Utah Jazz: 5 most underrated players in franchise history

Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images)
Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz
Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images) /

Throughout most of the 1990s, the Utah Jazz were synonymous with the all-time great duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone. While the pair was busy reinventing one of the most fundamental plays in basketball in the pick-and-roll, they were consistently flanked by a lesser regarded, but still highly impactful wing named Bryon Russell.

Russell was effectively an archetype for the modern 3-and-D wing. In 2000-01, he shot a blistering 41.3% from three-point range. Under Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, he’d undoubtedly shoot a higher volume than the 2.9 attempts per game he was afforded then. Still, his omnipresent threat to knock down the triple surely provided spacing for Stockton and Malone to perfect their devastating two-man game.

Russell didn’t pour in the points, as he averaged a career high 14.1 points per game in 1999-00. With teammate Karl Malone in the midst of the second greatest scoring career in NBA history, he didn’t exactly need to. Russell’s calling card, above all else, was his defense.

His career Defensive Rating of 103 alone belies a historically great defender, but his 1998-99 high water mark of 99 is truly mind-melting. In fact, if not for the lockout that held the NBA season to 50 games that season, that mark would put Russell’s individual season among the top 25 of all time, among esteemed names like Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett and Yao Ming.

Sadly, Bryon Russell’s most lasting legacy may be as the defender on a certain historic shot by a certain NBA GOAT candidate. However, it’s worth remembering why he was assigned to cover that shot in the first place.