Utah Jazz: What will the team do at the point guard position?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — No one knows exactly how the Utah Jazz roster is going to look next year.
One thing you can bet on is that the Jazz won't have four point guards on their team next year. And they may just have one or two of the four point guards back from this year's team.
The Jazz are basically happy with their point guard position, which produced 18.0 points and 12.6 assists per game, although it is one position that could use an upgrade for next season.
Devin Harris overcame a slow start and turned in several solid games down the stretch when the Jazz made their playoff run. Earl Watson was a sturdy backup and often outplayed Harris early in the season before a knee injury sidelined him for the last month. And nine-year NBA veteran Jamaal Tinsley brought needed experience to the Jazz backcourt and was a capable backup after Watson went down.
The most likely of the four not to return is Blake Ahearn, who joined the team in early April to fill in for the injured Watson. Ahearn is a good outside shooter and a deadly free throw shooter, but doesn't seem quick enough to play long stretches in the NBA.
Considering that Watson and Tinsley are 32 and 34 years old, respectively, you have to wonder if both will be back and the Jazz opt to find a younger point guard to build for the future.
Neither general manger Kevin O'Connor nor coach Tyrone Corbin wanted to discuss the specifics of who may or may not return in their postseason interviews with the media.
It seems likely Harris will be back, barring a trade and Ahearn likely won't return. It also seems likely the Jazz will want to get a younger point guard on the roster either through trade, free agency or the draft.
Harris, who came to the Jazz in a trade with New Jersey late last season, started slowly, but came on strong over the final six weeks of the season, when he got more aggressive in his offensive game.
Harris, whose contract is up at the end of next season, preferred to talk about the team as a whole rather than himself, going forward.
"Our young guys played some meaningful games and made it to the playoffs and that's something to build off," he said. "We have a great nucleus, a great group of guys. We need to come back prepared and ready to go. Obviously we'll have a full training camp and I'll be ready to continue to lead the guys."
O'Connor said he was happy with his Harris' overall play this year.
"What you saw was when we were successful, he played well," said O'Connor. "He was blamed at beginning of the year. Then when he played well got credit for it."
O'Connor said that's just the nature of being a point guard.
"When you have the ball and you're the quarterback and you get blame or credit," O'Connor said.
O'Connor also talked about using Harris more as a shooting guard next year. But he didn't say who might be the point guard in those situations besides the present point guards.
Watson brings toughness and energy to the position, but the concern with him is his health. After knee surgery and rehab, he won't play until at least July and then has just a couple of months to get ready for the season in October.
When asked about his status with the team next year, Watson said, "I have a contract with the team and I'm part of the Utah Jazz until my contract is up."
Tinsley said he would "love to come back" to Utah and the Jazz have the option to bring him back at $1.3 million next year.
"I'll let my agent deal with that," Tinsley said. "The opportunity was here this year and I took advantage of it."
Because the Jazz usually keep three point guards, there is speculation they might try to find one through free agency or in the draft.
As of right now, the Jazz don't have a first-round draft choice unless Golden State falls to No. 8 in the upcoming lottery. It is rumored the Jazz would love a shot at Weber State point guard Damian Lillard, whom they've seen up close for three years, and is projected to be gone by the middle of the first round.
So if the Jazz were to look at the free agent list, who could they get?
Steve Nash is an unrestricted free agent and he'd be an intriguing possibility. But he is 38 years old and wouldn't be a long-term solution. Same with Andre Miller, who is 36 years old, although he would be an upgrade as the backup point.
Other unrestricted free agent point guards include Portland's Raymond Felton, Atlanta's Kirk Hinrich, Dallas' Jason Kidd, Indiana's Leandro Barbosa and Houston's Goran Dragic. Among those free agents with a player option are Orlando's Jameer Nelson, the Nets' Jordan Farmar and the Clippers' Mo Williams.
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