Speculation is increasing that Deron Williams will be the next NBA superstar to follow in the free agency footsteps of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Williams' hometown of Dallas seems a likely destination, as he can opt out in 2012 and the Mavericks should be in position to offer him a max deal.
The Jazz's 13-13 record since December 10th is putting the pressure on Utah coach Jerry Sloan to win now or risk losing his superstar.
This Jazz team has been unable to consistently compete against the upper echelon of teams in the Western Conference. The glaring inefficiencies are easy to identify—terrible defensive rebounding, soft defense against the pick and roll, too many fouls and a shooting guard who doesn't shoot.
You cannot win in the NBA with a 2 who averages 7.9 points per game like Raja Bell. Nobody anticipated Bell would start when the Jazz signed him in the offseason. He didn't cut it as a starter during his last go around, what makes Sloan thinks he's capable at age 34?
So what is the answer? Are the Jazz in need of new players, a new scheme or a new rotation? Former players rave about the Jazz system, but they aren’t so quick to rave about Sloan’s rigid rotation. This is a coach who has struggled to beat the Phil Jacksons or Greg Popovichs of the world because he fails to make essential adjustments at appropriate times.
If there was ever a team in need of an adjustment, it’s the 2011 Jazz. What should Sloan do?
Williams is arguably the best point guard on the planet, but does he truly make his teammates better? The D-Will point guard pattern of lazily walking the ball up the floor in the first half, looking for his own shot in the third quarter and ramming it down the opposing team's throat in the fourth quarter has not benefited this group.
Whenever a team's best scorer is also the point guard, the collateral damage can be difficult to deal with and this year’s team is no exception. The pedigree of recent championship point guards includes: Derek Fisher, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker and Jason Williams—none of whom were the go-to scoring threat.
Sloan's first order of business might be to let Deron be Deron. This guy is averaging 22 points a game as he struggles to find the balance between looking for his own shot and getting his teammates involved. The Jazz need to embrace the combo guard strength that makes Deron so unique. By restricting his scoring ability, they are limiting his overall contribution to the team.
If a player is capable of scoring more 25 points per game, he should be put in a position to do so.
As a shooting guard, would Williams be too undersized? I would take the shooting guard version of Deron Williams ahead of similarly sized players like Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon, OJ Mayo, Wesley Matthews or Ray Allen. Williams would perform a similar role as Dwayne Wade in Miami.
The days of the prototypical 6'6'' off guard are coming to an end as the Kobe era winds down. The Jazz will become a better team if they can utilize Williams' complete skills set.
As for the defense and rebounding liabilities, it's clear that Paul Millsap is undersized as a power forward and Al Jefferson is undersized as a center, so why wouldn't Sloan tinker with moving Millsap to the 3 and Jefferson to the 4? A starting lineup of Earl Watson, Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Okur/Fesenko/Elson with Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko and CJ Miles coming off the bench would eliminate the Jazz's major inefficiencies of anemic 2 scoring and below average defensive rebounding.
It's Jerry Sloan's move—soon to be followed by Deron Williams' move if this Jazz team doesn't quickly return to its winning ways.