There are two tiers in the NBA in regards to the 2012-13 season: the contenders (Heat, Celtics, Lakers, Thunder, Spurs and arguably the Grizzlies, Clippers, Knicks and Nets) and everyone else. Currently (and unfortunately) the Utah Jazz stand in the depths of the “Bermuda Triangle” that is the latter.
But there is room for optimism with upper management seemingly taking a “Thunder” approach to building their franchise. That is, creating a masterpiece from what is left over of a depressing storm through the draft. As a result, what has come is an onslaught of youth ready to take over the reigns and push the Jazz back towards the elite of the Western Conference; a position the franchise wants to become familiar with once again.
With Gordon Hayward’s game maturing and slowing down along with the installations of his best friend Jeremy Evans, Kevin Murphy, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and of course the centerpiece of the Deron Williams trade, Derrick Favors, the Jazz have a strong and talented core that averages under 22-years of age.
The Salt Lake City inhabitants have also put themselves into a tremendous situation financially at the end of the 2013 season, with only around $26 million on the books.
Youth, a quality coaching staff and money is always a receipt for success in the NBA.
Now Utah’s most logical “next move” seems to be to completely embrace the youth movement.
Also known as, undoing the log jam that currently is the Jazz front court.
As it stands, Favors and Kanter are losing valuable minutes to recent acquisition Marvin Williams, along with the valuable expiring contract of Al Jefferson and the always hard working, Paul Millsap.
Two positions, five players.
As obvious as it may seem to pinpoint the number of “bigs”on the current roster, the need for guard help is just as distinguishable.
Mo Williams has looked like a reincarnation of the old Cleveland guard during the early stages of this season; but he is only a stopgap, nothing more. Being on the wrong side of 27 on top of having a tendency to disappear during important stretches of a schedule/playoffs really puts Williams on the outside looking in once his contract is over at the end of 2013.
What’s disconcerting is that Williams is third in scoring behind Jefferson and Millsap.
That just goes to show the Jazz need to add a tenacious scorer more than ever.
At best, Hayward is a second or third banana, his best comparison being the future Luol Deng of the Utah Jazz. Putting lofty expectations on his offensive game to develop into that of an elite scorer is just not the smartest decision to make.
But at this point, Hayward is the most promising player on this roster that can fill that void. NBA teams don’t just find an offensive juggernaut late in drafts (the likely place Utah will be drafting from during the next umpteen years).
So that leaves the front office doing one of two things:
A.) Hoping and praying Hayward becomes the next Larry Bird.
B.) Using the pieces they have now to acquire one.
Now I want all of you to take a deep breath, as I’m sure some may not like what they read next.
I know, I’m out of my mind, but hear me out.
Ellis is a scoring point guard who can create his own shot and get to the rack with relative ease. What most don’t seem to realize is that the 27 year old (who also just ushered in the prime of his career, you know, for those believers in “27-Theory”) can also pass the ball; having averaged 5.9 assists per game the last three years (4.5 for his career).
That’s probably more than most thought. Even though, that stat is still a little misleading, in favor of Ellis. You see, the now Milwaukee Bucks guard has played the last few seasons with both Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings; two ball-dominating guards who took the ball out of Ellis’ hands.
Scoring. Assists. A player entering the prime of his career. It seems like a win, win right?
Fine, maybe not yet.
What truly makes Ellis such a commodity is that he has an early termination for the 2013-14 season. Say this trade happened and it for some reason didn’t work out in Utah, he and the Jazz could easily go their separate ways. The Jazz with their money and Monta seeking a max deal elsewhere.
But if things do go well, Utah lands one of the best offensive guards in the league.
Let’s face it; Jefferson and Utah will more than likely go their separate ways if they choose to keep the Center for the remainder of the season. As mentioned above, the Jazz have too many bigs to warrant resigning Jefferson at the end of the season and Jefferson seems to have already packed his bags.
That, in turn, makes Jefferson the most valuable piece every NBA GM covets most. He provides flexibility to franchises in dire need of cap space or a big man who is solid on both side of the ball.
As far as trades go, it’s a no brainer (and that’s without discussing how Jefferson would amp up a Bucks front court that features Samuel Dalmbert, Drew Gooden, L.R. Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders and John Henson).
But of course that may not be enough for some of you, so allow me to dive into the benefits of obtaining (and hopefully signing) such a “polarizing”player in Ellis.
The NBA is a guard-run league. Some would argue that this is so prevalent in today’s game that the new wave being ushered in by Miami (small ball anyone) is here to stay.
True or not, it is obvious with players like Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennings, that point guards who can not only dish the rock, but score consistently are at a premium (while “go to” post players are slowly becoming a thing of the past).
One of the most obvious issues Utah faces is how to score in games that come down to the final minutes. It’s hard to have a big man be your best scorer in crunch time. Not only does a coach have to trust a guard to properly conduct a post entry pass, but they also have to make sure that the particular post player is catching it in a comfortable position to score in.
Then, more times than not (especially so for teams without a legitimate outside scoring threat), a double-team follows.
It is, for a lack of a better term, easier to have a guard attack the rim and either get a high percentage shot or a foul called in the waning minutes of a back and forth game.
It also gives a coach the ability to run the all so coveted pick and roll; the bread and butter of an NBA offense.
Imagine having Ellis running a late pick and roll with Favors, Millsap, Kanter, or even Hayward. The possibilities are endless. If Ellis can’t get into the lane, he has the rolling big who hopefully is wide open or is facing a mismatch. If neither of those options are open and the screener has the ball in the lane/post, he has a legitimate kick out and reverse option, that if run quickly, will almost always resort in an open look on the opposite side of the court (especially after the backside defenders slide into their help defensive stances).
Ellis, the good and bad, will open up the floor and give Coach Tyrone Corbin a plethora of options he just doesn’t have with Mo Williams handling the ball.
Ellis’ ability to score, at least in my opinion, will allow Hayward to get the open looks he is more than capable of knocking down. It will also give the suddenly not-so-crowded frontcourt two or three viable kick out options that will prevent opposing defenses from doubling down and clogging the lane.
One also has to wonder what Ellis would be able to do offensively when the keys to an entire team are handed to him (something that has never happened during his career). Some may be under the impression that it would be as useful as shooting yourself in the foot, but I disagree.
Remember, Ellis has averaged 19.5 points in his now eight-year career. He put up those numbers while sharing the rock with score first, pass second guards such as Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford, Curry and Jennings.
If I were a member of the Jazz front office, I would gladly entertain the idea of obtaining Ellis’ 21.4 points per game this year (or six points better than the highest PPG average on the Jazz) and part ways with Jefferson as soon as possible.
It’s not just every day you can add a young, scoring guard in the prime of his career to your team. Plus, he is extremely familiar with the Western Conference style of play.
Monta Ellis, welcome to the Jazz (if not in real life, at least in my latest NBA 2K13 franchise).