Utah. If I was a podcaster I’d want to track him down to talk and record with him just to hear the stories he alone would have.
What about our Gobzilla? Thanks to an early career Corbing, he’s below where he should be. But by this time next season he should be no lower than 6th on this center list. And we fans would be so lucky to have him play 10 years with the team like so many other recognized and unrecognized greats.
Here’s a handy reference for these guys.
- 11+ seasons with the Jazz: Stockton (19), Malone (18), Eaton (11)
- 9 to 10: Griffith (10), Kirilenko (10), Bailey (10), Ostertag (10), Russell (9)
- 7 to 8: Green (8), Collins (8), Hornacek (7), Hansen (7), Dantley (7), Hayward (7), Harpring (7), Miles (7), Millsap (7), Favors (7), Okur (7), Kelley (7)
- 5 to 6: Williams (6), Eisley (6), Maravich (6), Burks (6), Benoit (6), Keefe (6), Wilkins (6), Crotty (5), Giricek (5), James (5), Brown (5), Evans (5),
This is an odd way of looking at who has been here the most. But it’s an accurate way that maybe will help us better see the big picture of who has actually been on this team? Hopefully? Deron Williams was on this team for as long as Howard Eisley? Look at all those guys who were there for seven seasons? You bet they feel like Jazzmen even if all of them didn’t play the same minutes. Heck, maybe someone like C.J. Miles considers himself to be ‘more’ of a Jazzman in his heart than Adrian Dantley. Dantley played a lot and scored a lot. But C.J. was a teen rookie drafted by this team. And he played his first seven years here, where as Dantley played for a lot of teams early and late in his career.
But how many years you are here means more to the players than the record books. Usually we’re worried about what you do when you are here. And all on-court performance (be it eye-ball test, analytics, or normal box score stuff) is a function of minutes. If you play you can make an impact. So here’s the same info, by minutes:
- 25k+ minutes: Malone (53.5k), Stockton (47.8k), Eaton (25.2k)
- 20k to 24k: Griffith (21.4k), Kirilenko (21.0k), Bailey (20.5k)
- 15k to 19k: Dantley (18.0k), Green (17.3k), Russell (16.4k), Hayward (16.1k), Williams (15.6k), Okur (15.0k)
- 10k to 14k: Millsap (14.8k), Hornacek (14.7k), Ostertag (14.1k), Maravich (12.7k), Harpring (12.3k), Boozer (12.1k), Kelley (11.4k), Favors (11.3k)
So, obviously, you’re never going to retire Greg Ostertag up there. But maybe there needs to be a lower tier for these players who did put in the years and minutes for the Jazz? Some sort of “Hall of Honor” or some such - the Phoenix Suns do this. Because right now the system is kind of broken.
Part of that could be having game breakers like Stockton and Malone. But there has to be a way to better immortalize guys like Kirilenko, Bailey, Green, Russell, Williams, Okur, Millsap, Ostertag, Harpring, and Kelley.
Maybe you feel differently. That’s cool too.
But what is a more tangible cool will be seeing Hayward, Gobert, Favors, and others climbing up this “they deserve something” mountain in the Jazz franchise history books.