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:
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.
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.
As we move into the top 10 of JazzRank, we start to see the biases of bloggers show forth. If bloggers are simultaneously fans and writers who make no effort to distinguish between those two roles, then we have a right to eschew objectivity and praise the good name of DeMarre Carroll to our hearts content. After all, if there’s one skill you can see every time you turn on a basketball game, it’s drive, and Carroll has that in spades. As the man himself says, hard work is a talent, and at least in that department, there may not be a more talented player on the Jazz roster.
Offseason Accomplishments: Jazz chose to retain him; shattered the records for most tweets from an NBA player with the hashtags #staypositive and #blessed (an impressive feat); started his own T-shirt line (even using the #blessed hashtag on some of those T-shirts); lost the title for most entertaining Jazz-related twitter feed to Enes Kanter, but still maintains a vice grip on the number two position;
Patronus: Junkyard Dog. He chose this one. Not us. I know this probably isn’t what DeMarre had in mind, but I couldn’t help myself.
Stat to Watch: True Shooting Percentage. Frankly, DeMarre Carroll’s straight field goal percentage was mediocre at best last season, but even when accounting for threes and free throws as True Shooting Percentage does, it was still wallowing in the Josh Howard dungeon. Shockingly, that’s actually unfair to Josh Howard. In order to deserve an increase in minutes, Carroll cannot be such an offensive liability. To play the three, Carroll will have to either get to the line more, hone his jump-shooting, or preferably do both. I love DeMarre Carroll if for no other reason than he always cares more than every other player on the floor, but Rudy only played one throwaway series at the end of a blow-out, and unless Carroll wants to get the same kind of playing time for the Jazz that Rudy got for the Irish, he will need more than pure effort. He will need an improved offensive skill set.
Three Outcomes for the Season
1. Carroll improves his perimeter defense and his shooting enough to warrant legitimate playing time at the three and at the four in small line-ups. The best part about this scenario is that it might warrant some re-examination and editing on his typo-ridden ESPN profile that can be found here.
2. Carroll plays himself out of the NBA. This is a real possibility, considering how little interest he garnered at the beginning of the lockout-shortened season. He has played hard and well in limited minutes with the Jazz, and there’s no reason he couldn’t do the same on another team, but players like Carroll get aced out of positions on NBA rosters all the time. Just ask Jordan Farmar. And sadly, Blake Ahearn.
3. Carroll continues to play well enough to warrant a roster spot but remains an end-of-the-bench, wave-the-towel player. This would not be so bad. As a Jazz fan, I feel better just knowing that a player who works as hard as Carroll is in every practice. In fact, I think more teams should consider signing on guys like DeMarre, just to amp up the intensity of the practices and make sure the starts don’t get complacent. Can somebody please find a roster spot for Blake Ahearn?
It’s a testament to the Jazz’s depth this year that the team’s back-up point guard has been knocked down to #12 (perhaps unfairly) by the voting bloggers. Still, no one would deny Watson’s emotional impact on the team. Earl Watson has had a quiet offseason, and with the addition of Randy Foye as a possibility at backup point guard, his on-court presence with the Jazz will almost certainly be more limited this year than last. That said, don’t confuse on-court presence with on-court influence, because if you can guarantee anything with Earl Watson, it’s that his voice will be heard by both his teammates, the referees, and the opponents. “Intangibles” may be a useless word to describe basketball skills, but in terms of non-basketball skills that still affect basketball games, Earl Watson has all the intangibles. So here are my top 3 favorite Earl Watson non-basketball plays:
3. One time, he said this: “I hate losing more than I like making money.” Then, there was this whole interview. In that two minute clip, Earl Watson demonstrates his whole arsenal of non-basketball intangibles: he never deigns to “media speak,” he makes no excuses, he takes losses on the chin and he lets the anger motivate him.
2. The Three-Salute. This is the combination of one of my favorite basketball Earl moments with one of my favorite non-basketball Earl moments. After drilling a back-breaking three against the Lakers, Earl turned to the crowd, and saluted them with three fingers. There was much debate last year over who had the best three-point celebration (the Russell Westbrook guns-in-the-holster, and Derek Fisher’s three-hatchet), but this one didn’t get nearly enough run.
1. The ball-slap. Against the Mavericks last year, Dirk Nowitzki, upset with a call, slapped the ball out of Derrick Favors hands, and an intimidated Derrick Favors (may I never have to utter that phrase again) did nothing to retaliate. Earl Watson (listed at 6’1”) angrily stepped forward and got in the face of Dirk Nowitzki (listed at 7′ and a German to boot). He slapped the ball out of Dirk’s hands, delivered some choice words, and subsequently got T’d up. Watch the whole thing yourself, but do so with the warning that Favors’ timidity might distress you more than a little.
