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) /
3 of 6
Utah Jazz
Matt Harpring, Utah Jazz (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /

Much of what was said about Byron Russell applies to Matt Harpring. He served the Utah Jazz from 2002-03 to 2008-09 as a gritty, defensive minded, floor-spacing wing. In many ways, Russell passed a torch to Harpring. Still, there were essential differences between the two.

Those differences may start with Harpring’s career high 17.6 points per game over the 2002-03 season. Furthermore, while it’s worth acknowledging that both were stalwart defenders, Harpring never did turn in an elite sub-100 Defensive Rating for the Utah Jazz (although it is worth noting that he accomplished that feat for the Orlando Magic in 1999-00, posting an incredible 98 mark).

Harpring’s three-point accuracy was wildly inconsistent throughout his tenure in Salt Lake City: for example, he hit 41.3% of his triples over his 2002-03 Jazz debut, followed by an abysmal 24.2% the following year. As we’ve established, three point shooting was a lesser priority in Harpring’s heyday, and his combination of high-IQ offense, dogged defense and strong rebounding (he averaged a career high 8.0 per game throughout the 2002-03 season) endeared him to both fans and coaches alike.

Younger Utah Jazz fans may know Harpring as a wise-cracking color commentator they’ve either grown to love or hate. They should also know that he’s more-than-qualified for that job.