Utah Jazz: Who Should Start At Shooting Guard?

By now most of the educated basketball world has started to take notice of the up and coming Utah Jazz. Thanks to a tremendous finish to the 2014-2015 regular season, many expect the Jazz to be flirting with playoff contention in 2015-2016.

It’s for that reason that general manager Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the front office made a point of staying out of this offseason’s free agent frenzy. Instead the Jazz chose to return all of the core players and fill out the remainder of the roster with players such as Raul Neto and Tibor Pleiss.

With the entire Jazz core returning for next season, the question remains: Who should be the starting shooting guard?

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Through the first 27 games of last year, Alec Burks was slotted in with the starters before being shut down for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. During those games he averaged 13.9 points per game, while shooting 38.2 percent from three.

Although it was not an enormous sample size, Burks showed the ability to knock down the three at a better clip than in his first three seasons in the league.

But anyone who has watched Burks in action knows that his bread and butter is not his outside shooting, it’s his ability to take it to the rack.

According to austinclemens.com, which produces NBA shot charts, 51 percent of Burks’ shots happened within five feet of the basket during his last full season in 2013-2014. While Burks was healthy during last season, his ability to get to the hoop resulted in 129 free throw attempts. Rodney Hood only managed to get to the line 80 times, while playing 165 more minutes than Burks.

Most of the numbers would indicate that Alec Burks should be the starter, but that’s exactly why he shouldn’t be.

I think we all remember the beautiful flash of light that was Dante Exum‘s Utah Jazz Summer League experience. After a season of forgettable offensive play, mixed with flickers of potential, we finally saw in one summer league game what we had hoped for in Dante Exum–aggression.

While it remains to be seen if Exum will play with that same level of confidence in the upcoming season, assuming he does, it won’t be necessary for Alec Burks to be in the starting lineup.

Burks can slide in with the second unit and be the offensive punch the Jazz need coming off the bench. This would allow Hood to suit up with the starters and not worry about carrying the offense when Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are off the floor.

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Hood’s game is far better suited for the starting lineup. Again, courtesy of austinclemens.com, 45 percent of Hood’s offense came from beyond the arc last season. With an aggressive Exum driving to the hoop, Hood’s shooting ability would force defenders to decide if they want to help on the drive or hang back in the event that the ball ends up in Hood’s hands.

Trey Burke has tallied some historically bad shooting numbers, unfortunately. Though he still has time to turn it around, Burke shouldn’t be relied upon to handle the second unit’s offensive load. Alec Burks is the perfect sixth man. His skill set allows him to be aggressive and not playing with the starters will allow him the freedom to attack.

After missing most of last year, Burks will be on a mission to prove himself. That type of hunger coming from off the bench is just what the Jazz need if they hope to be playoff contenders in the wild West.