Examining the Ever-Evolving Utah Jazz Point Guard Situation

Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) dribbles the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Jason Terry (31) during overtime at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) dribbles the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Jason Terry (31) during overtime at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite acquiring Shelvin Mack at the trade deadline, the Utah Jazz are struggling to find a winning formula at the point guard position.

There’s no sugar-coating it–the Utah Jazz laid an egg in the team’s surprising home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. Among the many factors that contributed to the disappointing loss, inconsistent play from the point guard position continued to be an issue.

Jazz point-men Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto and Trey Burke missed a combined 12 of their 15 shots (Neto and Burke were 0-8) and only dished out three assists. Their direction of a stagnant Jazz offense forced Jazz coach Quin Snyder to go with a triple-wing lineup for most of the game’s final four minutes.

Of the three, only Mack posted a positive plus/minus score (plus-three) in the game.

With the Jazz fighting to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture, getting improved point guard play is of the utmost importance. Mack’s performance after the move to Utah was lights-out in both the near-miss against the Portland Trail Blazers and the OT win over the Houston Rockets, but has been less impressive recently.

In his four games with the club overall, Mack is averaging a respectable 11.8 points per game on 46.3 percent from the field. However, he’s only connecting on 20 percent of his three-point attempts and host posted an abysmal assist-to-turnover ratio of one-to-one.

Meanwhile, Burke and Neto have struggled to perform with inconsistent minutes in their new, somewhat undefined roles.

After posting an early February average of 9.2 points on 52 percent from the field and 59 percent from three-point range, Neto has failed to make an impact since moving to the bench. He’s averaging 2.7 points and has made only one of nine shot attempts since his demotion.

Although Burke was key in the win over Houston, scoring 15 points and hitting multiple three-point shots in the clutch, his role and overall effectiveness have also diminished. Burke has come up negative in the plus/minus department in every game since Mack’s arrival.

Rock bottom came against the Nets; Burke went scoreless in only six minutes of play and the Jazz were outscored by seven when he was on the floor.

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So who is the answer at the position?

A look at recent five-man lineup combinations come out in favor of Mack. The starting lineup of Mack, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert has outscored opponents by 14 points per 100 possessions. But is this the Mack effect or the benefit of sharing the court with the best players on the team?

In terms of plus/minus, four of the team’s best five-man lineups since the All-Star break include Mack. These are extremely small sample sizes, and all four include at least two other starters, but it’s worth noting. Ironically, the team’s best plus/minus squad had Burke at the helm, while another featured Burke and Mack together.

However, if we expand the scope from recent games to the length of the season, Neto shows more favorably. Only eight lineup combinations have played 50 or minutes together this season. Five of those have posted positive net ratings; three of which include Neto.

utah jazz raul neto trey burke shelvin mack
Utah Jazz five-man lineup combinations, minimum 50 minutes played. /

The much-discussed triple-wing lineup of Alec Burks, Hood and Hayward with Favors and Gobert actually tops this list with a net rating of nearly 15. With Burks’ return imminent, it’s probably a safe bet that Snyder will go without a true point guard at times and look to this unit for scoring.

Still, the Jazz probably need to settle on two point guards for the stretch run. None of the three are performing at their peak in the current point-by-committee approach. Of course, Snyder is only trying to determine the best combinations with the new roster dynamic, but time is of the essence.

Next: Are the Utah Jazz Investing Too Much in Dante Exum?

The Jazz face a difficult schedule to close out the season and need to be firing on all cylinders if they hope to secure a spot in the playoffs. The play at point guard has been a factor in recent losses and will continue to be so if the team can’t settle on a rotation and get production out of it.

If I was a betting man–and I am–I would put my money on Mack continuing to start, with Neto being the primary backup and Burke only playing on a situational basis. I’m also expecting more triple-wing action once Burks returns to the fold. But what do you think?

Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @PurpleandBlues1 or @MrMaryKateOlsen and state your case!