This past offseason, many Jazz fans were clamoring for the team to make a splash in free agency. After a shortened and condensed season with up and down expectations, a first-round sweep by the Spurs threw into stark contrast the need for dramatic improvement to contend in the loaded West.
In what ended up being a fairly active offseason from the front office, the Jazz ended up making the biggest splash by stealing Dennis Lindsey from arguably the best front office in the league in the San Antonio Spurs. In addition, they traded for key pieces like Marvin Williams and Mo Williams, and added some additional three-point shooting with Randy Foye. Those moves have turned out…meh. Marvin has underperformed based on his past statistics and the expectations that fans had for him. Foye has generally helped the team with his outside shooting threat, opening up an offense that does a lot of work in the post. Mo has performed well, but has been out since mid-December.
So, the only transaction that I don’t think that we can really evaluate yet is the move to bring Dennis Lindsey in as GM. Many fans already have a sour taste in their mouths because Lindsey didn’t make the moves that they thought should have (or could have) been done over last offseason. We’ll get to see more of what Dennis Lindsey is all about as we approach the trade deadline and an offseason in which the front office has oodles of cap space to toy with.
So, let’s take a look at what might have been if the Jazz went after some different players last offseason. These are some of the players that I saw many fans clamoring for, though I’m sure there are a lot more that make up this past offseason’s wish list. (Stats provided by www.basketball-reference.com)
Ryan Anderson: Anderson was rumored to be widely available after playing for the Orlando Magic last year, and the Hornets were able to grab him in the offseason. The Hornets got exactly what they were expecting from Anderson, as his stats have hardly changed from last season. He is shooting all the same percentages that he did the year before, just taking two more shots and one less free throw per game, which explains why his points per game have gone up about a point this year.
It was rumored that the Jazz could have had Anderson for the small price of…fan favorite Paul Millsap. Honestly, I don’t mind that deal. With the offense being already heavily focused on the inside game of Al Jefferson, Anderson’s range would have come in handy for this team. Millsap has done an admirable job at extending his range and becoming a decent threat from three-point range, but Anderson sets the bar high for other power forwards spreading the floor.
Interesting that Anderson has only started 17 games this year as well, with Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez generally getting the starting nods in the frontcourt.
DJ Augustin: In conversations, I didn’t see Augustin’s name come up nearly as much as the others, but he was still a fairly common topic after playing ok basketball for the worst team in the history of the NBA. This year he’s playing behind George Hill, and he hasn’t been doing it very well. To be fair, nobody on the offensive side of the ball has looked good in Indiana this year, but Augustin has lost minutes throughout the year to Ben Hansbrough. Even as a backup, you have to think that the Pacers were expecting a bit more production from the veteran. I can’t imagine he’d be doing much better if we had signed him instead of Jamaal Tinsley. He surely would have backed up Mo Williams, and been forced into a role bigger than his capabilities due to Mo’s injury, and I can’t say I’m too heartbroken about him not being here.
Jose Calderon: With the seasons that Gasol and Rubio have had so far, Calderon has been the most impressive Spaniard in the league this year. He wrestled back and forth with Kyle Lowry over the starting job in Toronto, and Detroit felt it was worth picking him up to provide some veteran leadership to young point guard Brandon Knight. That’s a fantastic pickup for the Pistons, shoring up their backcourt and clearing some nasty contracts from their books.
The difference between Calderon’s stats last year and this year are minuscule, but that’s as much a testament to Calderon’s consistency over his time in Toronto as anything else. He’s been a solid guard in both starting and backup roles. The Basketball Jones’ J.E. Skeets think that the Raptors should retired Calderon’s jersey, so that should give you an idea of what he has meant to the franchise as a long term backup.
He would have been a solid addition to the Jazz, but wouldn’t have given them much more than what a healthy Mo Williams has contributed this year. He’s not any younger than Mo, and doesn’t have much more upside and would have been a lateral move. I sure wouldn’t have minded having him on the roster when Mo went down, though…
Goran Dragic: Dragic was sharing a backcourt with Lowry in Houston last season, and filled in admirably when he went down with injury. Apparently that didn’t earn him any points
with the front office though, as Houston decided Jeremy Lin was the better long-term solution there. Were they right? Dragic is scoring and assisting at a higher clip than last year, and has played in every Suns game this year. After backing up Steve Nash in Phoenix, he now has the confidence of the front office in Phoenix, and should be running the point for the Suns for the foreseeable future. He is one of only guys on this list that has increased his stats from last year, though one can probably attribute that to playing nearly 7 more minutes per game.
