Operation Point Guard

June 1st, 2013 | by Laura Thompson

Mo Williams 2

When Mo Williams started off last season chucking up a shot pretty much every chance he got, I knew it was going to be a long season. In the first five games, he averaged 15.4 FGA per game, second-highest on the team at that point, and the Jazz were 2-3. As much as I liked Mo off the bench his rookie year, and as hopeful as I was that he’d be an asset to a team that desperately needed 3-point shooting and speed during his second stint with the Jazz, his tendency to look for his own shot and play hero ball didn’t mesh with a team heavy on talented, post-up bigs.

Fast forward to this offseason, which is one of the more pivotal offseasons for the Jazz in recent memory. No point guard is under contract for next year, and though last year’s PGs include a good passer (Tinsley), a tough defender (Watson), and a decent scorer (Williams), none of them inspire much excitement in the fan base should they return. They’re not the best options for moving forward and taking a talented—but still raw and improving—core to the next level. So what should be the plan?

Here’s my plan for shoring up the point guard position along with my reasoning for each point (pun intended):

1. Sign Jose Calderon to a two-year $20 million contract.

2. Draft Dennis Schroeder at #14.

3. Draft another PG.

4. Give the young kids significant playing time.

Point 1. Why Calderon? Who else of the available point guards would be either a) the point guard of the future and worth putting big bucks into, or b) willing to be a stop-gap solution until we can sign, trade for, or groom the point guard of the future? As thrilling as it would be to see Chris Paul in a Jazz uniform, that’s not going to happen—though recent events give us a glimmer of hope. Jeff Teague would cost more than I’d be willing to pay to pry him away from Atlanta: he’s a restricted free agent and they have plenty of money to match. With the amount the Jazz would have to pay to get him, they’d be banking that he’d be our point guard of the future. I don’t see that happening.

Calderon is next on the list. His defense is poor which is, unfortunately, also one of the knocks on Mo. Point guards lit us up last year, and it’ll be hard to watch that happen again for the next year or two. But assuming Kanter, Favors, Hayward, and Burks get significantly more burn this year than last, there will be very good defenders behind Calderon to compensate for his defensive deficiencies. The main benefit to signing Calderon would be that he’s a true pass-first point guard. That’s exactly what Favors, Kanter, Hayward, and Burks need in order to develop, along with increased playing time. Calderon, before the trade to Detroit, won the starting position over Kyle Lowry—who wasn’t making his teammates better—because Calderon did make his teammates better. A true point guard could do wonders for our young core.

Calderon likely wouldn’t demand more than a two-year contract given the market and his age, while allowing the Jazz to keep financial flexibility moving forward: the big-money extensions won’t kick in until the 2014-2015 season for Hayward and Favors. If Calderon doesn’t work out after this season, he’s an expiring contract the next and could be used in a trade.

Schroeder

Point 2. Draft Dennis Schroeder. He measured 6’2’’ in shoes with a 6’7” (!) wingspan. He’s very athletic, plays defense, has a pretty good shot, can get into the lane, and passes well. When asked about his strengths, the first thing he said was that he plays good defense, and the second was that he sets up teammates. Those are two things we need the most from the PG position. His athletic ability and wingspan will only help him improve defensively his first few years in the league, and his defense, combined with Calderon’s tutelage as a pass-first point guard, could make Schroeder a pretty good point guard. He could come along slowly while Calderon takes the bulk of the PG minutes. If Schroeder’s ready to take over starting point guard duties at the end of Calderon’s contract, great! If not, skip to Point 4.

Point 3. Pick another PG in the draft. I don’t see another point guard I’d desperately want at #21—I don’t want Shane Larkin because his defense is poor, he’s short and doesn’t have length—so take the BPA there and use the second-round pick on someone like Nate Wolters, Phil Pressey or Myck Kabongo (unlikely where we are in the second round, but possible if we get another pick somewhere). The Jazz like to carry three point guards, and having another young point to learn under Calderon could be a good thing.

Point 4. (Not to be confused with Derek Fisher.) Let the young kids play. Turn the team over to Hayward, Favors, Kanter, and Burks. There will be some rough times. But they may also surprise us. The thing about these guys is they’re all at least good defenders, which can’t be said for the veterans they’re replacing. The offensive game will come along for them; we saw flashes from each of them this last season. If they do surprise us and we make the playoffs, great! If not, we’ll have a better idea of where we are, what holes we need to fill, and we’ll end up with a lottery pick in a stacked draft. The point guard of the future could be there.

