Jazz Rankings: At the buzzer…

At the end of last night’s game, we were all confronted with an immediate resolution to the question that has been circulating for about a year now: who takes the last shot?  I know that there are statistics about performance in the clutch time designed to tell us who is the best choice, but as we all know, clutch time is about more than statistics; it’s about going with whatever your gut tells you.  That’s why running isolation plays for reckless, volume-scoring wings becomes an inexplicably good idea and Ron Artest makes shots that swing NBA Championships.  With that in mind, I decided to rank the Jazz players from 1-13 by the gut-check test- who I would feel most comfortable taking the last shot to the least comfortable.  Without further ado:

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: We got this.

1.  Paul Millsap.  He’s simply the best player on the team, and even when he’s not, he’s the most important.  On Tuesday night, Al Jefferson had a rough night on offense but we rolled to a 30 point win behind Millsap.  Last night, Millsap wasn’t hitting his jumper and nothing Big Al could do could get us going.  Granted, there were a ton of other factors, but Paul Millsap is the personification of our team and I would simply never be disappointed if he was taking the last shot.  He never loses his composure.

2.  Gordon Hayward.  It goes without saying that this is ‘good’ Gordon Hayward.  I was thinking about categorizing and putting ‘bad’ Gordon Hayward later on the list except that I realized that it was totally redundant because ‘bad’ Gordon Hayward is bad because he would never take the last shot.  Anyway, this guy always seems so calm at the end of games and really makes some big plays.  There have been a couple of miscues- the pass to Al at the end of the Lakers game comes to mind- but he’s been the biggest late-game playmaker the Jazz have had so far.  He was the one with the late-game steal against Golden State that put the Jazz ahead for good and he was also the one running the floor for the easy fast break bucket at the end of the game last night.  His shot has been off so far this season, but if the game was on the line, it would be easy for me to believe.

3.  Josh Howard.  If this guy could just learn how to dribble I’d consider putting him at number one.  In all my life, I’ve never seen someone look so laid-back while playing basketball in the NBA, which especially seems to work out for him in crunch time.  He just looks like he’s jogging around, dribbling lazily, loosely aware of his environment, and then he makes the perfect play at the perfect time.  He kept the Jazz in the Lakers game with his totally unforeseen deluge of shooting and I really don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t happen again.

4.  Jeremy Evans.  This was easy.  If Jeremy Evans is taking the last shot in a game, it’s because it is a dunk after the opposing team forgot that he was playing.  He really never gets the ball otherwise, so this is an easy choice.  If Jeremy Evans takes the last shot in a close game, it’s a win.

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: I think we’ve got a chance…

5.  Earl Watson.

6.  Raja Bell.  Make no mistake; like everyone else literate enough to read statistics, I thoroughly understand that Raja Bell is a bad NBA player.  At the same time, he seems to keep doing things right exactly when everyone has written him off.  I definitely think that carries over to clutch situations- can you imagine how the air would deflate out of the ESA if Raja pulls up for a 3 in the last minute of the Dallas game?  It would be the perfect moment for him to strangely win the game, meaning that he’ll keep starting for the rest of the season despite having the one of the lowest player efficiency ratings in modern history.

7.  Jamaal Tinsley.  If we learned anything from the Sundiata Gaines Experience, it’s that when you’re third-string point guard takes a three at the buzzer, it WILL go in.

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Well… um… Maybe they’re feeling it?

8.  Al Jefferson The best recent development in Al’s career is that he has started deferring to other players and spreading the ball around.  Even passing out of double teams! As many wins as this turn of events will inevitably add to the season, it also has had a distinct negative effect on his late-game tendencies.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed him stop calling for the ball at the end of games and getting off the block to clear up the lane for other players.  If he takes the last shot, he’d be a little tentative about it- like against Los Angeles- and I’m not very excited about that.

9.  C.J. Miles.  Who knows what would happen if C.J. Miles took the last shot.  He’s just crazy enough to make it, but it would still give me an especially severe heart attack, so he’s down to number nine.

10. Alec Burks.  He has the best chance of rising significantly even within this season, but for now he’s down here.  Even though he’s awesome, he is still a little bit out of control and has been taking some bad shots against tight defense.  Last night was a huge step in the right direction, and I think that he’s putting it together quickly, but for now he’s down here because I think he would throw it up from anywhere if he got nervous.

11. Derrick Favors.  Again, this is on the way up, but Favors doesn’t have a go-to move that I would be confident in.  If he’s posting someone up with the game on the line, what is he going to do?  I have no idea.  I just hope that he’s feeling it.

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: NOOOOO!!!!!!!

12. Devin Harris.  I had him this low even before the Dallas game last night, and before the trade rumors exploded thanks to Marc Stein’s tweet, leading to Devin Harris trending nationwide.  Here’s my reason: against the Lakers last week, the Jazz started over time with a strong run and had tons of momentum along with the full support of the crowd.  It seemed like victory was inevitable and all of our shots were going in.  Then, after Pau Gasol makes a three from the corner to pull LA within one, Devin Harris takes it upon himself to answer.  Even though we had been on a roll, as soon as he cocked his legs back and let the ball rip, I thought, “There is no way on earth that basketball is going through the hoop right now.”  And I was right.  We lost that game and then he put up 5 points per game on 31 percent shooting in all of the games since and now he’s publicly on the trading block.  If Devin Harris takes another late-game shot any time soon, you know that every Jazz fan on the planet will be immediately thrust into despair.

13. Enes Kanter. Kanter just has to be last.  While it looks like he’s going to be a solid pickup and he’s filling his role very well and efficiently, his scoring is not yet up to speed. Everybody knows that at the end of the game, the refs let a lot more physicality slide.  We also know that Kanter’s biggest problem is his consistent failure to go up strong.  The two forces collide and we’re talking about a very low chance of success.

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    • Christina
    • January 24th, 2012

    I can’t believe you put my boy enes last 😦

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