The Utah Jazz will likely be on the market for a new backup center this offseason. Former Salt Lake City Stars standout Willie Reed could be an option.
Let’s face facts, Utah Jazz fans. As much as we all love Derrick Favors, there’s a better than average chance that the team explores bringing in a floor-spacer and playmaker to replace him in the starting five this offseason.
I know…major sadface.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be such a huge deal because, as a backup center, Favors is as good as they come. Really, that’s been his most important function on the team over the least three years. Alas, this isn’t a perfect world and paying $17-plus million for a backup center is bad hat, Harry.
The situation leaves us with a question — if the Jazz get their stretch four and dole out a second big payday to a new starting point-man, how are they going to take care of the backup minutes behind Rudy Gobert with limited funds remaining for a bench five?
One thing looks to be sure — Ekpe Udoh is not the answer. The likable journeyman, defensive specialist and former lottery pick looks to be headed back to EuroLeague. And, really, his lack of an offensive game and production to cap hit ratio may not be where you want them, anyway.
There are definitely some intriguing options hitting the market this summer. Chief among them, at least in my eyes, is Atlanta Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon, a player who can knock down long-range shots AND protect the paint. Without question, that’s the kind of player the Jazz could use.
However, if the team is looking for that bang-for-your-buck type that they can count on to give Gobert a breather while simultaneously saving some scratch that could be better spent elsewhere, they may not have to look far for a better option.
A familiar face was back in town earlier this week for the team’s annual free agent mini-camp: former Salt Lake City Stars big man and the No. 1 pick in last year’s G-League Draft Willie Reed, and he may be just what the doctor ordered.
Reed was a beast for the Stars last season, putting up 20 points (on 66.5 percent shooting), 11 boards and nearly two blocks per contest over 21 games with the Jazz’s G-League affiliate. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in January and the team was forced to waive him.
By all accounts, though, the 29-year-old was back to his old tricks at Utah’s camp on Wednesday and Thursday. In other words, looking like a guy who belongs in the Association.
Before signing on with the Stars, Reed had over 150 NBA games under his belt with the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, LA Clippers and Detroit Pistons. Over that span, he averaged five points and four boards per game.
He’s perhaps best known among casual fans as part of the trade that sent Blake Griffin to the Pistons and Tobias Harris to the Clippers in 2018.
That strange bit of notoriety aside, Reed has skills the Jazz could utilize in the wake of Favors and Udoh potentially leaving. He’s got great size and length at 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, presence down low, and — much like Gobert — he’s a guy who can receive a pass as a roll man and finish at the tin with authority.
Reed is high-level offensive rebounder, too. In his NBA career, he boasts on offensive rebound rate of 12.4 percent (Favors and Udoh check in at 11.1 and 12.8 percent, respectively). His O-REB rate with the Stars peaked out at nearly 16 percent.
Bottom line, Reed is a guy who checks a lot of boxes as your backup center.
He has skills that help teams win basketball games. He does things on both sides of the ball that are similar to what Gobert does, so you don’t have to switch up your style of play when he enters the game. He’s older and has some experience under his belt, but he’s not years removed from his prime either.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, he gives you those things as a minimum-salary player, which allows you to use your dollars where they’re really needed.