This isn’t a fool-proof plan—it requires making assumptions. But it’s a plan that could work and keeps the financial flexibility intact, which is very important to the organization and to building a championship contender. The next month will be very telling.

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

18 Comments

  1. Roy says:

    According to Mark Cuban, Dallas is going to throw a lot of money at Calderone. Jazz should not take part in that auction. They need to concentrate on trading for Eric Bledsoe or Jeff Teague, and drafting another PG.

    While I like Schroeder, he isn’t the floor general Utah is looking for. A better choice would be Michael Carter-Williams. While he may be a risky pick, he has a considerably higher ceiling than Schroeder, and plays very good defense. Larkin has too much downside to be a wise pick.

    It’s time for Utah to shoot for the stars and take some risks on players with potential, rather than sit back and make safe bets on mediocrity. They would be smart to trade a 2015 1st rounder to Houston for Thomas Robinson as well. He would complete a very solid, and young frontcourt for the Jazz.

    • yojimbo says:

      MCW would be a good pick at 14 – if he drops. If not, Schoreder is the next best PG who might be available. Still hope to go with BPA. I’m not a fan at all of Larkin at 21 or otherwise for the same reasons mentioned in the article. At #21 would perhaps rather swing for the fences with http://youtu.be/Oaw0_zw9LGs

  2. Brady says:

    I agree with all these points. But I especially agree with the letting the young kids play.. Jazz fans need to realize that starting the core 4 probably won’t lead us to the post season next year. If so great but if not.. it’s honestly fine with me. The draft next year is STACKED. Wiggins, Parker, Smart, Randle and Harrison are all 2-4 time minimum all stars and they each have the opportunity to be that franchise star every team wants.. especially Wiggins and Parker. I would also take Carter- Williams over Schroeder but I doubt he will be there. If Schroeder can be a poor mans Rondo, like many scouts are saying his ceiling is.. I wont complain. Can you imagine.. and this is a big time IF.. but our starting line up could be Schroeder, Hayward or Burks(take your pick.. the other one will be our sixth man), Wiggins or Parker, Favors and Kanter.. We wont be able to keep all of them but for a few years that team has incredible potential. All I know is these next two years(especially the off seasons) are going to be two of the biggest in our franchise’s history. Go Jazz!

  3. otterpop says:

    Good post Laura. I agree, in general. We need to sign a vet PG, draft one for the future. I’d take take any of the vets mentioned above, but I’d also settle for another year of Mo. I think I like Schroeder best among PGs too (including Burke). I think he has the most upside. I don’t think we should use our 2nd pick on another PG though. We need a defensive big – Gorgui Dieng would be ideal – or a big who can contribute right away, like Mason Plumlee. Can’t wait for the draft. Really liking the new site too. Great job, Andy.

  4. Dustin says:

    Take a look at the YouTube scouting reports on Schroeder and Carter-Williams. I am sold on Carter-Williams if he is still available. He is a pass first guy who can be taught how to shoot. If we take Schroeder the I think we will need a veteran to show him the ropes for a year or two. Whomever we take will probably need some time. I think Burks should run the point for a while and we should re sign Foye and Carroll to take the 2 guard position. Jeremy Evans showed us last year that he is not just a dunk machine, so he can rotate around with the big men. Overall I like the idea of letting most of our free agents go and rebuilding. I think we have some real talent with our young players, but we will never know quite how good they are unless they have a chance to play with starters for a full game.

  5. Tim says:

    I agree with everything here, especially with drafting Schroeder and letting the young kids play. Calderon would be an excellent pick up and could provide veteran leadership and help keep us competitive for a playoff spot. I’d love to snag Eric Bledsoe in a trade but we don’t really have anything the Clippers would want (also, with the way things are looking in LA I’m not sure if they would want to trade Bledsoe). Overall, great article. Hopefully the Jazz will follow suite.

  6. Laura Thompson says:

    Thanks for the comments and feedback, everyone! Appreciate it. Going to break down some of these comments one by one just to keep the discussion going.

    Roy, your comment about Mark Cuban is an interesting one. I have two thoughts: 1. Mark Cuban talks a lot, and while I really like the guy and often like what he has to say, I think sometimes he talks just as a smokescreen. They were going to throw a lot of money at Deron, but Cuban didn’t even make the meeting (which, given the first half of Deron’s year this year, made sense; the second half showed a resurgence, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of his contract plays out). 2. I actually wouldn’t mind getting in that bidding war, only because it would mean we really are getting behind the young kids and going to let them play. If that’s the case, we’re going to need some salary in order to get to the minimum salary. I’d much rather that be on a two-year contract than a five-year contract, especially if it’s for a pass-first point guard.

