Quick Thoughts on John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz Opening Night PGs

October 29th, 2013 | by Laura Thompson
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I went to two of the preseason games in Los Angeles last week and came away with a few thoughts. The main thought was that our point guard play was pretty atrocious. Not completely surprising given Trey Burke’s injury, but still disappointing nonetheless. (Other thoughts were that Brian Cook took a LOT of shots in a short amount of time, that Rudy Gobert is really, really long, and that we’re seeing glimpses of a potentially great defensive team.)

But the main point: point guard play. I think we were already expecting things to be a little rocky based on Trey Burke’s summer league games, and knowing that the point guard position is a tricky one to pick up quickly and seamlessly, especially as a rookie. We were expecting shaky play. I don’t think we were expecting to be in a position where John Lucas III, who had two career starts coming into this season, would be taking over the starting point guard duties.(As a side note, the great @Peter_J_Novak pointed out that Lucas has played a career 2,053 NBA minutes, while Alec Burks has played 2,076, yet the narrative from the Jazz has been that Lucas is the heady veteran with significant NBA experience.) Even beyond that, I don’t think we were expecting a point guard who would be shooting as often as he has. His three-point shooting has been nice— shooting 43.5% in the preseason—but his shot selection and field-goal percentage on two-point shots have left a LOT to be desired. His FGA rate was high for the first couple of preseason games, but he settled into taking fewer shots in the last four games. He attempted a field goal every 3.27 minutes in preseason play (an interesting note: in the preseason, Brian Cook led the Jazz in FGA/minute, at .5156/minute, or 1 FGA every 1.94 minutes).

What the games against the Clippers and Lakers showed me is just how badly we needed to sign Jamaal Tinsley. We know he’s slow on defense. We know he can’t shoot. We know he’s old. We know all of those things. But we know that he can pass. We know that he looks to set up his teammates and rarely looks for his own shot (largely because he doesn’t have much of one, but I digress).

We know that Tinsley’s always had great assist numbers per-36: for his career, he has averaged 8.3 assists per 36 minutes, while John Lucas III has averaged 4.5. Again, Lucas has played 174 NBA games—starting two of them—and he’s played 2053 minutes in his NBA career. He has a career true shooting percentage of 48.2% and an eFG% of 46.6%. In comparison, Tinsley has played 539 games and started 399 of them, playing 14,333 career NBA minutes. His true shooting percentage of 47.2% and eFG% of 43.8% are, however, below Lucas III’s. While Tinsley may be the inferior shooter, he’s a much, much better passer, and I think that will be incredibly valuable as we start the season without Trey Burke.

So who will get the minutes? Will John Lucas III continue to start? Will Tinsley get the nod since he’s more familiar with the system and with the players on the team? And what will happen when Trey Burke returns from his broken finger and integrates back into the team? Will Tinsley then be the backup? Or will Lucas III? Finally, what’s better for this Jazz team: Lucas’s possession-using tendencies or Tinsley’s pass-at-all-costs style? The diametrically opposed mediocrity of both players brings to light an interesting set of dilemmas, and it will be fascinating to see how things settle over the next couple of weeks.

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

Laura was a Jazz fan since diapers, even growing up in California. Her favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach--though possibly not in that order.
Laura Thompson


  1. Mike O says:

    I was way stoked when I found out that the Jazz signed Jamaal. I can’t imagine a scenario where it would make sense for Ty to start Lucas over Tinsley. Having Tinsley in the starting unit will give the core a PG who actually knows how to pass the ball. He’s not gonna put up points, but he will be far better for the offense, and the development of the team, than Lucas. Having a well below average shoot-first point guard in the twilight of his career, like JLIII, on a developing team makes no sense to me

  2. Geoff says:

    I prefer Tinsley by far over Lucas. But no matter how you look at it, the best point guard on this team ( probably even counting Burke at this point) is Gordon Hayward.

  3. Adam says:

    I think that Tinsley makes more sense for the starting unit and JLIII makes more sense for the bench. Our bench will have a hard time scoring, especially to open the season, and he and Burks played pretty well together during preseason. When Burke comes back I would be ok seeing Tinsley slide to 3rd PG>

  4. Pingback: John Lucas helped get Stevie Clark to OSU | Pistols Firing

  5. Rory says:

    Are you all nuts? Tinsley will hopefully not even see the floor! Offensively while he is on the floor they will be playing 4 on 5! You can not play that way if the focal point of the offense are the bigs! His defender will slump off him and crash down on our big men and beg him to shoot as you saw last year when he or or Earl played! You start Lucas and play Ian Clark or Alec Burks at the 1. If they are committed to the youth movement he better had not even dress!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *