Deron Williams, John Stockton and the Greatest Guards in Utah Jazz History
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The Utah Jazz have been lucky enough to have some of the greatest and most unique guards in NBA history.
Having great guards is the hallmark of great teams. Perhaps that is the reason that the Utah Jazz have only missed the playoffs 12 times since its creation in 1975, including the fact that the Jazz missed the playoffs for nine consecutive years dating back to their inception.
Since 1984, Utah has only missed the playoffs three times, and having some of the guys on this list has definitely been a contributor to that excellence.
Five of the seven players that have made this list have had their numbers retired by the Utah Jazz. Two of them received the honor of being named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
And one, well, one stands high above the rest.
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Jeff Malone played four seasons with the Utah Jazz before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jeff Hornacek in 1994. During that time, Malone averaged 18.3 ppg.
It was hard to leave Jeff Hornacek off the top-five list. Putting aside statistics and numbers, Hornacek teamed up with John Stockton to form one of the best complementary backcourts in NBA history.
On Nov. 23 1994, Hornacek set a then-NBA record with consecutive made three pointers with eight. At one point he converted on 67-straight made free throw attempts. He's also thirteenth in NBA history in free throw percentage with 88-percent.
Hornacek averaged 14.2 ppg over his seven year career with the Jazz.
And I'll never forget his free throw routine. Hornacek would rub his face three times to say hello to his children.
Hornacek's No. 14 has been retired by the Utah Jazz.
No. 5, Darrell Griffith
In the 1980 NBA Draft the Jazz selected Darrell Griffith as the second overall pick.
Griffith went on to claim Rookie of the Year honors over the likes of Kevin McHale and Joe Barry Carroll. He averaged over 20 ppg during his rookie campaign.
Fun Fact: The year that Griffith was drafted, Wes Matthews—father of the Portland Trail Blazers sophomore guard Wesley Matthews who went un-drafted and played a pivotal role in the Jazz' playoff run last year—was drafted in the first round also.
Over the next 10 seasons, Griffith would go one to play 765 career games all with Utah and be known as "Dr. Dunkenstein" for his aerial assault.
Fun Fact 2: In the 1980s, it has been said that the highflying Griffith set the Guinness Book of World Records for vertical leap with 48 inches.
Griffin averaged 20 points or more in four of his 10 seasons and finished with a career average of 16.2 ppg.
His No. 35 is retired and resting in the rafters of EnergySolutions Arena.
No. 4, Deron Williams
Over the course of the next decade or so, Deron Williams name will likely come up in point guard conversations regarding who is the best.
And some will argue Chris Paul. Some Derrick Rose. But it really won’t matter much until one of these guys win something that is worth raising high above their head.
One thing is for sure, no other point guard has steadily risen his game from year to year like Deron Williams.
Paul has been relatively consistent since his rookie year. And Derrick Rose has exploded from his All-Star season a year ago.
But D-Will, like all Sloan-bred players, just seems to get better every single year. He’s currently having a career season in Utah, who drafted him third overall in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Since 2006, Williams has been in the top four assist leaders for the entire league.
Williams is also the second player in Jazz history to post at least 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game. The other? John Stockton.
And there is something that Williams has done that no other player in NBA history can say they’ve accomplished, including Stockton. During last year’s playoffs, Williams scored at least 20 points and had at least 10 assists in five consecutive games.
Even though Williams is heading to Los Angeles this weekend for his second consecutive All-Star game, he only remains number four on this list.
Right now, his reputation is on the line in Utah. He’s either going to pull himself—and his team—out of the mud. Or his name will continue to be dragged through it.
The three players ahead of him, well, their reputations in Utah are already set in stone.
No. 3, Pete Maravich
As one of the most creative players that ever touched a basketball, Pete Maravich only ever wore a Utah Jazz jersey for 17 games before being waived in 1979.
However, Pistol did play for the New Orleans Jazz for five seasons, miles away from where he had arguably the most outstanding college basketball career ever at Louisiana State University.
Maravich averaged 44.2 ppg and scored 3,667 points for LSU, both standing records for over 40 years.
But Maravich also had an outstanding professional career, particularly with the Jazz. From 1974 to 1979 he had three All-Star seasons and averaged 25.6 points and 5.7 assists a game.
Pistol was inducted into the Hall of Fame only months before his tragic death in 1988, and No. 7 was retired by the Utah Jazz.
No. 2, Adrian Dantley
From 1979-1986 Adrian Dantley played seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, and he's claiming the No. 2 spot on this list for good reason.
Despite ending up an NBA journeyman, during those seven years Dantley was an All-Star six times, all with Utah, and led the league in scoring twice. He never averaged less than 26.6 points a game and broke the 30-marker four consecutive years.
During his stint with Utah, Dantley posted the following scoring averages: 28.0, 30.7, 30.3, 30.7, 30.6, 26.6, and 29.8 points per game.
Just to put that into perspective, Kobe Bryant doesn't have a better scoring stretch over the course of seven seasons. If you picked Bryant's seven best scoring seasons, it pales in comparison to what Dantley did in seven consecutive years with the Utah Jazz.
When Dantley retired in 1991 he was ninth on the all-time scoring list and had a career average of 24.3 ppg.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, a single year after the Jazz retired his number.
No. 1, John Stockton
John Stockton at his Hall of Fame induction in 2009.
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In terms of purity as a point guard there wasn’t a greater one than John Stockton.
On offense, Stockton mastered the use of body. He set harder screens than Kevin Garnett, stroked the ball uncouthly and is the greatest passer that ever existed.
Only three players in the history of basketball had any success when assigned the task of guarding John Stockton—Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Magic Johnson.
But in an era highly regarded for its physicality and defensive-mindedness, the 6’1” Stockton dished out more dimes than any other player in NBA history with 15, 806.
FACT: If you only factored an assist as worth two points—even though Stockton assisted to an unknown amount of three-pointers—he is directly responsible for more total points than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who scored 38,387 and assisted to at least an additional 11,320 points.
Stockton assisted or scored on 51,323 points in his career—again, that’s without ever counting the additional here-and-there extra point for the long-ball.
He was the NBA assist leader for nine consecutive seasons, a stretch that lasted from 1987 through 1996.
But on top of his offensive accolades—too many to list—Stockton was a supreme defender despite being undersized. He is the all-time steals leader with 3,265 and was named to the All-Defensive Team five times.
All of John Stockton’s 19 seasons resulted in a playoff berth, including back-to-back efforts in the NBA Finals.
In those 19 years, Stockton played an amazing 17 full seasons without ever missing a game.
And as for what he’s meant to Utah: how about the statue sitting outside of the Jazz’ old arena? How about the street named after him in downtown Salt Lake City?
It is without question that John Stockton is the greatest guard in the history of the Utah Jazz, and perhaps the greatest point guard in NBA history.