While struggling to understand why Matt Harpring was analyzing game tape on NBA TV this past weekend, it got me thinking about the Utah Jazz. Being from Denver, I don’t normally enjoy publicly praising Utah for any of their success. Still, credit due when credit earned. While Brandon Jennings and Ty “Mbenga Banga” Lawson are undoubtedly on top of the PG rookie heap right now, Jazz rook Eric Maynor is right behind them.
With Deron Williams away from the team to deal with personal matters and backup point guard Ronnie Price out with injury, Maynor has finally gotten a chance to play. Maynor, the 20th pick out of Virginia Commonwealth, had only played 31 minutes the entire season prior to being thrust into the starting role two games ago with the departure of Williams. In his first starting appearance, Maynor dished out 11 dimes to go along with 13 points in a road win over Philadelphia.
The 6-3 Maynor then came back in his second starting appearance Saturday night at Cleveland, only to pour in 24 points and log a team-high 41 minutes in a four-point loss. Maynor’s surge has surely secured him more playing time when Williams and Price return from their respective absences. Along with fellow starting rookie, Wes Matthews, who is another nice surprise for Salt Lake, the young Jazz have put a spark into Jerry Sloan’s team.
As of Tuesday morning, the 4-6 Jazz have looked flat much of the season thus far—with a few exceptions here and there—and are not the same Utah team we have been accustomed to seeing in recent years. They are really hurting for bodies right now too, with Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles also out with injuries. Outside of Williams and a few nice spurts from Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap, the Jazz need another solid contributor. Matthews is good and I really like his upside—I compare him to what Anthony Morrow brings to the Warriors—but he’s an undrafted rookie shooter that will only add about 8-10 points a ball game. Ronnie Brewer is still inconsistent and Mehmet Okur continues to remind me of the old timer that banks-in hook shots and finger rolls during pick-up games at the Y.
Maynor has an opportunity to be a driving force behind one of the Western Conference’s best teams over the past few seasons. I don’t think Utah is anywhere near playing how they want to be yet, but if there were one man I would trust in preparing my team for the ups and downs of the regular season, it would be Sloan. Hopefully Maynor can continue to contribute in bunches for the Jazz and pair with Williams when he returns.
When the year is all said in done, I think Maynor will be right alongside the top rookies in the league for production and value to their team. To think, most people were looking past this draft class, citing no star power. This could end up being one of the most solid point guard drafts in recent memory.
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