By Ben Anderson:
The NBA draft is roughly six weeks away, and the Utah Jazz organization needs help, and they need help everywhere. As of today, there are zero point guards on the roster. There are two shooting guards, assuming the Jazz decide to allow Kevin Murphy to sit on the bench next year, one and a half small forwards, a corner piece in Gordon Hayward, and a piece the Jazz would love to have opt out of the final year of his contract in Marvin Williams. There is one power forward in Derrick Favors, and there is a powerless forward in Jeremy Evans, springy as he may be. The Jazz also have one center, a goofy albeit uber-talented Turkish fellow named Enes Kanter.
That is seven players ready to suit up for the Utah Jazz next season, barely more than half of the NBA minimum requirement for a roster, not enough to build a true rotation. As the draft approaches, the question I get most from Jazz fans is this–what position do the Jazz need to fill most? Looking at the roster, the easy answer is all of them. They need a starting point guard, they may still need a starting shooting guard, and center if Burks and Kanter can’t offer the Jazz full time minutes, and truthfully they need backups at both the small, and power forward position. Again, that is the easy answer, the real answer is this.
The Jazz need to draft a leader.
Since the acquisition of Gordon Hayward in 2010, the popular assumption is that Hayward, when given full time minutes would naturally assume the leadership role. After all, he led a cinderella Butler Bulldogs team to the NCAA Championship game as a sophomore; he’s well spoken, cordial and gifted. He’s a willing team player, and he’s a nice guy. Bad news Jazz fans, Hayward might be too nice. Before this latest season, I asked Gordon Hayward if he was ready to take over the role as the vocal leader of this team, this is what he told me.
“Overall I’m not extremely vocal as a person,” said Hayward. “You know I’m more of a leader by example, and uhm… you know, I think a lot of us younger guys are that way. Uh, so we have some good vocal leaders as veterans anyways and so, uhm… when the times comes and I need to say something I will, but a lot of times like I said I’ll just lead by example.” Not extremely vocal as a person? A lot of us younger guys are that way? We have some good vocal leaders as veterans anyways? Not exactly inspiring words from the Jazz young star.
The truth of the matter is this, NBA locker rooms are full of ego’s, and if Gordon Hayward doesn’t step up and take the leadership role, someone else will, and Jazz fans better hope it’s the right guy. From the sound of it, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks don’t seem poised to take over the role of the vocal leader either. This should be a huge concern for Jazz fans. The belief that the coach should be the voice of the team is a novel one, but there is a reason the coach isn’t assigned a jersey number at the start of the season–he never checks into the game. The Jazz need a player who not only expects the most out of himself, but expects the most out of his teammates as well, and isn’t afraid to let them know when he didn’t see it, every time he suits up.
Deron Williams was a jerk. He called out Andrei Kirilenko for making vacation plans before the end of the season. He told the media he’d refuse to pass the ball to Kirilenko because he’d seen Matt Harpring shoot more jump shots in practice. He threw the ball at Gordon Hayward for failing to run a play correctly in-game. It’s something Gordon Hayward will never forget, it’s something he shouldn’t ever forget. Sometimes being a leader means putting your own reputation on the line when your team fails, sometimes leading by example means you’re afraid your vocal leadership will fail.
The Jazz need a player who believes he knows not only what is best for himself, but what is best for his team. When David Stern says the Jazz are on the clock to make their first pick in the NBA draft, this organization needs to hope the player whose name they call, won’t then be afraid to call them out in return.