    I know I only mentioned it briefly in the article, but I don’t see Teague being the answer. As much as I like him, he would cost an awful lot of money–meaning the Jazz would lose the financial flexibility they’ve worked so hard to build–over a lot of years in order to pry him away from Atlanta. Are we really sure he’s the point guard of the future? Because we’d be paying him as such if we wanted to get him.

    I do like Bledsoe, but with the uncertainty in LA with CP3 right now, he’s not on the market. He may become available, but we have very little to offer at this point. I saw quite a bit of Bledsoe this last year (I live near LA) and, while I like him, I’m not sure he’s the floor general we’d be hoping for. I like his toughness and D, though.

    Re: MCW. Most mock drafts I see have him going before the Jazz pick. I know a couple have him going to the Jazz, but I’m not convinced he’ll fall to #14. I love his floor-general abilities and his . . . winningness, for lack of a better word, but his shooting concerns me at this point. How’s his D? Maybe someone who’s seen him more than I have can comment on that? Part of why I’m so excited about Schroeder is his length and his D; I’m not many other PGs out there have that. I’m of the belief that you don’t need the best PG in the league to win a championship (or even the best player on your team to be the PG)–you just need a pretty good PG. Look at the championship teams over the last 20 years and take a look at their PG.

    Roy, I do agree with you that the Jazz need to stop being so conservative and shoot for the stars. That’s why I want the young kids to get so much burn; I want there to be a chance for us to get a great pick in a loaded draft, and I want to see what we have in the young kids. If they turn into something special, great! If not, we’ll have a great pick. But I don’t think MCW over Schroeder is necessarily shooting for the stars. I may change my mind in a couple years, though. :) I also really like the idea of seeing if we could get in on the Thomas Robinson sweepstakes. Seems like a low-risk sort of investment, and one that maintains financial flexibility. Thanks again for your comments, Roy!

    Brady, I’m totally with you! If the next year is played right, this team could be really fun and really exciting to watch for a number of years. I think KOC and DL have set up a very good core with a lot of flexibility. That potential lineup you bring up could just be awesome. Thanks!

    Otterpop, thanks! I’m definitely not opposed to a defensive big for our other big. My tendency is to want defense over offense when having to choose between the two (my theory is that it’s easier to develop offense than defense), so I’ll have to check out Gorgui Dieng. If the Jazz don’t pick up another PG in the draft (assuming they pick up someone like Calderon and draft Schroeder or MCW), who would you like them to get as their #3 PG?

    Dustin, I don’t disagree that MCW would be very, very good in a Jazz uniform. I’m just not convinced, at this point, that he falls to #14. And I also agree with you that either rookie PG would need someone to show them the ropes, and I just don’t think Mo should be that guy.

    Tim, thanks! If the Jazz really do let the young kids play this year, I’ll be more excited about watching the Jazz than I think I have been in a long time. We haven’t had many two-way players getting a lot of PT for quite some time. It could be really fun to watch!

    Fun discussion, you guys–keep it coming!

    • Roy says:

      Thanks for the reply, Laura. It’s refreshing to hear your feedback!

      To answer your question about MCW, his defense is good. He doesn’t have the elite quickness and stifling defense you see with Eric Bledsoe, but because of his large size and wingspan for the position, he can contain on the perimeter very well. His length also creates a lot of turnovers. If you have a chance to rewatch some Syracuse games, check him out. I’m not terribly concerned with his jump shot. Of all things to worry over in drafting a player, that one is at the bottom of my list. Shooting can be taught, as we saw with Gordon Hayward. It’s the other things like positioning, defense, and motor that can’t be learned, as we saw with Al Jefferson. And a little icing on the cake, MCW has perhaps the most beautiful fast break court vision I’ve seen in a draft prospect since Stockton retired. I’ll be crossing my fingers that Dallas passes on him and takes Schroeder (I don’t realistically see any teams above Dallas opting for MCW).

      As far as a #3 PG, check out Ray McCallum. He might be a diamond in the rough in the second round. Myck Kabongo is also a possibility. I’d just shy away from Larkin. He’s an athletic freak, but doomed—like Millsap—by size and likely to struggle in the NBA against bigger players.

      • Layton says:

        Glad to see someone else finally acknowledge Ray McCallum. Kid has a chance to make it. That’s incredible for a 2nd rounder (look at Kevin Murphy… the kid isn’t an NBA player).

