Editor’s note: This is the first in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseaons, visit our JazzRank category page. Andris Biedrins is #13.
It was just four years ago where many Utah Jazz fans would have loved to seen Andris Biedrins in a Utah Jazz uniform. At the time, the Latvian center was an agile, 22-year old on the cusp of being one of the game’s best big men. He boasted 11.9 ppg and 11.2 rpg averages, doing so in just 30.0 mpg. He was solid on defense and even displayed the ability to pass the ball. Against the Jazz, he always seemed to own the glass. Biedrins was a bright spot on a hapless Warriors team that mustered a lowly 29-53 record. He had just finished the first year in a five-year, $45 million pact that was beginning to look like a steal.
Now, let’s fast forward those four years. He is now viewed as one of the most overpaid and underwhelming players in the league. Each passing year, Biedrins experienced a precipitous decline. His scoring, his rebounding, and especially his free throw shooting dropped.dramatically. Above all, it was his confidence that took the biggest nosedive.
When he was included in the big Golden State/Utah transaction, many groaned and sighed at Biedrins’ inclusion– a very understandable reaction. After all, he is coming off a season when he averaged a whopping 0.5 ppg (1.7 ppg over 36 minutes). What can the Jazz expect from him? They cannot expect the world, that’s for sure. But could Biedrins be serviceable? Absolutely. Here are a few reasons why:
A change of scenery can sometimes reignite the fire for a player. Under Don Nelson and Mark Jackson, Biedrins’ role was lessened and his confidence crushed. Former Jazz center Al Jefferson reflected on this last year, saying that Biedrins can definitely still play. Perhaps a new locale could help in major ways. Indeed, the article where Jefferson shares these thoughts details that Biedrins had been working out in Santa Barbara along with other Jazz players, there could be some familiarity that could help in his new locale.
There are much lowered expectations. Given his salary and lowered production, he was naturally a focus for Warriors’ fans. In Utah, many view him solely as a $9 million expiring contract. Few are expecting much. The Jazz have had success in the past with such reclamation projects. He will not be expected to be a savior, but could provide some rebounding and hustle.
Obviously, the front court will belong to Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Along with Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans, the Jazz sport a corps of young bigs with great potential. That said, Biedrins will be playing the role of the vet down low. Given the mixture of youth, potential injuries, and situations, Biedrins’ experience may be needed.
Whether or not you believe in the value of the vaunted contract year, Biedrins is entering his. He wants to prove to the NBA can he can still play, in hopes of earning his next deal: believe it or not, but he is just 27 years old. If he can rediscover even a portion of his former skills and confidence, he could play for many years to come.
From the sound of the various interviews and comments from the Utah front office, no roles are totally defined. While I feel some are pretty close to that point, there will be minutes and opportunities available for each person on the roster. Given his decision to forgo international play this summer to focus on his this chance with the Jazz, Biedrins is very aware of this. While last year was horrific, he is still just two seasons removed from a 5 ppg/7 rpg effort.
I do not have any grand illusions that Andris Biedrins take the Jazz and the NBA by storm. But I also do not feel he is a lost cause. In my opinion, he still can contribute and this situation with Utah may be a prime one in which he can show off his remaining skills.