Would the Jazz still be interested in Dragic? If so, a recent trade machine party happened over on Grantland that could land that Jazz a young point guard with some upside. What do you think Jazz fans? Does Dragic fit with where this team will be in the next few years?
Kyle Lowry: Kyle Lowry has had an up and down season in Toronto so far, but things are looking up for him now as he’s been given the reigns of the starting job in Toronto. Jose Calderon was traded to Detroit in a three-team deal that was completed earlier this week. Lowry, up to this point, hasn’t been able to keep up his production from last year, when he was in the race to become an All-Star before getting injured. This season was similar, as Lowry started off well, sat a few games due to injury, and then came back and produced at a lesser rate that allowed the team to start Calderon for certain spurts.
I would imagine that Lowry will flourish in Toronto now that he’s been given the keys, but he needs to stay healthy. He only played 47 games last year, and has only played in 32 games so far this year. At 26, he still has a chance to be a very good starting point guard in this league. I’m not convinced that Toronto is sold on him in the long term, as they could actually waive him for $1 million in the offseason and let him walk, but now that Calderon is gone I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lowry at the helm for the long haul in the motherland.
Avery Bradley: Bradley has only played in 14 games so far this year, and the Celtics are sure glad to have him back with All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo falling to injury. Bradley has, so far, made his mark on the defensive end of the ball, becoming a very good perimeter defender. In his short time back, he is scoring more than he did last season, and is going to have to take on a larger role on offense (along with Jason Terry) if the Celtics are going to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season.
Bradley is a young guard, with a lot of potential. I’m sure that he didn’t want his big opportunity to come at the expense of Rondo’s knee, but he’s got it now. We’ll see what he can do with it as he shares the back court with Jason Terry and try to keep the Celtics afloat for what is now their fourth or fifth “last run.”
Other names thrown around by fans both last offseason and during this season:
Rajon Rondo: Fans of any team around the league drool at the thought of getting Rondo for pennies on the dollar from the Celtics. In my opinion, he has been underwhleming this season, but maybe my expecatations were too high. Obviously, with his injury situation now, trading for him in the offseason would have put us right where we are now, with it possibly affecting next season as well
Eric Maynor: Maynor is perhaps the most disappointing player on this list, and has lost most of his backup minutes to Reggie Jackson. Maybe Kevin O’Connor saw his ceiling, and made a proactive move that saved the team a bundle of money and really didn’t hurt them much competitively. Or maybe they can pursue Maynor in the offseason and get him back, giving the Jazz a solid young backup point guard.
Kemba Walker: Kemba, after a lackluster rookie season, has picked things up in a big way this season. He’s helped the Bobcats become slightly better than last year, when they set a historical mark for futility. He’s scoring six more points per game, and assisting more as well. His 19.34 PER is not too shabby either.
Nate Robinson: Tom Thibodeau has turned Nate Robinson into an effecient, reasonable backup point guard. Aside from an occasional crazy shot, he seems to be in control and does a good job running their second team offense and helping straighten the ship until Derrick Rose gets back (which should be soon). I’m not sure that Ty Corbin would have been the coach to reign in this eccentric fireball.
Brandon Jennings: Jennings has played well enough this year to be in the All-Star conversation, especially because the NBA needed an injury replacement for Rondo (they went with Brook Lopez). The Bucks declined to extend him this year, so he might be available this offseason, though if Jazz fans are looking for a pass-first point guard to set up their young players, Jennings might not be the best option. If you’re going the scoring route, there aren’t many better in the league, though there are some that are more efficient.
Tyreke Evans: ‘Reke would be a better fit on this team as a starting shooting guard-a guy who can slash from the perimeter, handle the ball, and create instant offense. He doesn’t have a super jump shot, doesn’t play super defense, or really do anything super at all. Despite winning rookie of the year a couple of seasons back, the Kings did not extend him, which is really telling considering that they seem to be “all-in” on DeMarcus Cousins.
Ersan Ilyasova: Some thought that Ilyasova would be a suitable replacement for Paul Millsap in the frontcourt, and give some flexibility to make some moves in that sense. He is above his career averages in points, rebounds, and assists so far this year, though he hasn’t quite matched last year’s production that made him a hot topic among fans.
What do you think? Should the Jazz have made any moves for these players last offseason? How do things look in hindsight, and who should be on their radar before the trade deadline and during the upcoming offseason?
Follow Braeden on Twitter @CanadianBraeden.