It’s not that Jerry Sloan doesn’t play rookies…
…it just depends on the rookie.
“Oh My Sweet Wesley” Matthews is averaging 22.1 mpg this season through 59 games. Since Ronnie B was traded, his mpg has gone up to 29.1. With 23 games remaining in the season, Wesley is on track to play 2,000 minutes this season [2,000 minutes per season averages out to 24.4 mpg over 82 games].
Just to put that into perspective, only five rookies in Utah Jazz history have broken the 2,000-minute barrier, and only two in the Jerry Sloan Era (um…I guess it could be argued that Jerry doesn’t play rookies after all…). The five are:
1980-81 – Darrell Griffith (2,867 minutes)
1983-84 – Thurl Bailey (2,009 minutes)
1985-86 – Karl Malone (2,475 minutes)
2001-02 – Andrei Kirilenko (2,151 minutes)
2005-06 – Deron Williams (2,307 minutes)
In case you’re wondering, Johnny Stock totaled 1,490 minutes (18.2 mpg) his rookie season.
Common sense would lead me to believe that rookies get more playing time on lottery/non-Playoff teams. However, this was only the case for Griffith and Deron. Then again, that’s not really saying much because we’ve only missed the Playoffs three times (2004-2006) since 1983-84.
Others that came somewhat close (>1,600 minutes or 19.5 mpg):
1979-80 – Duck Williams (1,794 minutes)
1981-82 – Danny Schayes (1,623 minutes)
1989-90 – Blue Edwards (1,889 minutes)
2003-04 – Raul Lopez (1,617 minutes)
11 rookies in the Sloan era have been granted the privilege of playing more than 1,000 minutes (12 mpg over 82 games) in their first season. Curiously, 8 of the 11 are guards. I say “curiously” because Jazz fans have been on a quest chasing after that mythical defensive center since Mark Eaton retired. Conclusion: Either bigs take longer to develop, or our front office needs to stop drafting centers because they’re not any good at it (I have highish hopes for Fes, though). One other note of interest: 6 of the 11 were second-rounders or undrafted.
1989-90 – Blue Edwards / 21st pick / 1,889 minutes
1991-92 – David Benoit / Undrafted / 1,161 minutes
1993-94 – Bryon Russell / 45th pick / 1,121 minutes
1996-91 – Shandon Anderson / 54th pick / 1,066 minutes
2001-02 – Andrei Kirilenko / 24th pick / 2,151 minutes
2001-02 – Jarron Collins / 53rd pick / 1,441 minutes
2003-04 – Raul Lopez / 24th pick / 1,617 minutes
2003-04 – Sasha Pavolic / 19th pick /1,144 minutes
2005-06 – Deron Williams / 3rd pick / 2,307 minutes
2006-07 – Paul Millsap / 47th pick / 1,472 minutes
2009-10 – Wesley Matthews / Undrafted / 1,306 minutes through 59 games
Final note: While a high percentage of Jazz fans–myself included–are calling for Fes to get more playing time right now, I just want to say that I completely disagree with those that say that Jerry doesn’t develop young players. I think he does a great job of it.