Offseason Accomplishments: Led the team in Retweets; became Enes Kanter’s quasi-Public Relations representative; appeared on Better Kansas City working a classy jacket and an edgy shirt-tie combo.
Patronus: Raccoon. Not a bulldog.
Stat to watch: Defensive Win Shares. The only definitive advantage Watson has over Tinsley is on defense. Watson, a veteran, is younger than Tinsley and holds up better over long stretches, but with the addition of Foye, neither Tinsley nor Watson is going to be playing for that long, which means that the only thing Watson can bring that Tinsley can’t is tough perimeter defense. If Foye is injured, or if Corbin wants to play him at the 2 (admittedly, a stretch), Watson can act as a temporary solution for what is one of the Jazz’s biggest weaknesses: defending athletic point guards.
Three Potential Outcomes of the Season
1. Because of injuries, because of his defense, or because he fits the system better than Tinsley, Watson becomes the go-to back-up point guard. While I would certainly have complaints about this turn of events, it would probably mean that the Jazz were moving to an uptempo offensive system, and Watson is a perfect point guard to lead the Jazz’s bench in a revamped, fast break offense.
2. Because of an injury to him or because of Corbin’s rotation decisions, Watson plays out the season primarily as a garbage time reliever for Tinsley and Foye. The possibility of this scenario hinges on whether Corbin believes Foye can play at the two. If he doesn’t, Watson may be aced out of playing time.
3. The Jazz trade him. This is highly unlikely, but with an overload at the point guard position and Watson’s contract expiring at the end of the season, it’s at least a possibility. A sad possibility though to be sure, because even if he’s not playing consistently, Jazz fans are collectively happier with Watson on the roster, and if the team is ever locked in a dicey, slugfest with the Lakers, I think we can all agree that Watson has earned the right to be there.
No one was more talked-about in the NBA on Thursday than Jeremy Evans after his spectacular end-to-end-to-end block/dunk/steal exhibition on Wednesday against the Clippers. (Favorite headline: “Jeremy Evans is now the majority owner of Ronny Turiaf.”) Is it possible that Evans knew we were preparing to feature him at #13 in JazzRank? How else to explain the perfect storm of Evansonian Phenomena?
Somehow, on his chosen day, fate allowed him the opportunity to do the three things he is uniquely good at–ridiculous blocks and ridiculous dunks and ridiculous sprints–in one sequence with no one in the world but Ronny Turiaf to stop him. We already posted this video after the game, and you’ve seen it posted everywhere else, but I can’t help myself:
I don’t care how many times you’ve watched this. It’s worth watching a hundred more times. Why? The play itself it worth more than a few views, but looking for everyone’s reaction is worth that and more. In fact, I’m going to rank the top five reactions:
5. Enes Kanter: Started yelling after the dunk and did the walk-into-your-teammate-while-yelling thing right after the ball was whistled dead. He would rank higher but I’m pretty sure this is what he does after every play.
4. DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre Carroll seems like he always knows exactly how to react. He’s a true professional. He’s even a professional in his mega-dunk reactions.
3. Alec Burks: He gets all the way up to third just for looking so ticked off after he congratulates Jeremy–in a “let’s do that to them 1000 more times right now” way. Burks has that killer instinct and appreciates the swagger of a Jeremy Evans mega-dunk. He also gets props because he ran the floor really well and then just stopped because he clearly thought, “Jeremy Evans is more likely to pull up from half court and crank a 50-footer than he is to pass the ball in this situation.”
2. Randy Foye: Watch the slo-mo replay at 0:26. One of the many hidden treasures of this clip is seeing a shocked Foye watch Evans sail through the air as his expression turns to astonishment. It totally redeems him from not hustling down the floor on the fast break.
1. The Color Commentator (Michael Smith, I think): The most impressive reaction to Jeremy Evans’ dunk, far and away, goes to Smith (a BYU alum, by the way), who was so blown away by the play that he temporarily went completely insane. His comments after the dunk happened: 1) “That was with the off hand, too!” First of all, this is totally not true in any sense. Evans blocked with his right hand, dribbled with his right hand, and dunked with his right hand, and he actually does everything related to basketball with his right hand, so… huh? Second, as a Clippers commentator, does he really pride himself on knowing whether Jeremy Evans is left- or right-handed? Third, who reacts to a mega-block/dunk combo like that? I’m full of questions about this. 2) “It is not that often that your teammates react to a play like this.” What could this possibly mean? No one knows. Maybe he meant that it isn’t often that teammates react to this kind of play, which obviously isn’t true and is a completely nonsensical thing to say. Maybe he meant that it isn’t often that teammates react in the manner that they were reacting, which makes a little more sense but is still a very weird thing to say. Then the clip ends as he starts talking about Evans’ elbow and comparing him to Julius Erving. Winner!
