[Editor’s note: Anytime Deron Williams gets some time at the shooting guard position, he bristles at the post-game questions about changing his position. Then again, he bristles about most questions. Guest writer Jason Schwarz makes the case for moving D-Will, to the 2-spot or otherwise.]
Since beating the Orlando Magic on December 10th the Jazz are 13-13 and it is clear that Jerry Sloan has yet to find an answer to the team’s slow starts. The early season success was a façade of sorts because of the reliance on divine 4th quarter interventions. Nevertheless, this team has shown glimmers of brilliance despite its inability to consistently win. So what is the answer…new players, new scheme or new rotation? Former players rave about the Jazz system but they aren’t so quick to rave about Sloan’s rigid rotation. This is a coach who has struggled to beat the Phil Jackson’s or Greg Popovich’s of the world because he fails to make essential adjustments at appropriate times. If there was ever a team in need of an adjustment, it’s the 2011 Jazz.
This Jazz group has proven unable to compete against the upper echelon of teams because the glaring inefficiencies in the lineup are too great to overcome. You cannot win in the NBA with a 2-guard who averages 7.9 points per game like Raja Bell. Nobody anticipated Raja would start when the Jazz signed him in the offseason. He couldn’t cut it as a starter during his last go around, what makes Sloan thinks he’s capable at age 34? That’s not to suggest Raja can’t perform a vital role on a championship team, but clearly he should be a 7th or 8th man rather than a starter. I’m confident that even Raja himself would admit to as much if confronted with the question. Sloan has unsuccessfully tinkered with all sorts of lineups but has yet to replace the veteran Bell in the starting lineup. So who should be the guy? Look no further than Deron Williams.
The D Will point guard pattern of lazily walking the ball up the floor in the first half, looking for his own shot in the 3rd quarter, and ramming it down the opposing teams’ throat in the 4th quarter has not benefitted his teammates. Whenever a team’s best scorer is also the point guard, the collateral damage can be difficult to deal with and this year’s team is no exception. Instead of fighting D Will’s versatility, both he and the Jazz should embrace it. This idea of moving D Will to the 2 is not novel; look no further than the U.S. Olympic team as a precedent. Coach Krzyzewski quickly realized that Deron is obviously a good point guard but he is exceptional as a 2. As a 2-guard he is free to shoot whenever he’s open, he can run the pick and roll from the wing, he can curl off a pick as well as anyone in the league, and he is the best passing 2-guard in the world. Would Deron be undersized? I would take the 2-guard version of Deron Williams ahead of Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon, Wesley Matthews or Ray Allen any day of the week. I would certainly feel more comfortable with him defending Manu Ginobili or Dwayne Wade than I am with Raja Bell and I would love to force Kobe Bryant to actually guard somebody when the Lakers play the Jazz.
Deron seems to walk with a chip on his shoulder because he hasn’t gotten the national credit he deserves. The fans and coaches are always putting Chis Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, and even Tony Parker slightly ahead of Deron in point guard rankings. Deron might never be an All Star starter at the point guard position; in fact, it will be difficult for him to regularly make the team. If I could talk with Deron, I would tell him that this disrespect has nothing to do with him playing in the small market of Utah but has everything to do with him holding back his natural ability. The Jazz need to embrace what makes Deron so unique, by restricting his scoring ability they are hampering his progress. As a 2-guard he would become the western conference starter in the fast approaching post-Kobe era. If a player is capable of scoring 25+ points per game he should be put in a position to do so. With the Jazz searching desperately for a 2-guard they would be wise to look no further than the current roster; the second best 2-guard in the world is right in front of them.
It’s Jerry Sloan’s move…soon to be followed by Deron Williams’ move if this Jazz team can’t return to its winning ways. Many in the media are speculating that Deron Williams is next in line to follow in the free agency footsteps of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Deron’s hometown of Dallas seems a likely destination when he can opt out in 2012 and the Mavericks should be in position to offer him a max deal.