Last Wednesday, the Utah Jazz announced that the team has signed veteran free agent point guard Jamaal Tinsley. On October 12, Trey Burke fractured a finger on his shooting hand, sidelining him for anywhere between 3-5 weeks once the regular season begins on October 30. With Burke injured, John Lucas III is the only point guard under contract for the 2013-14 season.
Tinsley played for the Jazz the last two seasons, and was not re-signed after his contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 season. During his two years in Utah, Tinsley averaged 3.6 points per game, to go along with 4 assists in nearly 17 minutes of action per game. However, Tinsley has a lot of qualities that don’t show up on a stat sheet that most likely factored into Utah’s decision to sign him.
Tinsley is a veteran player, and as such, he brings some veteran leadership, confidence, and most importantly, knowledge of the NBA game to a team that’s stacked with raw young talent. (Not to mention his incredibly entertaining streetball moves
The jump from college to the NBA is always a large one, and Tinsley can certainly help Burke in his transition into the NBA. Last season, Tinsley had a higher assist average per 48 minutes than Kyle Lowry, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, and Tony Parker, at 11.4 assists per 48. Tinsley also had a great assist-to-turnover ratio last season as well, at 2.74 – that’s a better ratio than Nash, Darren Collison, and Ricky Rubio. While Tinsley did only see 18.5 minutes per game last season, his numbers are still impressive. Tinsley knows how to run an offense, and how to run one with minimal mistakes. This is a very valuable skill that Tinsley can help Burke learn during this upcoming NBA campaign.
During the 2012-13 NCAA Men’s basketball season at Michigan, Burke had a 3.02 assist-to-turnover ratio, which was fifth best in the nation. If Burke had posted that number in the NBA last season, he would have been seventh best, ahead of Parker. I only mention this stat because it shows that Burke already has a good grasp of how to run an offense. Burke’s previous knowledge will help the learning curve in the NBA even easier, and it will of course now be aided by Tinsley.
Burke isn’t the only one who can benefit from Tinsley, though. Tinsley can bring his knowledge of how to run an offense to Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, two players through whom the offense will flow when Burke is not on the court. With the absence of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, a large part of the scoring responsibility falls on the shoulders of Hayward and Burks. In order for them to efficiently score the basketball, they have to understand how to run their offense, instead of depending on isolation situations to put the ball in the basket.
Once Burke is back from injury, Tinsley will probably see his minutes drop – but that doesn’t lessen the impact he’ll have on this team. With only Lucas under contract for the upcoming season, Tinsley could very well find himself starting when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to Salt Lake City to kick off Utah’s 2013-14 season.