The quiet passing of the trade deadline in Salt Lake City means the Utah Jazz management have settled for a short playoff run, and risk losing both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson without anything to show for it this summer.
How can I be so certain the Jazz's playoff hopes look dim? Look at the point guard production, or lack thereof.
With the Jazz's current emphasis on stacking the paint with players, the key person on the floor who keeps the ball moving, generates some passing angles and—most importantly—feeds the ball to the right people at the right time is a huge question mark for the Jazz right now.
It has been since Deron Williams left town several years ago.
Looking at the stats for true point guards, Mo Williams has the highest player efficiency rating on the team at 15.17 (league average is 15). That puts him at 33rd overall among all point guards.
The New Orleans Hornets have two point guards that rank higher than Mo: Greivis Vasquez (No. 27) and Brian Roberts (No. 31). The 20-37 New Orleans Hornets!
terms of production.
Now you may be saying to yourself that Williams is not really the point guard of the team right now. It is an Earl Watson-Jamaal Tinsley-Alec Burks-Randy Foye combination that has taken on that role. True, though that is not necessarily a good thing.
Watson and Tinsley cannot shoot (or play much defense), meaning opposing teams can lock down on passing lanes and focus their attention on clogging the paint.
Burks has looked good recently, though he often takes the ball to the hoop too frequently and does not facilitate as much as he should, or could.
Foye is deadly from long-range (currently shooting 41.5% from deep), but he is not much of a passer.
With the size and potential of the Jazz's frontcourt some may argue that it will carry them into perhaps the second round of the playoffs, that is until you see who they will be matched up against.
If the playoffs started today, the Jazz's hobbled and cobbled point guards would have to face Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yikes.
Westbrook can score on anyone in the league. Against the Jazz he could cruise to 25 points and 10 assists each night, with ease.
Just look at how the Jazz were handled by Tony Parker in the first round of the playoffs last year. There were some frightening stats (with the exception of Game 4):
- Game 1: 28 points,10-19 from the field, 8 assists
- Game 2: 18 points, 6-10 from the field, 9 assists
- Game 3: 27 points, 10-17 from the field, 6 assists
- Game 4: 11 points, 4-14 from the field, 3 assists (Gary Neal, his backup, had 11 points on 4-6 from the field)
By the time Parker had one bad game, the series was over, and Neal made up for Parker that night.
The Jazz's playoff hopes this year are still in question since they face one of the hardest remaining schedules in the NBA. If they make the playoffs it is going to be as a lower-seeded team and get to looks forward to an upward battle to make a dent on teams that will be able to move the ball on them with ease (re: Chris Paul, Westbrook and Parker).
If they do not make the playoffs, if they slide behind Houston and either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Portland Trailblazers make a run, it will be a bumpy offseason. The 2013-14 Jazz will likely look very different than the team taking the court the remainder of this season.
Hopefully, they will be a more balanced squad.