There’s no doubt that the Utah Jazz have found their starting point guard for the future. Ever since Trey Burke’s return to the lineup after a broken index finger suffered in the preseason, the Jazz have been a completely different team offensively. Burke brought the scoring and the consistent guard play that the Jazz were desperate for in their early 1-for-13 stretch. The backup point guard position, however, is a different story.
The Jazz signed free agent point guard John Lucas III back in July to bring some veteran experience to a very young team with inexperienced guards. During Burke’s absence early in the season, Lucas was rotating in and out of the starting lineup with since-cut Jamal Tinsley. Lucas didn’t bring much of a spark to the young Jazz squad and failed to take advantage of big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who were both third overall draft picks in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Eight games into the season the Jazz signed 25 year-old Diante Garrett from the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League. Garrett made his Jazz debut against the New Orleans Pelicans in Salt Lake City and made a splash in his first NBA game of the season. Garrett played 22 minutes, went 3 for 5 from the floor scoring 7 points and adding 5 assists in the Jazz’s first win of the season.
Garrett and Lucas are both fighting for the backup point guard spot, but head coach Ty Corbin is taking his time deciding who should relieve Burke. Game after game Corbin plays Lucas in one quarter and Garrett in another, or Garrett might play one game and Lucas the next. The inconsistency in minutes is hurting the players and the bench rotation as a whole. Surely bench contributors like Jeremy Evans, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks would love to have a consistent secondary guard to join them on the floor.
Here’s how Garrett and Lucas stack up against one another. Lucas is averaging more points with 4.3 per contest, but Garrett’s shooting percentage of .413 is far better than Lucas’ at .335. Garrett is also shooting better from the 3 point line (.385) and the free throw line (.833) than Lucas, who shoots .296 from deep and .643 from the charity stripe. When it comes to the point guard’s main objective, assists, Garrett is averaging a full assist more (2.1) than Lucas (1.1). In the Jazz’s last ten games, Garrett played all ten and was averaging 1.7 assists per contest while Lucas played in seven games and has only been able to muster 0.1 per game.
Perhaps the most important stat between the two guards isn’t any kind of shooting percentage, but overall win percentage. When Garrett plays, the Jazz are winning 45 percent of their games; not a great percentage but this is a team competing for a lottery pick this summer. When Lucas plays, that number drops to a lowly 26 percent.
Not only do Garrett’s stats far outweigh Lucas’ but his style of play fits the Jazz bench better. Ty Corbin often has shooting guards Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward (when he plays with the bench rotation) run the point while Burke is on the bench. So it would make sense to have a bench guard who is taller, faster, and more physical help run the offense. Garrett who is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds fits the bill better than Lucas at 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds. Garrett also helps out more on the defensive end of the floor, averaging 1.5 rebounds per game and just under a steal per game at 0.7.
The second half of the season isn’t looking any better for this up-and-coming Jazz squad, but if they decide to stick with the young and raw Diante Garrett behind the potential super star in Trey Burke, I think they might be pleasantly surprised with what they’ll get in return.