Jazz Players Come With Big Expectations
It’s been awhile since the Utah Jazz have made a move this offseason, so it’s a good time to look at some of the big moves the team has made to date.
In addition to re-signing some of its own free agents, namely guard Jamall Tinsley, swingman DeMarre Carroll and forward Jeremy Evans, the team has acquired through trading and free agency point guard Mo Williams, swingman Marvin Williams and guard Randy Foye.
For Mo Williams, it’s a sort of homecoming, as he returns to the team that gave him his start during the 2003-04 NBA season. While it remains to be seen if he can do a better job than Utah’s previous starting point guard, Devin Harris, who went to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Marvin Williams, statistically he does look like a pit of an upgrade.
Comparing career stats, Mo Williams is slightly better with his overall 3-point shooting percentage (38.7 percent to Harris’ 31.5 percent), free throw shooting (86.9 percent to Harris’ 80.1 percent) and rebounding (3.0 boards per game to Harris’ 2.4 boards), while the two are dead even in overall shooting percentage (44.1 percent) and assists (5 per game). But Williams is coming off an L.A. Clippers team where he played a reserve role behind Chris Paul and alongside Chauncey Billups last season, although he did very well as a starter for the Clips and the Cleveland Cavaiers in 2010-11.
His chance to be the prime floor general for an NBA franchise will be highly scrutinized, but the veteran point man ought to do very well for Utah this season.
Turning to Marvin Williams, there’s a lot for Jazz fans to be happy about in his coming to Utah. Statistically, he’s a big upgrade over Carroll at the starting small forward position, with career averages of 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and nearly a steal per game. Those are numbers the Jazz wold love to get out of that position, at least as a starting point.
Marvin Williams’ big challenge in taking over as Utah’s starting 3 will be in giving the team the kind of hustle and gritty play that Carroll did as a starter — and will likely continue to give off the bench. While his numbers are decent, Marvin Williams has suffered under the reputation of an underachiever with Atlanta. He’ll get plenty of opportunities in Utah to develop a new rep, but it’ll be up to him to make it happen.
In Randy Foye, the Jazz are getting a solid backup player to boost their bench, particularly with reserve point guard Earl Watson working to recover from knee surgery. Foye considers himself a shooting guard, but he can be a serviceable combo guard who Utah head coach Ty Corbin can interchange between backcourt positions as needed.
Foye likely won’t cut into starting off-guard Gordon Hayward’s minutes, but the short-term loser in the rotation may be Jazz reserve guard Alec Burks. Foye’s career numbers are better than the upcoming sophomore’s, and if the Jazz are focusing more on winning now than developing young talent, Burks may have to wait a bit to see if Foye sinks, swims, or plays more as a reserve point guard.
The new acquisitions may or may not be the last moves the Jazz make this offseason. But Utah’s Vice President Kevin O’Connor and new General Manager Dennis Lindsey have many more decisions ahead of them. Chief among those are the expiring contracts of big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Millsap reportedly turned down an extension offer from the Jazz, which means he will be testing the market as an unrestricted free agent next season. The Jazz would have a lot of cap room next season with both contracts off the books, but after Dwight Howard, who will likely re-sign with his new team, the L.A. Lakers, Jefferson and Millsap will be among the top free agents of the summer of 2013.
The Jazz would have more money to try to lure one or both of them back, or they could trade them this season — maybe even this offseason — to be sure they get some value out of the players’ departures.