Stat to Watch: Field goal percentage outside the basket area. Last year, Evans shot 1-of-11 outside the basket area. As in, for the entire season. We can all love Jeremy Evans but if he can’t score at all except for his dunks, he can’t be a rotation player.
Three Potential Outcomes of the Season:
1. After an injury or two thins out the mighty Jazz front line, Evans gets a chance to show his stuff in the rotation. Suddenly putting in 12 minutes a game, Evans validates his fan support by averaging 6 points, 4 rebounds, and a block. He channels this new-found success into a magically appearing jump shot, which only goes in 30% of the time but is still way better than 1-of-11. As the injuries subside and he goes back to the bench, the #FreeJeremy campaign consumes the Utah Jazz twitterverse.
2. He rides the pine all season and mostly just looks forward to the chance to defend his dunk contest championship. He is by far the most impressive dunk artist there, but only takes second because of politics (and partly because everyone is a little embarrassed that he won last year despite having only one great dunk). He still puts together enough amazingly athletic plays across the season that his highlight reel that pops up on YouTube next summer will be three minutes long.
3. The Jazz are plagued by injuries of a different kind. Ten games into the season, the Jazz Bear breaks his tailbone by falling backwards off of those crazy stilts he sometimes walks around on. Looking for a replacement, the Jazz decide to search internally. Jeremy Evans, suddenly filled with inspiration, applies for the job and dominates the “interview” by doing a double somersault dunk off of the trampolines. Instead of Jazz Bear, there becomes Jazz Jeremy. And everyone loves it. He is inducted to the Mascot Hall of Fame by the end of February and Disney purchases the movie rights to the story by June.
UPDATE: Check out Jeremy Evans discussing The Play before practice on Friday. Evans points out that he and Turiaf share the same agent and that he respected Ronny at least hustling to get back on defense. He also said that the best comment came from his cousin, who suggested he should have given his jersey to Turiaf afterwards.
We understand if you all have a bad taste in your mouth after reading “JazzRank 15: Raja Bell.” Or, as it was entitled in the draft stages, “The Many Odious and Infamous Crimes of Utah’s First and Hopefully Only Rostered Non-Player.” Fortunately, coming in at number 14 is the heart-warming Kevin Murphy Experience.
Offseason Accomplishments: Under the scrutiny of almost any standard of judgment, Kevin Murphy’s greatest accomplishment this offseason was fathering a child. This is because the miracle of human birth trumps any and all achievements that could occur on a basketball court. Many thanks to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News for providing the Best Feel-Good Jazz-related Story of the Year.
While everything else Murphy accomplished this offseason pales in comparison to that, he still managed a number of other important triumphs. He was drafted 47th overall by the Jazz, becoming only the third player from Tennessee Tech to be drafted into the NBA since the draft moved to the two-round format. Also, this YouTube video of Murphy scoring 50 points (totally worth the 1:40 it takes to watch) surpassed 26,000 views. While Murphy’s summer league and preseason performances have been solid, if unspectacular, other than hitting five 3-pointers in the intra-squad scrimmage. The sample size has been small enough that any other quiet performance can be justifiably ignored. Finally, there was his radio fail, and if you listen to that without smiling affectionately, then you have no heart.
Patronus: Ring-tailed Lemur. Adorable, right?
Stat to Watch: Minutes played. Like with many late second-round draft picks, evaluating how Kevin Murphy performs at the NBA level will be difficult since he’s likely to play so few minutes. This is especially true in a system like Tyrone Corbin’s that values veteran presence. If Murphy can prove that he’s as offensively talented as advertised, he can begin carving out a Jeremy Evans-like slot on the roster.
Three Potential Outcomes for the season:
1. He gets cut, forcing him to temporarily find work elsewhere to support his burgeoning young family. This is depressing. Let’s move on.
2. Jeremy Evans 2.0: Not with the dunking, so much as becoming a perennial presence at the end of the Jazz’s bench, collecting his paycheck, and providing some instant and entertaining offense at the end of blow-out games or during stretches where the line-up is injury depleted. Not only does this seem like the most likely scenario for the season, but this is a win-win-win for everyone involved.