      • Laura Thompson says:

        Thanks for keeping it coming, Roy! MCW does intrigue me now that I’ve seen a bit more of him. I still think, if I were choosing between MCW and Schroeder, I’d lean towards Schroeder, though I think either one could be a great pickup. Unfortunately, part of the reason this draft is weak is that each of the lottery picks has some pretty glaring weaknesses.

        I’ve been hearing good things about ray McCallum, too. Do you think Myck Kabongo would be available with our 2nd round pick, or do you think we’d have to trade up a bit to get him? I’m thinking the latter.

        I really don’t want Larkin. As much of a great athlete as he may be, I don’t want any more undersized players.

        • Roy says:

          I don’t think Utah will have to trade up if they want Kabongo. He was considered a 1st round pick last season, and he’s been sliding ever since. I wouldn’t be surprised if the free fall continues.

  7. Justin says:

    I’m a huge fan of Schroeder, he will be a great defender, he’s so long, and he has a really good handle and quick first step. And he looks for the pass. A lot of people are overlooking that during the week long Nike Hoops Summit practices and game, the Internationals coach couldn’t stop praising Schroeder, and he had Wiggins on the team! And Schroeder didn’t disappoint.

    I think MCW has the trappings of overrated written all over him. The big reason people like him is he’s tall and big. Do we forget that Burks is tall, and capable at point, and unlike MCW, he can score?

    I like your plan. I think another PG Utah could look at in the second round that no one has mentioned is Nedovic. Tall for a PG, flashy, great scorer.

    • Roy says:

      I’m also a fan of Schroeder, and wouldn’t be disappointed if he ends up in a Jazz uni. My biggest fear with him, however, is that his quickness, talent, and stats may be be drastically overrated due to the poor level of competition. Remember, he’s playing second tier ball in Germany. Second tier. I’m not sure of the USA equivalent to that, but it can’t be good.

      • Laura Thompson says:

        This obviously isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, but one of the knocks on Lillard in last year’s draft was that he hadn’t played at a big-time school and didn’t play against very good competition. It may be a legitimate point, but the Nike Hoops Summit was pretty telling for Schroeder, imo.

    • Rory Litster says:

      Agree with MCW!! He’s tall and that’s about it!

  8. Clint Johnson says:

    I would take Schroeder over any PG in this class. He has a good handle with either hand, very strong court vision for a 19 year old, defends well and passionately, is extremely quick and long, and is a good stationary shooter. One of the things I like most is he knows how to threaten an offense with his dribble, probing, darting, keeping players on his back while maintaining his dribble. He is a defensive passer who doesn’t want to shoot unless he’s wide open, which fits the Jazz well.

    Carter-Williams has upside but I give him at least a 50% chance of being a bust. He’s not as good a passer as he appeared early in the year, and almost all his best passing comes off his own penetration deep into the lane. He doesn’t have Schroeder’s handle or quickness, and his shot really concerns me. You can’t always teach shooting, and MCW’s mechanics are really unreliable: he misses all over the place and for a variety of reasons. He even has defensive question marks coming out of Syracuse’s exclusive zone scheme. I’d take him at 14 if Schroeder were gone because he does have upside, but I like him far, far less.

    I wouldn’t take Larkin in the first round, personally. Nate Robinson can’t stick with a team because you can’t use the guy except at the expense of the rest of the team, and little Nate is Larkin’s ceiling. Instead, I’d go with Kabongo, Canaan, or even Siva with our second round pick.

    I hope we use pick 21 on Giannis Adetokunbo or however your spell it. In a few years, imagine Favors at PF, Adetokunbo with his 7’3″ wingspan at SF, and Hayward at SG. I wouldn’t mind waiting on him a few years, especially as that will give our current young players more PT next season.

  9. Rory Litster says:

    You can’t teach shooting the ball! Either you got it or you don’t by this point! Carter-Williams has size but doesn’t play D at a high level nor anything at a high level. His Athletic prowess is 0. He is 6’6″ and can’t dunk. He is slow and lethargic in transition and on D. Schroeder is very very young but easily has a higher ceiling over every PG in this draft. He is an above average defender, has above average quickness, athletic ability shooting from the outside (inside game has something to be desired for) and by all accounts is extremely coach able. I would rate him the 3rd best PG prospect after Burk and McCollum. MCW isn’t even on my list. At 21st pick it should just be best player available. Gobert would be nice just because of his “freak” size. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hardaway Jr either.

    • Roy says:

      Gordon Hayward and Jeff Hornacek might say otherwise Rory. Hayward’s shooting improved drastically after he worked on his shot with Jeff.

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