What's the Future of the Utah Jazz's Point Guard Position?
Injuries to Mo Williams and Earl Watson have left the Utah Jazz razor thin at the point guard position. When their respective injuries heal, Williams and Watson will only be temporary solutions for the Jazz.
Williams, Watson and Jamaal Tinsley—currently the only healthy true point guard on the Utah roster—will all be free agents at the close of the season. While any of the trio could be re-signed, Utah will still be in the market for either a marked upgrade at the position or will draft a point guard with high potential to pair with young building blocks Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
A brief look at the potential free-agent point guards in 2013 clearly shows the crown jewel of the crop is Chris Paul. Paul is in the midst of a phenomenal run with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that has an excellent shot of being a top-three team in the Western Conference.
With as many as nine free agents in 2013, Utah will certainly have the cap room and financial flexibility to sign Chris Paul to a max deal. The issue here is not money, but of Paul's preference. It would be a beautiful sight to see Favors and Hayward blossom under the generalship of arguably the best point guard in the league, but the Jazz will almost certainly be very low on Paul's list.
Beyond Paul, there are a few point guards who have shown competence running an NBA offense while still being young enough to have room to grow: Darren Collison and Jeff Teague. While Teague would probably be preferable for Utah, either could give the Jazz a coveted young point guard.
The complications with Collison and Teague arise due to them being restricted free agents, meaning their current teams have an opportunity to match any offer another team gives the free agent provided the current team made the free agent a qualifying offer.
To sum it up, Utah would have to overpay pretty grossly to acquire either player.
Utah's most likely course of action will be to sign one veteran point guard who can run the show and draft a hot point guard prospect with one of their two first-round picks. Utah may decide simply to re-sign Mo Williams and have its newly acquired rookie point guard take a few years to develop before assuming control from Williams.
Williams seems to enjoy playing for the Jazz and is familiar with head coach Tyrone Corbin's offense. One knock on Williams is that he's more of a scorer than a distributor. This doesn't it in perfectly with the flex offense Utah runs; an offense that is better suited for a point guard who can rack up double-digit assists on a regular basis
A few interesting free-agent names to consider are Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack.
Calderon is currently averaging 7.4 assists per game and is very capable of being the pure point guard Utah craves on the offensive end. On the flip side, he's a defensive liability who will have to be hidden.
Jack is averaging 5.9 assists per game this season and likely wouldn't be quite the pure point guard as Calderon, but would also bring much better defense to the table.
Other names Utah could consider in free agency are Eric Maynor and D.J. Augustin.
In addition to combing through all the free-agent point guards, Utah has to put maximum effort into scouting point guards who could be available when the Jazz are on the clock in the 2013 draft.
At or near the top of Utah's list will likely be Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Williams is averaging nearly 10 assists per game, a stat that undoubtedly has Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey figuratively salivating. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams is almost universally predicted to be a lottery pick, and barring a monumental collapse by themselves or by the Golden State Warriors, whose first-round draft pick the Jazz have rights to this year, or a trade, the Jazz will not be selecting in the lottery this year.
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart will also certainly be on Utah's radar, but will also likely be gone before the Jazz select. Smart is also more of a combo guard, where the Jazz will likely prefer a pure point guard.
Lehigh's C.J. McCollum is a much more likely pick for the Jazz, as the small-school prospect is more likely to still be there when Utah is first on the clock.
McCollum has good size for a point guard and is a prolific scorer, but like Smart does not precisely fit the mold of what Utah will be looking for.
One more player to keep an eye on is Michigan's Trey Burke, who is averaging over seven assists per game. A strong tournament showing could be enough to have Utah select Burke as its point guard of the future. For what it's worth, that's my prediction.
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