The Utah Jazz have a situation that not many other teams not named the Phoenix Suns have -- they have both quality and potential at the point guard spot. But unlike Phoenix, they don't have depth, nor experience. Last year the Utah Jazz moved up on the draft to steal Trey Burke away from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The very next draft the Jazz found Dante Exum in their laps. Both pure point guards are savvy pick and roll ball handlers who have seemingly complimentary games. Exum is the gifted athlete who is almost pass first by nature, while Burke has made big shots all through his college days and known for his deep range. It should work. Everywhere. Well, everywhere outside of buying liquor or renting a car.
Red = necessary for Amar roster balance theory for a 13 man roster
Purple = necessary for Amar roster balance theory for a 15 man roster
Exum is bound to hit the rookie wall, in general; and after a busy summer his body is going to need some rest. If you put too much strain you can risk injury. We don't want that at all. Also, he's going to have his hands full having to deal with veteran guards going at him all day long because he's the new hyped up guy. Burke isn't a rookie anymore, but he's still going to struggle at times. It is very important to get another point guard. This is obvious. This is obvious even beyond the concept that Alec Burks can defend point guard a little, or that Ian Clark has done it in the summer league. First of all, Burks really shouldn't be playing point on offense. And Clark isn't even on the team right now.
Finding a third point guard, a third full-time ball handler, isn't hard. What's hard is finding one to fit what the Jazz need of him. Someone who knows that he's going to be the third stringer, but still be call upon to bail the team out of jams. Someone with experience, and not against teaching or mentoring two young kids -- but not so old that they aren't of use on the floor anymore.
One obvious candidate is John Lucas III , who kind of help that role last season. The problems I have with Lucas is that beyond his great personality, and fun stuff in the locker room a) he's not really experienced or a real mentor, and b) he's not really useful on the court either. At the very least the person who the Jazz do sign should be one of those two things, not none of them. That is essentially my argument here, the team shouldn't settle. So who is left, with one a few more days left in July 2014?
Obviously I'm biased, I think Chauncey Billups really hits the spot. No one will say the Jazz are green at PG with this guy, Mr. Big Shot, out there on the bench being the guy everyone listens to. He's hit more threes in the playoffs than the majority of our players have in their NBA careers combined. (Steve Novak screws that up a bit, otherwise it would have been all.) (This is hyperbole.) He had a horrible season in Detroit last year, and perhaps doesn't want to let that be his lasting memory in the NBA as a player. I don't know. It's likely that he moves directly onto a studio gig with a big network or coaching at some level if he does retire. And from what I hear he's leaning towards retiring instead of traveling the country at the age of 38, checking in, playing, checking out, flying, checking in, and so forth on those rough four cities in five nights road trips.
Beyond Billups we have two fan favorites in Earl Watson and Ronnie Price. Both have played more than 5,000 minutes at the NBA level. One of them obviously has a lot more in the tank than the other. Both are used to being bench point guards at this stage, and are fan favorites. Earl is essentially a coach right now, but is a very limited player. He is great at setting up an offense, but his defense has lost a step. He is a fantastic passer, and looks to lead guys off the bench to easy buckets. But defenses will and do just sag off of him because he is both a hesitant shooter, and not a threat from outside. At least John Lucas III is. Ronnie can hit threes, and hustle. He's loved here, but he's not the same guy as he was in 2008. That was six years ago. I haven't watched him much after he was no longer part of our team. But he can't possibly be worse than Lucas.
The dark horse here is Shelvin Mack, a guy who played with Gordon Hayward at Butler. He's young, but still has played more total NBA minutes and has a higher career MPG average than Lucas. But he played big minutes on a playoff team last year. I don't know if being buds with G-Time is enough to get you to sign onto being the third string on a lotto team from being the second string on a playoff team. But still, he's a better option than Lucas, even if he's unlikely to want to sign here.
I really don't want the Jazz to settle, especially when the point guard spot is very critical. We have talent and potential there, but it's very green. They really do not have much collective NBA experience, and just two full time ball handlers means that we are below the necessary depth. It's critical that he Jazz don't screw this one up because the last thing you want is to be teaching your two, highly valued, expensive, prospects poor point guard habits.
But beyond what I want, or my theories of development aside, the Jazz really need to sign a point guard. And the best ones may not be interested in signing here (the writing is already on the wall). Someone will though. And I hope the Jazz get a good one who at least satisfies half of the criteria of either being a good mentor, or being a serviceable backup player still.