• Adam Bushman

Backup PG by Committee

With so many unknowns surrounding the backup point guard position, the Utah Jazz may take a football approach and use a committee

Mike Conley is the best PG the Jazz have had in ages. But after him, we're left scratching our heads.

The Utah Jazz point guard position has been a bit of a mess for some time.

Since Deron Williams’ unceremonious exit from the franchise, Utah has been relying on the likes of Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, Trey Burke, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, and others to “man the ship”. As expected, the results were lackluster.

In recent memory the Jazz have acquired more household names to fill the starting role. Afterall, the aforementioned names are more appropriately suited for a backup role. Yet again the results weren’t quite up to expectations.

Despite performing well during the 2016-17 regular season, George Hill was absent a good portion of the year due to injury. Ricky Rubio had a roller coaster of a time with the Jazz that’s created quite a divide within the fan base.

This season, the Jazz put their foot down to solve the issue, bringing in Mike Conley, who has long been considered one of the

elite point guards in the game. Due to salary complications, the Jazz were unable to keep a steady, though oft injured, Raul Neto.

The Utah Jazz are now faced with a dilemma at their backup position. Given that Conley has missed an average of 12 games per season over the last seven (excluding his injury riddled 2017-18 season), we shouldn’t expect Mike to play all 82 games.

The Jazz have a depth chart full of names like Dante Exum, and new additions Emmanuel Mudiay and Nigel Williams-Goss. While traditionally seen as point guards, context on each of these options complicates things:

  • Dante Exum is inexperienced in the role and has been injury riddled throughout his career.

  • Emmanuel Mudiay is also inexperienced as a point guard and has played poorly thus far in his career.

  • Nigel Williams-Goss will be playing in his first NBA season and likely doesn’t have the skills or tools to be successful right away.

Though discouraging as it may seem, reports have surfaced throughout the offseason suggesting that the Jazz may be taking an unconventional approach.

Shortly after the Jazz’s signing of Bojan Bogdanovic, Tony Jones reported that the Jazz could consider optioning Joe Ingles to a bench role as a sixth man.

Just this past week, Jones reported:

“Sources tell The Athletic that theJazz are seriously considering moving [Exum] off

the ball this season. If that happens, that makes Mudiay a primary option at backup

point guard, which is something that wasn’t anticipated outside of the Jazz when he

signed in July.”

Both of these reports suggest a unique strategy to be employed this season. One might say the Utah Jazz will employ a backup PG by committee.

As strange as it sounds, the Jazz weren’t far off from such a strategy last year.

Last season’s depth chart would have suggested that Dante Exum and Raul Neto would be the primary backup point guards. However, tracking data from NBA.com suggests the Jazz went a different route.

When combining “Time of Possession” and “Touches” on per 16 minute averages, Rubio, Neto, Exum, Mitchell, and Ingles all rank fairly close. When looking at cumulative stats, Mitchell and Ingles vault to the top due to Exum and Neto missing time and by virtue of being starters.

That is the big key to this equation. Be it rest or injury, Conley, Exum, and Mitchell are all likely to miss games. A committee mitigates the confusion and risk resulting from these absences.

A committee has other advantages as well.

As Tony Jones mentioned, Dante, Joe, and Donovan can slide in and out of different positions. Locking them into one role and position limits their value and possible lineup combinations.

At first glance, Mudiay and Williams-Goss had no path to playing time outside of injury. With a committee, their path to playing time is much more real.

The NBA is full of unique opposing point guards. A committee would allow the Jazz to match certain players’ abilities and skill

sets to give them the best chance at exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses.

There’s plenty still to figure out. A committee will add layers to the already complex task of configuring lineups and substitution patterns. Quin Snyder definitely has his work cut out for him.

What has become typical to NFL teams may soon come to the Jazz as they toy with the idea of a backup point guard by committee.

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