A few weeks ago, the point guard situation for the Utah Jazz was dire. Rookie Trey Burke was out with a fractured finger and the veteran duo of Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas III were not cutting it (and that may be being a bit generous). On November 12, Utah cut ties with Tinsley and the following day, Diante Garrett was inked to a deal.
Since that time, the point guard play has gone from being the team’s biggest weakness to arguably being the team’s biggest strength. Burke understandably and deservedly gets most of the credit. His play has been wonderful to watch, as fellow Salt City Hooper Laura Thompson wrote, and I am thrilled to see his growth throughout the season. But behind him, Diante Garrett deserves some of the credit for the team’s recent success.
Few people knew much about Garrett, much like many of the mid-season signings the Jazz have consummated the past several seasons (think Sundiata Gaines, Othyus Jeffers, DeMarre Carroll). It did not take long for him to show his worth, as he tallied seven points and five assists in his debut. This also happened to be the first win of Utah’s season. Since then, he has shown he was not only someone to smooth things over until Burke returned, but can also help the team going forward.
While he and Lucas have alternated roles since Burke came back from his injury, head coach Tyrone Corbin has opted to go with Garrett the past two games. This is a great move, since Garrett has a lot to offer.
First off, he is a pass-focused point guard. He is averaging 3.3 dimes (7.5 per/36 minutes) off the bench while sporting a 35.4 AST%. Those are solid, especially compared to Lucas (1.6 apg in 21.1 mpg; 2.8/36 min; 12.7 AST%). He actively looks to set up his teammates and at times has been the team’s best facilitator. Besides Gordon Hayward, no Jazz player has recorded more assists in a game than Garrett did versus the Dallas Mavericks (eight). He has four games with five or more dimes. The offense seems to flow when he is at the helm. Garrett definitely needs to work on his turnovers (23.3 TOV%, including two palming miscues the other night), but the skills are there to be a very solid back-up passer.
By inserting him into the second unit, Garrett allows Alec Burks to play more to his strengths: slashing, getting to the free throw line and functioning as a secondary creator, rather than a primary. Lucas is not a passer, so when he was in, Burks was forced to not only be the facilitator, but also the primary bench scorer. It caused for some poor outings. Coincidentally, Burks has played much better the past two games because Burke and Garrett have helped him focus on his fortes.
He’s not going to be a scorer, but Garrett has shown he can stick the jumper, hitting 38.5% of his threes thus far. If he can continue hitting the wide open jumpers–which he will continue to get–that opens up the offense tremendously for his teammates (something that Tinsley and Lucas were not doing, although Lucas has improved of late).
At 6’4″ and with a 6’8″ wingspan, Garrett can have a defensive impact. He plays the passing lanes (0.9 spg and 2.1/36 min) and can affect shots, especially when compared to the 5’11” Lucas. With combined with guys like Burks, Jeremy Evans and Marvin Williams, he helps give Corbin a long, athletic, active lineup on defense.
At just barely 25 years old, he still has some upside. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops over the course of the season. He could be someone that helps shore up the Jazz bench past this year. In the meantime, should he stay in the rotation, Garrett will definitely help the Jazz going forward.