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5 Utah Jazz players born in the wrong era

5 Utah Jazz players born in the wrong era

(Don Grayston/Gary McKellar/Steve C. Wilson)


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Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Basketball is a living entity, constantly changing, growing, evolving and sometimes devolving. Skill can be replaced by athleticism, and the two can be combined, and a position can be redefined.

The size of the players changes, the speed of the game changes and the talent continues to grow. Unfortunately, the quickly changing game benefits those who can adapt along with it, and those who can't often find themselves on the outside looking in, or in some instances, failing to reach their potential.

No team is immune to these league-wide changes, and unfortunately for these five former Jazz players, they found themselves suiting up in the wrong era.

Pete Maravich

With a nickname like "Pistol" you better be able to shoot, and Pete Maravich lived up to the name.

It's hard to argue with a hall-of-fame career, including five All-Star appearances, and a place among the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, but in today's league, Maravich could have given more.

During his 11-year career, Maravich was only credited with 15 3-point attempts, 10 of which he converted. The NBA added the 3-point line in the final season of Maravich's career, limiting the potency of his dangerous jump shot. Maravich holds the three highest scoring averages for a college basketball player at 44.2 points per game over three seasons at LSU, all without the 3-point shot.

In addition to his scoring prowess, Maravich was a walking highlight reel, drawing fans in to watch his mostly losing teams. Had Maravich played in the modern era, he'd be a fixture in the NBA's 3-point shooting contest, a perennial competitor for the scoring crown and a fixture on the "SportsCenter" Top 10 list.

Darrell Griffith

The Jazz drafted Darrell Griffith with the second pick after his 1980 National Championship run with the Louisville Cardinals. Griffith won Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, and he is the only Jazz player to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

Despite separate seasons where he averaged over 20 points per game, Griffith never made an All-Star Game. Had Griffith's 10-year career taken place between 2006 and 2015, he'd join only Monta Ellis and Kevin Martin as four-time members of the 20 ppg club to never make an All-Star Game.

Martin and Ellis have combined to make over $140 million in their careers, while Griffith pulled in less than $10 million in his career. Griffith is best known by his moniker "Dr. Dunkenstein," but also led the NBA in 3-point percentage at 36.1 percent.

Despite leading the league in percentage, Griffith never attempted more than 3.3 3s per game. Had Griffith played today, he'd like see his 3-point attempts rise, and his highlight film dunks spread across ESPN and lucrative shoe deals.

Thurl Bailey

Like Griffith, the Jazz drafted Thurl Bailey with the seventh overall pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, fresh off his NCAA Championship run with the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

At 6-foot-11, Bailey's ability to hit a 20-foot jump shot made him a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. Despite his shooting range and 81 percent free-throw shooting percentage, Bailey only attempted 35 3-pointers during his career, converting only four of them.

Had Bailey played today, it's likely that he'd extend his range a few more feet to stretch beyond the 3-point line where he'd be one of the league's more versatile weapons.

While he spent most of his career with the Jazz playing small forward and power forward, in today's league he could easily play all three frontcourt positions. Big men who can spread the floor and block shots are the zeitgeist in today's NBA, and in addition to Bailey's shooting ability, he averaged a respectable 1.2 blocks per game over the course of his career.

Bailey spent 13 years in the NBA, and another four overseas, which is hardly a failure, but his long, agile frame and soft touch may have been a better fit for the 21st century.

Mehmet Okur

While it may be hard to believe that a player who retired in 2012 missed out on much of the modern NBA, Mehmet Okur is a good example of just how fast the NBA changes.

Okur made the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, averaging a career-high 4.2 3-point attempts per game. That season, he averaged the 37th-most attempts per game from beyond the arch.

Had he played in 2015, he would have had the 66th-highest average in the league. Having retired in 2012, Okur just missed out on the surging trend of 3-point shooting attempts, as team averages jumped from 18.4 attempts per game that season, to 22.4 attempts in 2015.

Though Okur's individual play would have benefited from a more 3-point oriented league, the modern Jazz could have used his ability to spread the floor as well. The Jazz were 17th in 3-point attempts this past season and 19th in 3-point shooting percentage.

While Okur may have been a pioneer of true center's shooting the 3-pointer in the modern NBA, he could have had a higher profile as a prolific shooter had his career started just a few seasons later.

Al Jefferson

Like the other players on this list, Al Jefferson was born in the wrong era. Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Jefferson was probably born a decade or two too late, rather than too early.

As far as back to the basket, isolation based big men go, Jefferson is about as good as it gets. The problem for Jefferson is the league no longer fits his tremendous skill set. In a league focused on spreading the floor with long-distant shooting and an emphasis on passing, Jefferson looks to pound the low post on offense and fill space with his big body on defense.

Jefferson's inability to defend the pick-and-roll in the modern NBA is part of the reason he's played on four teams in just 11 NBA seasons, despite a career average of 17 points per game. Jefferson has truly elite footwork for an NBA big man, a skill set that would have benefited him in the mid to late 80s and early 90s but seems bizarrely out of place in 2015.

There is potential for a resurgence of the back to the basket big man as the Philadelphia 76ers selected Duke's Jahlil Okafor with the third pick in the most recent draft. Okafor is a player with similar traits to Jefferson or he may be proof that it's time to move on from the old mold.

While Jefferson has accrued impressive stats, his teams generally haven't fared all that well from a win-loss standpoint. Perhaps if Jefferson were suiting up for the Jazz alongside Karl Malone, his skill set would have been more appreciated.

While these five players are proof that the top talent in the world will in one way or another make it to the NBA, they also highlight the belief that not every player was born into the right era.

Despite several All-Star appearances on this list, and millions of dollars made, it's easy to in these five players' careers just how quickly the NBA is changing.


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About the Author: Ben Anderson ------------------------------

Ben Anderson is the co-host of Gunther in the Afternoon with Kyle Gunther on 1320 KFAN from 3-7, Monday through Friday. Read Ben's Utah Jazz blog at 1320kfan.com, and follow him on Twitter @BenKFAN.

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