In a head-to-head comparison of their statistical output last season, Devin Harris performs surprisingly well against Mo Williams. In fact, take a jaunt over to Basketball Reference and look at Devin Harris’s advanced season statistics last season. In other words, while Devin Harris’s exit went unheralded, excitement about Mo Williams’ return to the Jazz has gone unchecked. I say this not to downplay the addition of Mo Williams, but to pay my respects to Devin Harris who was a legitimately good basketball player last season and the Jazz’s only offensive weapon for entire stretches of games.
That said, MO WILLIAMS! If the Jazz are going to continue to trot out Al Jefferson as the primary source for offensive production for this team (and they really will), then I can’t imagine a point guard better suited for that kind of offense than Mo Williams. If the Jazz are going to play half court basketball and camp Al Jefferson out in the post, the perfect point guard is one who will avoid turnovers and knock down threes. Mo Williams fits that profile: he Mo had a career low 11.7 TOV% last season, which for his usage percentage, is above average, and he has shot 39% from three over his career. Devin Harris, who has shot just 32% from three over his career, had a career year last season from downtown. Defenses recklessly collapsed on the Jazz bigs, leaving criminally open shots for Harris. To put it simply, Devin Harris is not a three-point shooter, but because of the Jazz’s frontline, he became one. Mo Williams is a three point shooter and now has the advantage of that same front line.
Offseason Accomplishments: Traded to the Jazz for the trade exception, and he inadvertently broke the story of Big Al’s disproportionately gargantuan bed (which became a disproportionately fun story, I might add).
Patronus: Emperor Penguin. The only animal as aesthetically impressive as Mo’s shooting stroke. Check it:
Stat to Watch: Assists per game. This is complicated. As I just explained, Mo would do well to set up a lawn chair on the three-point line and get up only to wantonly drain deep bombs to his heart’s content. Still, the Jazz wings are far more efficient when they’re out and running. Marvin and Gordon were born to play freestyle, wide open, know-the-scales-and-improvise basketball. In fact, this belies the crux of the Jazz’s most formidable obstacle to greatness this season: an identity crisis. Unfortunately, Al Jefferson’s ample skill set is diametrically opposed in practical application to the skill set of Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, and even to a lesser extent, Favors and Burks off the bench. Those players were meant to thrive in fast break basketball, whereas Al’s undisputed dominion is the low post in half court sets. Where does Mo fit in? He can be the spark plug for the running offense or the outlet for the methodical one. You’ll be able to tell which one he chooses by watching his assists.
Three Outcomes for the Season:
1. “The Big Al Identity.” Half court sets, wide open threes, a career year in efficiency for Mo.
2. “The Run-n-Gun Identity.” Bloated assist numbers, 110 points per game offense, 7th seed in the West and an extremely bright future at season’s end.
3. Somewhere in between. Mo Williams’ year will be something of a microcosm for the whole team, in part because his identity as the point guard is so entangled with the team’s identity as a whole. All the pundits are consistently slotting the Jazz in for the eighth seed and this seems superficially accurate, but only because so many of the Jazz’s starters are known quantities. If at any point Corbin moves away from the Big Al team identity and gambles on the more volatile quantities like Kanter, Favors and Burks, this season could go in a million different directions, and Mo Williams’ stat line will be the first place I’ll look for explanations.