At the risk of beating a mostly dead horse into an all dead horse, let’s talk more about the upcoming free agency test for the Utah Jazz.
There are plenty of names going around that the Jazz may or may not be interested in bringing in and that may or may not be interested in letting the Jazz reel them in. Names like Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris spring to mind almost instantly with others like Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari falling in behind as backup options or suitable consolation prizes for missing out on the big names.
Bringing in a star player or someone with near star-player capabilities is the priority. But along with the question of which player would fit best — Harris or Gallinari? Walker or D’Angelo Russell? — it’s worth examining which position Dennis Lindsey should target in addition to whom he may target.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert make up the core of Utah’s future, that’s a statement that only needs to be said for formality’s sake. With Mitchell manning one of the backcourt slots and Gobert solidly holding down the interior big role, that leaves the Jazz with basically a few prototypes of player to bring in: a ball handling point guard, a more off-ball guard/wing and a stretch forward.
Again, it’s a debate in and of itself as to which players in each position would be best, but we’ll skip over that in favor of the broad discussion of whether a point guard, wing, or stretch forward would pair best with Utah’s current star duo of Mitchell and Gobert.
Ball-dominant Point Guard
Bringing in a high-level backcourt partner to pair with Mitchell has been a popular idea. Superstar guard duos like Steph Curry/Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum are highly successful and are nightmares for opposing defenses the league over. So the concept’s popularity is no big surprise.
Along with the prospect of creating another star backcourt, the potential abundance of available free agents at point guard make targeting one a highly realistic option as well. Walker has been a common name at the water cooler and while Russell is a restricted free agent, recent rumors that the Brooklyn Nets might be Kyrie Irving’s preferred destination this summer mean the vastly improved Russell could be on the move as well.
The positives of locking down stars like Walker or Russell are obvious. Just imagine players of their capability pulling attention away from Mitchell and wreaking havoc on opponents with Gobert in the pick-and-roll. It’s the stuff of dreams.
However, there are some potential negatives. It became fairly clear this season that Mitchell is at his best with the ball in his hands. He’s not the same when playing off the ball. Guys like Walker and Russell are also at their best with the ball in their hands. Mitchell has never really had to coexist with high-volume scorers that need a lot of touches. It’d be quite the adjustment period and there’s no guarantee they’d mesh well enough to win when it matters most.
A player at this position could play on either side of Mitchell in the lineup — point guard or small forward (or even shooting guard depending on if Mitchell can develop the play-making skills to run the point full-time). The difference between a point guard in this case versus the previous section would be that said guard is more of an off-ball point guard than the likes of Walker, Russell or others. Malcolm Brogdon is an excellent example of this. He’s a 50/40/90 player at the point but is fifth on the Bucks in usage despite being the starting point man.
Guys on small forward/shooting guard side include guys like Khris Middleton, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeremy Lamb, or a long shot chance at Jimmy Butler.
Bringing in a wing scorer could wind up being even more of a boon than a scoring guard as the best teams are usually led by taller scoring wings and not guards. With Mitchell lacking the length of the leagues elite scorers (or the shooting to make up for it), having someone with the larger profile could compliment his game quite well.
The main negative here is that Utah could lose some of its pick-and-roll threat by not having a great passer on the floor consistently. Mitchell is improving but still imperfect and Joe Ingles, the other main pick-and-roll ball handler, may have to move to the bench with an addition like this (not to mention the fact that Ingles appears to be in a bit of a decline career-wise).
Spacing is the name of the game nowadays, and it’s something the Jazz lacked for much of the season. Utah couldn’t shoot to save its life at times. This year’s playoffs showed as much. And while the truly awful shooting numbers in that particular series were an anomaly, it displayed just how needful shooting is in the postseason.
Power forward is a position that Utah has rarely had shooting at, at least in its starting position. And by now Jazz fans are ready to see a starting group that has shooting at four positions. Bringing in guys like Harris (a very popular name in Jazzland), Gallinari, Nikola Mirotic or even Julius Randle could easily make that happen.
Bringing up the rear the one last negative point, bringing in a power forward means having two bigs as two of the best players on the team. And while, yes, it would be vastly different than the dynamic of the past six or seven years, it’s still a risky proposition to invest so heavily in a position group that the league is somewhat passing by.
Centers and power forwards, even stretch fours, can make excellent role players and be crucial in winning games and playoff series. But rarely are they the driving force aka, the stars. Rather, they are the stalwart supporting cast for the superstars (the guards and wings). Just think, which of the teams in the second round of the playoffs can claim two of their top three players are bigs? How many of those teams made the playoffs in general?
In the end, this discussion may not matter. Beggars can’t be choosers and the Jazz are consistently beggars in free agency. But strategies begin somewhere, and what Lindsey and company decide will have a far-reaching impact.
Which of these positions should the Jazz target?
This poll is closed
Ball-dominant Point Guard
It doesn’t matter, any star will help