Three years ago, when news surfaced that the Utah Jazz had interest in veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley, many Jazz fans were dubious. He had not been in the NBA in a year and had only logged 38 NBA games over a span of three seasons. Moreover, he had some off-court issues over the years that brought his character into question. When the two sides agreed on a pact, it was a very underwhelming move that seemed risky for a guy who would most likely anchor the end of the bench. I was one of the detractors of the move.
Well, I was wrong.
While he latest stint was very hard to stomach (1.1 PPG on 20% FGs and 1-15 3s), 2.9 APG, 1.4 RPG in 13.8 mpg, not to mention a 2.3 PER and .225 TS%. .225!), Tinsley proved me wrong overall. He was a solid pick-up especially with his minimal contract. His shooting was horrible, true. But at times, he was the best functioning point guard on Utah’s roster. Given the injury issues Devin Harris and Mo Williams experienced, he was pressed into starting duties, and while he did not wow anyone, he ran the offense well and got those around him involved. His turnover rate was a concern, but he maintained a high AST% even in his limited time this season. Younger point guards were troublesome for him to guard, but Tinsley was able to be decent defensively. Plus, he did things like this:
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. Continue Reading…
We often hear, when the Jazz win, that the team won by playing “Utah Jazz basketball.” For me, that has always connoted heart, hustle, tough defense, smart offense, and above all, teamwork.
When you think about the best teams in franchise history, they often exuded teamwork – an altruistic mindset. These Jazz squads were the ones who seemed to take joy in making the extra pass and in doing so, everyone got involved. The teamwork and passing was simply contagious. The result were some very successful years and many deep playoff runs. Moreover, they were a complete delight to watch, especially for basketball purists.
They were rosters comprised of many capable and, more importantly, willing passers. While John Stockton and Deron Williams were naturally the catalysts behind these stellar passing teams, the Jazz have had a bevy of excellent passers in Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Andrei Kirilenko, Howard Eisley, and so forth.
One of my favorite statistics to watch: the percentage of the team’s total field goals which were assisted. Let’s call this the Assisted Field Goal Percentage, or AFG%. The team that has the higher percentage often places themselves in a good position to win on a given night. For instance, when the Los Angeles Clippers demolished the Jazz Saturday evening, they did a masterful job executing (especially in a preseason outing). Led by Chris Paul and Darren Collison, they assisted on 29 of their 43 field goals–a 67.4 percent clip. Furthermore, it was much higher through the first three quarters, prior to letting the end of the bench finish the evening out. The Clippers did a lot of other great things that night and the Jazz had a rough go at it, but the high AFG% definitely contributed to LA’s victory.
Here is a historical look at how the Jazz have done on AFG%. Let’s start with the 1987-88 campaign, when Stockton and Malone took the NBA by storm (side note: many people cite this as the first year Stockton started. He did start 38 games his second season.). Besides AFG%, the overall field goal percentage and record are also included.
While pace and scoring have fluctuated greatly in the NBA the past few decades, the Utah Jazz has been consistently high in AFG%. From 1987 to 2009–much of which came under Jerry Sloan’s tenure–the team had an AFG% of 64.4 percent or higher 22 of 23 seasons. During the 15 seasons where the team eclipsed the 50-win mark (including the 1998-99 lockout season where they would have), Utah sat between 66 and 71.5 percent 14 of those years. The high mark in 2002-03 happened to be the final season before #12 and #32 rode off into the sunset. 72.7 percent is simply stellar.
The past few seasons have been much lower, particularly the most recent lockout season. The offense focused on Al Jefferson’s low post abilities, which had some definite positives. It also took away from the more open, free passing offense that has been a stable of Utah Jazz basketball for decades. Likewise, the changing of the point guards–Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, and Mo Williams–definitely contributed. Without consistency at the helm, it is difficult to set the tone.
While this season will be a season of some growing pains, along with the defensive foundation that Tyrone Corbin and the front office has been fittingly espousing as a goal for this year, the Jazz would do well to help reestablish Utah’s longstanding focus on smart and effective passing, while boosting the team’s AFG%. Trey Burke’s injury certainly hurts, but with able passers like Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and some big guys who can dish, there are some very good pieces in place. As the team rebuilds, if it is to return to the ranks of contenders, keep an eye on the AFG%–it’s a true part of “Utah Jazz basketball.”
The Jazz continued to roll last night, picking up their first five-game winning streak of the season and handling the visiting Portland Trail Blazers in fine fashion [recap]. There was a lot to like, including 24 points and 10 rebounds from Al Jefferson, the newly-named Western Conference Player of the Week. The rejuvenated Mo Williams followed up Randy Foye’s team record 8 threes on Saturday night with 6-of-7 shooting from three and 20 points.
The thing everybody wanted to talk about though was the ridiculous no-look lob from Jamaal Tinsley to Jeremy Evans in the fourth quarter. As was pointed out by Matt Harpring on the broadcast, Evans is somehow three feet behind the three-point line when the ball is lobbed by Tinsley. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
Shoutout to SB Nation’s Mike Prada for the upload and the Salt Lob City moniker.
