The Utah Jazz’s 0-4 start is the worst since the team moved from New Orleans in 1979. The roster was designed to not win many games, but there’s a difference between that and not winning any games. Even if their record isn’t their highest priority this year, the glaring talent hole at the point guard position affects what the rest of the team can do.
The Utah Jazz point-guard position has had its luminaries like John Stockton and Deron Williams, and its stop-gaps like Carlos Arroyo and Devin Harris. They traded up to get Trey Burke, Trey Burke is their guy, and the intention was to give Burke a John Wall/Damian Lillard sink-or-swim rookie year. It’ll be a few more games before Burke can play, and tonight’s game against Boston represents the Jazz’s best hope to not still be winless when he returns.
A quick comparison to the rest of the league shows just how far behind the Jazz are.
Detroit’s intended starter – Brandon Jennings – hasn’t been 100%, but they still have Will Bynum (11.5 pts / 4.5 asts / 17.0 PER) and Chauncey Billups (7.5 / 3.5 asts / 11.6 PER) to carry the load. Boston doesn’t have Rajon Rondo, and Avery Bradley (10.8 pts / 3.0 asts / 6.2 PER) has been woeful in his play-making duties, but at least backup Jordan Crawford (9.8 pts / 2.8 asts / 27.1 PER) has been making the most of his time.
The Jazz have John Lucas III (8.3 pts / 3.3 asts / 6.2 PER) and Jamaal Tinsley (1.8 pts / 2.0 asts / 0.2 PER). Lucas is comparable to Bradley, but Tinsley clearly could have used an off-season with the team to get into game shape.
Alec Burks gets 2-3 minutes a game at the point guard position, but until Burke returns, my suggestion would be to move him to starting point guard. He can return to his campaign for NBA Sixth Man once Burke returns, but Favors and Kanter can’t work their magic if they can’t get the ball. Burks’s slashing ability forces the opponents’ bigs to pay attention and creates more opportunity. Favors gets his touches, but too many start at mid-range. They do seem to be grooming him to be that Karl Malone low-post passing big man, but a key to Malone’s efficiency in that role was Stockton and Hornacek patrolling the perimeter. Teams know they don’t have to guard Tinsley. Tinsley is 1-for-11 from 3-point-land so far, all wide open. Lucas is 4-21, the most attempts of anyone on the team. Burks is 1-8, but the perimeter is not his game; he attacks, and he’s 50% from 2.
So just as Richard III cried out in desperation “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” so lament I for that which we do not have. It’s almost tragic that Raul Neto couldn’t join the team this year. He’d be having his own Nate Wolters-type breakout.