While the season has been rough in many ways, there have been a fair share of bright spots for the Utah Jazz. One has been the recent play of point guard Diante Garrett. For a team with a long history of being able to find the proverbial diamonds in the rough through free agency and late draft picks, Garrett represents the latest success.
Trey Burke’s injury to start the season caused the Jazz to trot out a point guard tandem of John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley. The results were disastrous, almost to epic levels. On November 12th, Tinsley 1was waived. The next day, Utah inked Diante Garrett, causing Jazz fans to scour the Internet for information about this relative unknown. He had spent his rookie season in Phoenix and attending Oklahoma City’s training camp.
He was instantly a breath of fresh air. In his Utah debut, Garrett was instrumental: his seven points and five assists helped lead the Jazz to their first win of the young season (after a disappointing 0-8 start). In his first seven outings, Garrett was productive, averaging 5.3 PPG and 4.1 APG. Then his playing time became very sporadic, as head coach Tyrone Corbin alternated between Garrett and Lucas as Burke’s primary back-up. Later, though, it became clear that Garrett’s playmaking, outside shooting, and length in the backcourt set him ahead of Lucas.
Since then, he’s been solid and sometimes very good. He has played with a lot more confidence since knowing the job was his to keep. In January, Garrett contributed 4.2 PPG, 1.8 APG and 1.8 RPG, while shooting 43.8 percent from long-distance. He was even better in February, with 4.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG and 1.3 APG and 53.8 percent 3-point shooting. Since the All-Star break, Garrett is contributing 5.5 PPG and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. He has often played alongside Alec Burks, allowing the two to share ball-handling duties. Garrett’s ability to stick the open jumper, in tandem with Burks’ passing, has helped Corbin’s second unit.
Garrett certainly has a lot to work on. His 23.7 turnover percentage is a concern and he has more turnovers than assists since the All-Star break. His assists have gone down as he’s played more off the ball. He also has a very low free throw rate at .041. His two free throws against the Atlanta Hawks were his first in 18 games (and 300 minutes).
But as a reserve, he has injected energy and hustle. Garrett’s long arms help on defense, along with a willingness on that end of the court. He is a solid rebounder, particularly on the defensive boards (10.0 DRB%). All things considered, he has given stalwart minutes. His consistent outside shooting has been a boon for a team in need of some perimeter marksmanship (41.8 percent for the season on treys). Garrett is making just $719,266 this season, so he has been a steal.
What does the future hold for Garrett? With a team option for a mere $915,000 for next season and possibly many roster vacancies, he has a good chance of returning. Garrett will have a full season under his belt and will be able to fine tune his game this off-season, likely including playing some summer league ball. Moreover, he seems to have upside with room to grow his game. While the Jazz and 2013 second-round pick Raul Neto seem to have a mutual desire to make something happen, Garrett would be a wise option as one of the two back-up point guards going forward.
Perhaps the Jazz have once again found another hidden gem in Diante Garrett.