If there was only one thing that endeared Jamaal Tinsley’s game to me (and I assure you that there are many more than one), it would be the fact that his jump shot looks exactly like the jump shot in Double Dribble on the NES- or “Bubble Bibble,” as it introduces itself. Well, except for the crazy changing-directions-in-the-air thing. I was probably about five years old when I reached my Double Dribble prime, but the effect that all of those strange, straight-armed jumpers had on my psyche were far longer lasting.
Anyway, Jamaal Tinsley.
Tinsley’s first season with the Jazz was basically a case study in diminishing returns. After spending the entire first month of the season on the bench, in his first game of heavy action he put up 9 points, 13 assists, and 6 rebounds- his 13 assists even marked a season high for the Jazz. Then he went straight back to the bench. In March, when he started getting reps as the 2nd-string point guard, his numbers were really solid- 6 points and 4 assists in 15 minutes a game while shooting 45% from the field. As time wore on, however, and he kept getting minutes, his shot selection became less sterling and his numbers just couldn’t hold up. By the time the playoffs came around, he was pretty much out of gas. It’s hard to say how much of that we can blame on a condensed season, but the bottom line is that Jamaal Tinsley isn’t a great option to put up 15 minutes a game, every game, for a full season. He’s just a little too old.
Still, if I were to ask you which Jazz player’s YouTube highlight inspired the comment section to evolve into a Hunger Games conversation and from there become a reflection on the long-standing oppression of the North Korean regime, you’d guess Tinsley, right? Right? Well, you’d be correct. At this point, Tinsley is also the only player with a D-League highlight reel on YouTube (miss you, Blake Ahearn). You throw the Malice in the Palace in there and Tinsley is suddenly a dark horse candidate for Utah’s YouTube MVP.
Offseason Accomplishments: The Jazz picked up the second year option on his contract and so he bought a Jeep.
Stat to Watch: I’m going to go old school and say Field Goal Percentage. As previously noted, if he’s not getting worn too thin, his shots will fall more. It seems like we’ll be able to tell how well he is being used by how well he is shooting from the floor. Unless, of course, he just regresses and shoots 35% all season… though I guess you’ll still know how well he’s being used in that case too.
Three Potential Outcomes of the Season:
1. Through a combination of Earl Watson’s health and Randy Foye’s failure to raise his assist rate to a reasonable level, Tinsley gets the primary backup minutes, also filling in at starting point guard whenever Mo Williams gets hurt. The results are a few great highlights, some solid transition offense, and a bunch of opposing point guards scoring at will on the Jazz. His sheer entertainment value still outweighs his flaws and he continues to be a valuable contributor for the Jazz all season long. His cagey play buys him two more years in the NBA before riding off into the sunset.
2. He rides off into the sunset now. Foye plays within the system, taking on a bulk of backup point guard minutes, and the Burks-at-PG experiment doesn’t completely fail, leaving no time for Tinsley or Watson. They have a good time cheering for the team and playing in the event of injuries, foul trouble, or blowouts. Otherwise, he starts a bunch of bench games with Earl Watson like who gets the most high fives after every big play or who can walk out closest to halfcourt during a timeout without looking weird. He retires next summer and opens a Jeep car dealership.
3. Situation #2 starts playing out, but Jamaal Tinsley can’t deal. He sneaks back to Brooklyn and signs with the Harlem Globetrotters under his old street name, “Mel Mel the Abuser.” He tears it up and quickly becomes a fan favorite. Since nobody actually pays attention, including Ty Corbin, to the Harlem Globetrotters, no one notices that one of their players is currently under an NBA contract. Sometime in February or so, when the Jazz are up on the Kings by 30 midway through the fourth quarter, Ty Corbin squints as he looks down the end of the bench.
Corbin: ”Jamaal! You’re in!”
Earl Watson, suddenly perking up: ”Coach, I don’t know where he is. But he owes me fifty bucks because I walked all the way out to the center circle last timeout.”
Al Jefferson: ”I haven’t seen him in like a week.”
Gordon Hayward: ”It has actually been 48 days since he has participated with our team. I corresponded with him briefly and he told me that he re-aggravated his left knee from an injury he sustained several years ago. He said to call him if we actually need him.”
After Wednesday’s emotionally-draining loss to the Clippers at home, the Jazz simply ran out of gas the next night in Oakland. The loss to the seven-win Warriors came with the Jazz missing point guards Devin Harris (some body part) and Earl Watson (another body part). In their place, third string PG Jamaal Tinsley got the start, his first since 2009. The man’s contract isn’t even guaranteed until after February 10, so hopefully his strong performance will buy him a spot with the team for the rest of the season.
His stat line was tremendous, especially considering he’d only played 45 minutes all season. 13 assists (a team season high) to go along with 6 rebounds, 9 points, and 2 steals. It was fun to watch his brand of pass-first play mixed with a slice of New York playground spice. He couldn’t resist a little razzle. @monilogue at SLCDunk grabbed the perfect gif of the moment:
Our friends at Shaky Ankles sent a clip of Jamaal Tinsley’s ridiculous wraparound tomfoolery from the Jazz-Clippers game. An even better clip of the same play comes from the incomparable memoismoney, which gives you a nice view of the whole thing. I was sitting on the other side and I think the trickery looked a little more devious from that that point of view, but it’s still a great move from any angle.
The Jazz have an underrated luxury with Tinsley as the third point guard. It isn’t often the case that a team can confidently play the third string guy and expect a solid contribution. Here’s to more blowouts and more breakaways.