NBA Free Agents 2012: Utah Jazz Must Address Backcourt This Offseason

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2012

The Utah Jazz will improve by leaps and bounds next season if they add a dynamic guard to their regular rotation.

The Jazz relied on guys like Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and C.J. Miles to play key reserve minutes this season. Alec Burks also shouldered some responsibility, but he is a slashing, defensive stopper. The Jazz need an elite scorer.

Devin Harris and Raja Bell were expected to bear a larger load, but neither are good fits for Utah's system.

None of these players are fit to start for a Western Conference contender. If the Jazz want to take the next step in their rebuilding effort they must add a scorer to complement their outstanding frontcourt.

Utah is without a first-round pick and they should avoid making any trade that would compromise their current assets. That leaves free agency as the lone solution to their backcourt issues.

Let's take a look at which guards the Jazz must pursue this offseason.


Steve Nash

Nash is a bit of a pipe dream because of the steep price tag attached to his services, but his talent makes him a must-watch for Jazz enthusiasts.

Signing Nash would immediately improve the Jazz backcourt, increase frontcourt production and generate excitement about the next few seasons in Salt Lake City.

Nash is on his last legs and does not play any defense, but his ability to facilitate an offense would be welcome. He would make life very easy for Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors.

The Jazz struggled to score from the perimeter this season. Defenses collapsed on the Utah big men, and made the Jazz play away from their strengths. Adding Nash would bring another dimension to Utah's offense because of his passing ability and dangerous marksmanship from three-point land.

Nash has definitely lost a step, but his career mark of 42.8 percent from beyond the arc would be a welcome addition.


Goran Dragic

Dragic would be cheaper than Nash, and play better defense. He is also 12 years younger.

Signing Nash would make a huge splash in the media, but the Jazz may get more bang for their buck with Dragic. He shot 34 percent from beyond the arc, averaged 11.7 points per game and dished out just over five assists per contest.

Dragic is not a household name. He would fit the small-market Jazz mentality like a glove.

Harris was criticized throughout the season for his inability to defend the point. Dragic's lanky, 6'3'' frame disrupts passing lanes and accounted for one-plus steal per game this year.

Utah must consider signing the Yugoslavia native because of his ability and price. He has been stuck behind Kyle Lowry in Houston, and he would benefit from starter's minutes.


O.J. Mayo

Mayo's price tag will probably fall somewhere between Nash and Dragic's going rate, but he is the most talented of the bunch.

The Grizzlies will have a chance to keep their restricted free agent in Memphis next season, but his departure seems imminent. The Jazz should give Mayo serious consideration.

Utah would benefit from adding Mayo. He is a capable outside shooter who would benefit from the spotlight.

He averaged nearly 27 minutes per game for Memphis last year and scored 12.6 points a night. He shot 36 percent from beyond the arc, but he makes his living slashing to the basket.

Defensively, Mayo averaged over one steal per game this year. He is extremely athletic and capable defensively, if he buys into it.

Mayo is only 24 years old. He still has room to grow and would be a huge asset to the Jazz's future.

Adding Mayo would give the Jazz a quality perimeter scorer. He would stretch the floor, put pressure on the defense and allow Utah's forwards to do their job down low.

Utah's front office needs to consider all three of these guys. If they want an experienced and expensive catalyst they will sign Nash. If they want value, they will sign Dragic.

Mayo's price and talent is the middle ground.