SALT LAKE CITY — With the Jazz in reset mode, their off-season hope is to move from playoff bottom-feeder to contender. That won't be easy. Which makes this a perfect time to acquire a certain familiar, underrated guard that Utahns have been wanting. Someone they know from his previous life.
He is not only talented, but nice; a guy you could call by his first name — which a lot of people do. Since his status is a bit uncertain with his current team, and because the Jazz missed out on him the first time around, he might even be amenable to such a move.
No, it's not Jimmer.
The Jazz should set their sights on acquiring ex-Utah guard Mo Williams, a.k.a. Kevin O'Connor's Regret.
To this day, the Jazz general manager ranks not re-signing Williams in 2004 among his biggest mistakes. The team thought Williams was OK, but it already had Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez, then signed Keith McLeod and Howard Eisley for the next season. That's not a special group of guards, but the Jazz didn't think Williams was special, either, or they would have kept him.
Thus, Utah became a no-go for Mo.
He has since gone on to succeed nicely, playing in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Los Angeles, even making one All-Star team.
Now the Jazz have a chance to reacquire him. It's his option whether to play one more year with the Clippers or become a free agent. As it is, he shoots better, plays the point better, passes better, gets to the free throw line better and competes better than Fredette. Last week he came off the bench to score 20 points in 33 minutes.
Now they have a chance to bring him back.
As with most potential free agents, Williams does have his issues. He missed 14 games this year due to an injured toe. At age 29, it won't be too many years until he begins to slow. Still, John Stockton played at a high level until he was 40; Steve Nash is 38.
That puts Williams in an intriguing position. Stuck behind two high-profile guards in L.A., he has watched as Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups took the best minutes. This year he played his fewest minutes since 2005-06.
O'Connor has never wavered when it comes to crediting Williams. Asked about great moves he did or didn't make, he openly admits that letting Williams go was a mistake.
Who knew the 47th pick of the 2003 draft would be all that and mo'?
A criminal justice major at Alabama, Williams must have felt robbed. He ranked 13th in the NBA in assists in his first season after leaving Utah. Acquiring him this time wouldn't be cheap. He is scheduled to make $8.5 million if his stays in L.A. At the same time, the Jazz will have some cap flexibility this summer.
Comparing Fredette with Williams isn't so much a comparison as a confirmation. Mo is shooting a better field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Fredette. He ranked No. 65 among guards in efficiency rating, Fredette No. 126. His career 3-point rate is not far behind such noted shooters as Jeff Hornacek and Ray Allen.
The bad news for the Jazz is that Williams' name has come up with a lot of teams. That could drive the price up, perhaps out of the Jazz's range.
O'Connor may have been alluding to Fredette on Tuesday when he said the Jazz need shooting, but, "maybe you can get a shooter, but if he can't guard anybody and he can't play in the game, how do you get him in the game? How do you keep him in the game?"18 comments on this story
Williams has shown he can play defense, which is something Fredette still must prove.
In fairness, Williams and Fredette shot virtually the same field goal percentage as rookies, but Williams was considerably worse from 3-point range. So there's always the chance Fredette, too, will grow into a proven NBA player. But in Williams' case, the growth has already happened. Bringing him back as a veteran would be a nice ending — or a nifty beginning — to a story that still has legs.
It's never a bad idea to add a little Mo-mentum.
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