The Utah Jazz point guards should wear name tags. One leaves in April. Another takes his place in October. Every opening night for the past 8 years the same thing. Who is running our sets? Oh, the new guy. The new guy is often the reason the Jazz underperform. Lacking consistency in the backcourt is a killer for chemistry.
The last of the 8 is Ricky Rubio who came over in a trade from Minnesota so the Wolves could get Jeff Teague. The pressure on Rubio was to stick in Utah. To be the starting PG until his contract ends in 2019.
The first of the 8 PG’s was Deron Williams. In the middle is a bunch of placeholders. Who are they and where are they now?
Deron Williams. In his last season for the Jazz, Williams averaged 21.3 points and 9.7 assists. He had a PER of 22.1 and an offensive rating of 116. But that paled to Williams unhappiness with Jerry Sloan. Sloan got run out of town, Williams was blamed and he was traded to the Nets. The Jazz didn’t make the playoffs.
Where is he now? : Nowhere. In June 2017, his NBA Finals for the Cavs were so disastrous it was painful to watch. We are spared Deron Williams and his tired body and broken shot. At best, he would fill in for an injury but his NBA days are pretty much over.
Devin Harris. He was a far cry from the talented Williams. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.0 assists. The Jazz went big as far as their offensive leaders: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, a rookie Gordon Hayward. Harris role was to distribute the ball to the bigs. The Jazz made the playoffs and were swept in the first round. They traded Devin Harris to the Hawks for Marvin Williams.
Where is he now? : The Denver Nuggets, a backup point. He will be a free agent on July 1. This season he is playing like a 35 year old who comes off the bench, 8.4 points.
Mo Williams. That Jazz team had Mo Williams as the fourth leading scorer but was an upgrade over Harris as far as being a playmaker, leading the team with 6.2 assists. He did Mo Williams things like shoot 38% from three and playing zero defense. The Jazz didn’t make the playoffs.
Where is he now? Retired. His last season was with the Cavs two years ago: 8.2 points, 2. 4 assists, good enough for a championship ring.
John Lucas III. An average talent who started on opening night in 2013 but only played in 6 games. He was relieved by Trey Burke. Burke, a rookie, averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 assists. He wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either. The Jazz didn’t make the playoffs. In 2014, Burke dropped 12.8 points and 4.3 assists. The Jazz didn’t make the playoffs again.
Where is he now? After three years in Utah, Burke had one year as John Wall’s back up and now is hanging on with the Knicks. He shot 50%, scoring nearly 13 points in 2017-18, so maybe he’ll stick in the Big Apple. John Lucas III is not on a NBA roster. He last played in Detroit, 2016-17. 0.4 points. 5 games.
Raul Neto. In limited minutes, he did some good things while he was on the court, a starter for 53 games. But he is a specialist, excelling as a three point shooter (40% in 2017-18) but not much else. He’s a backup. Nothing more.
Where is he now? Utah.
George Hill. A big get for Dennis Lindsay in a trade with the Pacers. Hill has had a nice career as a defensive point guard, a timely scorer and he can move the ball. He was injured a lot for the Jazz but he was the reason they made the playoffs. He had one of the best statistical years of his career and was the best starting point the Jazz have had since Deron Williams. 16.9 points. 4.2 points. 40.3% from three. The Jazz made the playoffs with Hill.
Where is he now? He signed a lucrative free agent get, $57 million, with the Kings. Then was bitter being on the lousy Kings and was traded to the Cavaliers.
Ricky Rubio. Not much was expected of Rubio. Fingers were crossed that the change in geography would change his jumpshot, from broken to mediocre. Rubio was part of a back-to-back-to-back point guard haul in the 2009 draft that saw Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Steph Curry drafted in the lottery 5,6,and 7. Rubio brought from Spain elite passing talent. Of those in his draft class, Rubio has the fifth most assists trailing Steph Curry, James Harden, Jeff Teague and Jrue Holiday. The four ahead of him have been All-Stars because they can add scintillating scoring with passing. Rubio can’t. He is a career 38% scorer. But this year Rubio posted career numbers.
Highs in percentage, 3-point percentage and points. He is still a miserable 3-10 foot shotmaker, not cracking 30%. But everywhere else on the floor he is respectable and this season he gave Utah the assist and the hockey assist. He is the lone Jazz creator other than Donovan Mitchell. Rubio’s game was exactly what Utah needed to break out of the Gordon Hayward fugue. In the playoffs, he joined the likes of Ben Simmons and LeBron James with a triple double. That he pissed off Russell Westbrook and diverted Westbrook’s attention was the highlight of the Rubio career that has flatlined many a year and included an ACL tear.
Experience being the Rubio number one asset, and passing being number two, when developing a young player like Mitchell, Rubio’s ability not to panic is a plus. He’s not a point guard you can depend on to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best in a playoff series, but he can run the offense, defend his position and once in a while have a great night. He’s not a better point guard than Hill was last year but he’s resurrecting the Rubio career and making the Jazz think long and hard about keeping him past 2019.