What storylines will be the most compelling, the most intriguing, this season? I think we all love stories of redemption, or unexpected stories (Linsanity, anyone?), stories where the hero is someone so seemingly ordinary and unspectacular that we feel we could inject ourselves into a similar story and have a remarkable experience.
What are possible options for a great storyline this season? Here are my two most likely (hopeful?) possibilities.
The Redemption of Marvin Williams.
Because Marvin Williams was drafted #2 in a star-studded draft (Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bogut, etc.) and because his output hasn’t been anywhere near matching that of his draft counterparts, Marvin has long been considered a disappointment. He’s been a solid role player—even a solid starter at times—but expectations for a third pick in a draft are always considerably higher than for, say, someone picked in the 20’s. And he’s never quite lived up to those expectations.
Last year was supposed to be his fresh start. It was his first year with a new team—the team that didn’t draft him—and his first year with a new system. Given his length on defense and his versatility on offense, many fans were expecting a breakout year from Williams. Many thought he’d be the perfect complement given both his three-point shooting and his slashing to the middle. Unfortunately, as @JazzAM1600 pointed out in some insightful tweets yesterday, Marvin’s strengths were minimized because of Al Jefferson’s presence and need of space on the left block.
Marvin Williams has an interesting mix of offensive skills (very good at the corner three, good in the post, and good cutting to the basket) and defensive skills (decent rebounder, long arms that clog the lane) to combine with an understated, team-first personality. Even as his role was uncertain and his playtime inconsistent, you never heard a peep out of Marvin last year. He played hurt near the end of the season, but you never heard any complaining. Only when he had surgery in the offseason did we realize the severity of his injury.
Kevin Pelton pointed out in his recent article that the Jazz’s defense was significantly better when both Hayward and Williams are playing the wing positions. (Ty Corbin, please take note)
The Emergence of Ian Clark.
David J. Smith wrote a fabulous post last month about the Jazz’s diamonds in the rough and how it relates to Ian Clark.
As Jazz fans, we seem to have a special affinity for the underdog—the undrafted, or the late-second-round draft pick, the slightly undersized with a heart and motor to compensate whenever possible. We’ve had great second-round success stories: Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Bryon Russell, Shandon Anderson, etc. And we’ve had some success with undrafted, hard-working, blue-collar types with Wesley Matthews. So it’s a familiar storyline for Jazz fans, and part of why the Ian Clark story has the potential to become another name to add to that growing list.
I think at this point we’re all familiar with Clark’s 33-point outburst in the championship game of the Las Vegas Summer League where he hit seven three-pointers. We’re hoping he can turn that shooting stroke of his into a meaningful, off-the-bench contribution for a team that lost some of its top three-point shooters in the offseason (Randy Foye and Mo Williams).
What makes Ian Clark even more of an underdog to me, in addition to being undrafted, is the combination of his size and his shooting stroke. He’s 6’3’’ 175, which is a very slight frame for the shooting guard position (especially when you remember that Deron Williams, as a point guard, is 6’3’’ 210). His shooting stroke surprised me when I first saw it. I think I’d been spoiled by Kyle Korver’s quick release, but Ian Clark starts his shot very low. He doesn’t release it as low as you’re going to think when he starts, but it’s an unconventional-looking shot. Will he be able to get his shot off in time when he’s being guarded by taller, longer players?
Both for the sake of story, and for the sake of Jazz fans everywhere, I hope he’s able to find a niche on this team and continue the diamond-in-the-rough pattern the Jazz have going.
What about you? What storyline are you seeing as likely this season? The emergence of Gordon Hayward as team leader? The Kanter-Favors combo becoming a unique offensive-defensive combination?