3. As already mentioned, if Murphy gets playing time, I think he has the skills to contribute offensively. If nothing else, Murphy can do what Raja did last year, only hopefully more efficiently: roll off screens for open jump shots, knock down catch-and-shoot threes when the defense collapses on the bigs, and avoid turnovers. Paul Millsap, the Jazz’s last 47th pick, ended up getting 18 minutes a game during his rookie season. Millsap earned time by pounding the glass with relentless tenacity. Murphy can do it by stretching the defense with his long-range shooting. So for the third, most shamelessly optimistic outcome, Murphy becomes Young Raja 2.0, sans the attitude and the established but slightly overrated perimeter defense. In case you justifiably can’t endure the comparison, let’s call him Suns-era Quentin Richardson.
Unfortunately, we have to start JazzRank with Raja Bell, probably in part because we held the voting before preseason got going–or else he definitely would have at least fallen behind Chris Quinn (who at least threw an a perfect alley-oop to Alec Burks last Friday, which is one more highlight than Bell will pull out this year) and Darnell Jackson (who keeps getting enough playing time in these preseason games that we are becoming compelled to remember his name, despite his low chance of making the team), if not more.
Offseason Accomplishments: Let’s see here… Since the season ended, Bell 1) burned through exit interviews with the spite of a spurned middle school ex-girlfriend, publicly calling out Ty Corbin’s coaching ability, leadership skills, and general manhood, 2) started hustling his resume to all of the contenders (read: Miami), pushing the glue guy angle right after he had sold out his previous team WHILE HE WAS STILL UNDER CONTRACT FOR ANOTHER YEAR, 3) balked at the chance to take a buyout, presumably hoping to cling to his 3 million dollar paycheck after testing the waters of free agency (read: Miami) and realizing he wasn’t as popular as he had hoped, 4) somehow showed enough willingness to compromise or something to keep the Jazz from using the amnesty clause to waive him and his salary from their books, and then 5) was deemed so toxic to team chemistry that he was barred from entering training camp with the rest of the team. He did graduate from Florida International in August and ran some basketball camps in India, so congratulations to Raja on that.
In the end, Bell’s second run with the Jazz is like Sufjan Stevens’ new, groundbreakingly bizarre Christmas song, Christmas Unicorn. At first you think it’s cute and kind of funny, and then it keeps going and you slowly start thinking it is less and less cute until you suddenly realize you aren’t enjoying yourself at all and you’re listening to a social commentary that you hadn’t anticipated and never wanted and it keeps going and going and going and you want it to stop just so everyone can move on but it just keeps going and going and no one ever knows when it will end because Raja is still under contract and I don’t think anyone has made it to the end of the 12 minute song to confirm that it does, in fact, come to an end.
Patronus (you know, like from Harry Potter*): Jellyfish
Stat to Watch: Games Played. The only statistical question worth asking right now is whether Raja Bell will suit up for an NBA game this year.
Three Potential Outcomes for the Season:
1. The buyout never happens and Raja Bell hangs out with his family and brings in a cool 3 million while doing it. Occasionally, at slow points in the season, the Salt Lake Tribune will follow up with him and ask Dennis Lindsey a couple of questions to try to stir things up again only to find there is not much to stir. The lack of compromise hastens the end of Raja Bell’s career as no one is willing to take a chance on a 36-year-old a year removed from the speed of the game. He goes on to get an assistant coaching job at his alma mater, FIU, and slowly moves out of the realm of public awareness.
2. Raja Bell turns out to be as competitive as advertised and finally bites on the buyout option so that he can take the veteran’s minimum contract with Brooklyn. He makes a valiant effort in his ten minutes a game off the bench and averages 7 points a game in Brooklyn’s first round loss to Philadelphia.
3. Come January, when everyone is resigned to the outcome outlined in #1, Dennis Lindsey quietly makes a phone call to the Bay Area. Bob Myers, the Golden State GM, picks up on the other line. Of course, nearly halfway through the season, the Warriors will inevitably have lost all hope of a playoff berth and will be busily maximizing their losses through the rest of the year so that they don’t have to give Utah their pick. The following conversation ensues:
DL: I know you guys are going to be looking to tank again this year. I have a wonderful offer for you.
BM: How dare you! We would never lose our integrity like that! But, um, let’s hear the deal.
DL: The offer I am about to make you will both ensure that you lose more games AND clear up cap space for you.
BM: Tell me! TELL ME THE OFFER!!!
DL: Raja Bell for Harrison Barnes. Straight up. Well, plus maybe your second round draft pick.
Lindsey hangs up the phone. Kevin O’Connor sets down the cue cards he was holding for Lindsey and laughs maniacally.
*throughout JazzRank we are going to make the wild and totally indefensible assumption that, in the event of the actual existence of Hogwarts, and given proper training, all of the current Jazz players could develop the rare ability to cast corporeal Patronuses. We apologize in advance to any Harry Potter fanatics who might be offended by such an assumption.