Newest Jazz players bring versatile skills to changing NBA
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The changing style of play throughout the NBA had an impact on how the Utah Jazz approached free agency and retooled its roster this offseason.
The Jazz announced their latest additions Friday - seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson, George Hill and Boris Diaw. All three provide veteran leadership and playoff experience, but are also versatile players that can fill multiple positons with a variety of skills that give coach Quin Snyder plenty of flexibility.
''It's huge,'' general manager Dennis Lindsey said. ''Allows us to get a variety of combinations on the court. Allows us to play small if we choose to play small. Especially with today's NBA and where it's going.''
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Johnson can play shooting guard, small forward or power forward. The 6-3, 188-pound Hill can fill either guard position. The 6-8, 250-pound Diaw can play power forward or center with the ball skills to initiate offense from the perimeter.
Lindsey said the average NBA team had four small players and one big on the court 16 percent of the time in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. He noted that number jumped to 25 percent last season. The Golden State Warriors are known for their so-called Death Lineup with Draymond Green at center and four smalls.
''Now that's not to say we're going to necessarily match that,'' Lindsey said, ''but with our roster construction coupled with our injuries, we really didn't have a response to when people decided to play small. Now we think we have a better response. We'll even see if Quin wants to force matchups that way.''
The Jazz stress ball movement in their offense and all three additions are adept at passing. Lindsey said Diaw instantly becomes one of the better passers on the team. It's unclear exactly what role each will fill because those are likely to be fluid.
Both Johnson and Hill said they weren't concerned with starting and Lindsey has said competition up and down the roster was the goal. There will be moments when someone starts or closes one game and doesn't the next.
''I never think about me,'' Hill said. ''I'm always thinking about the bigger picture. Expectations, not just for me, is for us to get to the playoffs. That's going to be the first thing we talk about Day 1. That's what we need to focus on. It's not about one individual guy. It's not about what is in it for me, how much is this guy getting paid or what this is guy doing. We have one common goal, that's to win games and get to the playoffs.''
Lindsey listed the offseason goals as adding experienced depth, shooting, passing, physicality and players with a serious mindset. All three check those boxes. The Jazz ranked No. 18 in the league with a 44.9 field goal percentage last season and No. 12 with a 35.5 3-point shooting percentage. Diaw's 36.2 3-point percentage last season would have ranked No. 5 on the team and tops among the bigs. Johnson shot 37.2 percent behind the arc in 2015-16 and Hill's career-high 40.8 percent would have been a team-high.
''Definitely helping out from distance,'' Johnson said. ''Mainly on both ends of the court, not just offensively. I've been around the block, man. I've seen pretty much everything. I'm looking forward to this new challenge.''
The Jazz finished 40-42 last season and one spot out of the playoffs. The team hasn't been in the postseason since 2012.