One would be hard-pressed to find a single NBA team with a greater point guard legacy than the Utah Jazz.
The John Stockton era will forever be the stuff of legend, and it’s safe to say that no one will ever fill those shoes. Yet only two years after Stock’ retired, the Jazz would extend their tradition of elite point guard play by expertly moving up to draft Deron Williams with the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Sadly, the Deron era came to an abrupt end when the surly all-star was traded for what now constitutes one half of the Jazz’s future core – Derrick Favors and a high draft pick that materialized into Enes Kanter.
Now, the Jazz are stocked at every position except point guard, and to a Jazz fan that just feels…wrong.
There are several purportedly available guards that the front office could trade for before the deadline this month, according to Chris Sheridan’s Twitter account. Yet while a solid guy like Luke Ridnour could help fill out many NBA rosters, he’s not going to be a building block for the future nor will he push your slightly above-average team into title contention.
If the Jazz really want to compliment their young core of Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter, they’d be smart to do so through the draft. If the playoffs started today, the Jazz would retain the #17, #24 and #47 picks in the 2013 draft, and there are several point guards chock-full of potential in this year’s draft.
Here are a few of my favorites, along with their projected draft position according to DraftExpress:
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Pros: Might be the best facilitator among top PG’s in the draft, and he embraces the role. That fits into what the Jazz want to do – find a guy that can feed Favors in the post, work the pick ‘n roll or drive-and-dish to open three-point shooters. Great spot-up shooter, solid body control and a nice collection of moves that make him an efficient scorer around the post. The fact that he’s 6’5 contributes to all of these things and gives him a distinct advantage over many shorter NBA guards.
Cons: He’s got a very slender frame for a guy his height, which affects things on the defensive end. His ability to guard bigger guards at the professional level is in question. While his attitude on the court seems fine, he was allegedly caught shoplifting a bathrobe and gloves from the mall. That has to raise some concerns among league GM’s.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Pros: He’s 6’4 with an incredibly thick, strong frame, drawing comparisons to James Harden although he’s billed to play the point at the next level. He’s got a great first step and a level of maturity and control for a freshman. He seems to have potential as a passer and distributor and has shown the ability to occasionally score at will. Good defender.
Cons: He’s inconsistent offensively, exploding for a monster game one night only to follow with a sub-par shooting performance the next. Isn’t incredibly fast in the open court or quick changing directions. Still a little turnover-prone. However, a lot of these faults are common among freshmen, and he should be able to adjust and improve.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Pros: Could have entered the draft last year, but chose to finish his degree. He’s a prolific scorer with great physical tools, including a 6’6 wingspan paired with raw athleticism and speed. Shoots at a high percentage inside and beyond the 3 point arch, showing great range and consistency. Good defense, solid mechanics, the creative ability to get almost any shot off and high basketball IQ. He’s pure potential.
Cons: The Jazz would probably want him to adjust to becoming more of a distributor, which for C.J. would probably cap off at around a Tony Parker-esque 6 apg. Turns the ball over a lot.
Trey Burke, Michigan
Pros: Shows the best balance of scoring and distributing ability among all of these guards at over 18 ppg and 7 apg. Excellent shot mechanics spot-up or off the dribble. Great ball handler with impressive quickness in change of direction.
Cons: Size. At 6’0, his stature seems to affect his ability to finish at the rim with efficiency and raises defensive concerns. I feel that talent scouts often put too much stock into size at the PG position where guys like John Stockton and Chris Paul have thrived. However, Burke still needs to show he can overcome some of those challenges.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota St.
Pros: One of the most intriguing prospects of the entire draft. A crafty scorer and playmaker who handles the ball intelligently while adeptly changes speeds and creating off the dribble. His high basketball IQ and great size at 6’4 help him masterfully score and create plays in South Dakota’s half court sets, including a lot of pick ‘n rolls. DraftExpress points out that he’s among the 20 best players in the nation in pure point rating, a system developed by John Hollinger that weighs a player’s playmaking abilities. He could turn out to be a steal if the Jazz can get him with their second round pick, which will likely fall between 45-50. His stock may have risen after his recent explosion for 53 points against IPFW. He’s a bit of a Hayward type of guy, leading his underdog squad to their first NCAA appearance, ever.
Cons: He plays for South Dakota, typically against weaker competition than the other guards listed. However, he has a history of rising to the occasion, including a 30 point game that nearly helped his team knock of a tough opponent in Alabama. Some wonder if he’ll struggle adapting to the next level, invoking the comparison of one Jimmer Fredette.
A slightly dated yet very informative article on Wolters can be read here.