SALT LAKE CITY — There's a reason you can go into any burger joint these days and get a chicken sandwich. Same reason you can get anything from tube sausage to tube socks in a supermarket.
It's because people love versatility, and the Utah Jazz aren't about to be left out. They, too have had to diversify. The days of one guy playing only one position have gone the way of the rotary phone.
This week, the Jazz were set to add another multidimensional player by trading Devin Harris — a one-position player — for Marvin Williams — a two-position guy. Two for the price of one. Utah swapped a trade exception last week in order to get guard Mo Williams, who was reintroduced on Tuesday to the Utah media.
"I know the one thing I'll bring is toughness and leadership," Mo Williams said.
Oh, and a double-threat approach at guard.
Steadily, the Jazz have become a regular Mr. Potato Head: One unit, with a thousand possible looks.
Remember when you actually knew what position a guy played? Now it depends on the situation and the combinations, not to mention what coach Ty Corbin had for lunch. You might see Paul Millsap as an undersized power forward, or maybe a speed-challenged small forward. Actually, he has done a nice job at both positions.
These days, you need to be able to bake the cookies as well as work the front counter.
Jazz G.M. Kevin O'Connor says it's true the aforementioned versatility was no accident. The entire NBA is moving that direction, partially for versatility purposes, but also due to rule changes that have included the curtailment of hand-checking and the allowance of zone defenses.
"Back when (Greg) Oster(tag) was here, he could stand out on the wing offensively and you could play three-on-three on one side of the floor," O'Connor said. "That's changed, so now versatility has become more of a factor. So I think it really goes back to rules."
Thus, Gordon Hayward is a regular Swiss Army Knife on the court, swinging from small forward to big guard, contributing in almost every area. Marvin Williams is a 39 percent 3-point shooter (last year) who happens to be both forward and guard. The other half of the potential Mo 'n' Marv combination is largely a point player, but not exclusively. In order to get minutes last year in Los Angeles, Mo also played at the 2 position.
When you think of the Jazz, think mix 'n' match, like Garanimals.
This is all by design. The Jazz were a one-dimensional team for decades. They weren't alone, but they certainly weren't breaking ground. Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey, Greg Ostertag and Adrian Dantley were one-spot guys. And they were darn good at it.
But the rules changed, and so did the league. (Does anyone know what position LeBron James actually plays? They should just list his position as "player.")
Looking at the current Jazz lineup, virtually everyone is a two-position guy. Al Jefferson plays center and power forward, Derrick Favors the reverse. Free agents Josh Howard and C.J. Miles played both the 2 and 3 spots. Second-round draft pick Kevin Murphy is a 6-7 swingman. Alec Burks plays 2 guard but can play the point in a pinch.
Murphy, both Williamses and Hayward are all decent 3-point shooters.
Harris was among the few one-position players remaining on the Jazz.
Why this is important is clear: Versatility helps when you're matching up with other teams. Or when you're making them match up with you.5 comments on this story
"I mean that's a coaching thing — small ball, big ball — and that's what it is today," O'Connor said. "When you get over the numbers and the graphs and who plays what, a lot of it comes down to gut. Who should be in the game at certain time and who do you feel comfortable with, and that's what makes good coaches."
The idea is to be like Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride," an equally adept swordsman with either hand.
So say hello to the evolving face of the Utah Jazz. They still aren't the league's most athletic team, and they don't have any LeBrons. But they do have a roster that looks a lot like the serving line at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
If one combination doesn't work, you can always come back for seconds.