There’s something to be said for savvy, that underrated skill that helps one almost seamlessly keep up with those that still have more bounce in their step and cartilage in their knees. Savvy is a skill Jamaal Tinsley possesses in abundance, one which David Locke believes may help the Utah Jazz not only survive the absence of Mo Williams, but possibly even thrive, at least in the short term until the Jazz are at full strength once again, ready to make a final push at the postseason.
Tinsley, once paid by the Indiana Pacers to not play basketball, took a long and winding road to Utah, finding his way back to The Association by way of the NBA’s Developmental League. Tinsley has been one to always remain quietly ready when his number is called. While we still get the occasional glimpse of flashy brilliance seemingly straight out of a YouTube mixtape, the type of stuff nicknames like “Mel Mel the Abuser” are made of, one of his greatest strengths as a seasoned veteran of the game is managing the floor in subtle ways not apt to garner much notice on a basic stat sheet or box score.
Before there was Linsanity there was Tinsanity. Recent victims abused by Mel Mel include Nikola Pekovic and Donte Green used as backboards on inbounds passes and Nazr Mohammed and Kosta Koufos who were both left peering between their legs at a ball in their rear view mirrors.
Through the halfway point of the Jazz’s season, of the ten most-used lineups this season by Utah, Tinsley is at the helm of it’s two best defensive lineups, and it’s overall best.
- Tinsley, Hayward, Marvin Williams, Millsap, Jefferson have a net offensive (110.7) /defensive (85.5) rating of +25.3 on the floor together
- Tinsley, Foye, Carroll, Favors, Kanter have a net offensive (101.1) /defensive (94.0) rating of +7.1 on the floor together
As well as at point for Utah’s best second unit, 11th-most used, since Tinsley has taken over the most minutes played at point with the starting unit now.
• Tinsley, Hayward, Carroll, Favors, Kanter have a net offensive (116.3) / defensive (97.2) rating of +19.1 on the floor together
Tinsley has now overtaken Mo Williams for most minutes played on the season with the starting unit. Most minutes played this season:
- Tinsley, Foye, Marvin Williams, Millsap, Jefferson have a net offensive (107.6) / defensive (106.9) of +0.8 on the floor together in 216 minutes
- Mo Williams, Foye, Marvin Williams, Millsap, Jefferson have a net offensive (99.0) / defensive (105.3) rating of -6.3 on the floor together in 188 minutes
- Mo Williams, Hayward, Marvin Williams, Millsap, Jefferson are a net offensive (98.5) / defensive (99.4) rating of -0.9 on the floor together in 161 minutes
Not only does Tinsley’s name pop up in the Jazz’s top two defensive lineups, one with the starters and one with the second unit, showing a propensity for adaptability, but Locke notes the Jazz offense scores field goals at a much more efficient rate when Tinsley is on the floor, a rate that would be good for top five in the league as a team in field goal percentage, for some perspective. He shows a deliberate patience on offense that often ends in an easy look for a score in a system predicated on putting up points in the paint.
As a team this season, according to mySynergySports, the Jazz ball handler in the pick-and-roll scores only 29.5% of the time, 29th in the NBA. When Tinsley runs the pick-and-roll in his deliberate manner he scores scores 38.7% of the time with a 52.4% field goal percentage.
Mo Williams’ name among the NBA’s leaders is likely soon to be replaced, in assist percentage — a metric that estimates the number of team makes assisted by a player in a stint on the floor — by Tinsley, who has led the Jazz in AST% all season long, as his qualified minutes sample size rises quickly as a starter. As a bonus, Tinsley still dishes out some of that old school between-the-legs abuse from time to time, as he did to former Jazzman Kosta Koufos the recently, the infamous “nutmeg” maneuver.
And he’s picking up steam as he plays more with Mo out indefinitely. Head coach Ty Corbin, charged with pulling off an unprecedented juggling act with five veteran starters all in contract years and a bench full of youngsters champing at the bit, had been rotating the backup point guard position behind Williams with Tinsley and Earl Watson two games on and off, a position which makes gaining any game flow difficult, and was likely a contributor to both Tinsley and Watson’s high turnover rates.
There’s something to be said for continuity and game flow for a player.
- For the season, before the Mo Williams injury, Tinsley’s turnover rate was extremely high, even for a primary ball handler, 32.3%. Since starting, it’s come down to 29.0%, and during the current streak of seven wins in nine games, Tinsley’s turnover percent has dropped to an impressive-for-a-ball-handler 21.3%.
- Missing 12 of his first 13 three-point attempts of the season, Tinsley would go on to make 23 of his next 63 from the arc for an acceptable .365 — 35% on threes is considered the line between a “good” and “bad” three-shooter. He shot an impressive .385 from three for the month of December
- Through the halfway point of the season, as a starting guard this season Tinsley is shooting .449 field goals overall and .346 from three, and .453 on 5.3 attempts per game for the month of January
- Off the bench this season Tinsley is shooting .250 overall and .240 from three
Tinsley’s best numbers this season also come on nights where he’s played on both one and zero nights rest, not bad for a guy turning 35 on February 28, 2013, although in NBA age, measured in NBA minutes, he’s still got some gas in the tank with a mere 13,681 career minutes played — thank the Indiana Pacers for that.
Each of the Jazz point guards bring different skills to the table for the team — Mo the spot-up specialist, Earl has that lob — but for Jamaal Tinsley’s part, and his deceptively smooth gate as he sizes up how to break through an opposing defense in occasional highlight fashion, he brings a savvy deliberation on offense, a chance for the Jazz to stay in every game until they’re once again at full health, as well as a constancy on defense that helps set a tone for others to play off of from the perimeter in. It’s not uncommon to see Tinsley the first — and sometimes only — man back in transition defense for the Jazz.
Jamaal Tinsley always stays silently ready for anything. There’s some winnable games on the immediate schedule for the Jazz, a reprieve of sorts after one of the toughest opening schedules in the league. It’s the type of environment a savvy player like Tinsley should be able to thrive in within the Jazz’s scheme with it’s variety of talented pieces that Corbin has the ability to mix and match.
Jamaal was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions from me about his play and what he likes about being here in Utah:
Clint Peterson: Yourself, Earl Watson, and Mo Williams all bring different skills to the table for the Jazz. One of your strengths seems to be always staying ready when your number’s called. How do you prepare for games and opposing ball handlers?
Jamaal Tinsley: The routine has been the same for majority of my career; recognize the tempo of the game, look at the personnel on and off the court, then once I enter the game I already know what needs to be done. When I exit the game and return it’s the same way.
CP: Personally, I’m a huge fan of spicing things up a little, like yourself. Former Jazzman Kosta Koufos got a little taste of nutmeg the other night in The Can in Denver. Do you size up guys before pulling off a nutmeg maneuver, or is it spontaneous like, say, on a playground or mixtape?
JT: It’s natural, it’s all within the flow of the game. I don’t go out and say “I’m going to do this tonight.” When the opportunity presents itself and it frees me up around the basketball I’ll do it. I’ve been doing it for so long its just a part of my everyday arsenal.
CP: It’s organic, I love it! What’s your favorite thing about Utah?
JT: There is so much but peace of mind. I often reflect on my journey in the NBA and I’m blessed. Utah is a place where you can experience a lot more than other places because the weather may limit you to do things, or it may allow you to do things you haven’t done before, so all around I enjoy being here.
Thanks for taking time to let fans know more about you and your game, it’s a lot of fun to watch. You guys have done a stellar job to this point of the season. We look forward to you finishing strong down the stretch and making some noise in the spring season.