“Tonight, the role of Matt Bonner will be played by Steve Novak.”
The San Antonio Spurs’ coaching/management tree might be the most far reaching in the NBA. Maybe even in the major sports in America, currently. Teams raid the staff every season searching for that magical formula, hoping to brew up a batch of duplicate sorcery for themselves.
And who can blame them? Somehow still at the top their game and coming off of a fifth championship in 16 years — or, a title about every three years, on average — it’s little wonder opposing front offices and owners want a piece of pie from that apple tree.
The Spurs find players to fit roles and those players understand their roles, doing their part to keep the wheels greased as the bigger, badder machine marches ever forth, defying time itself in it’s unyielding splendor and relentless plowing down of unsuspecting opponents.
Coming from that very same tree is Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey, who often references the education he gleaned from his years as a Spur. When he speaks of it, he seems to understand the source of the Spurs’ system as well — and maybe better than — any other apple plucked from the Texas tree.
The Jazz were in need of a veteran presence in the midst of a major youth movement — Lindsey, team president Randy Rigby and VP of Player Personnel Walt Perrin have all referenced it in recent radio interviews — as well as better shooting, in this, the modern NBA where three point percentages are at an all-time high.
You have to have shooters to spread out the defenses today. The athletes are bigger, stronger, faster and have a collective knowledge of an ever-evolving game. Guys like Matt Bonner fulfill that role on the right team, in the right system. Dennis Lindsey hopes Steve Novak can do the same for Utah.
You want to run a pick-and-roll, like Trey Burke did so successfully in college, and new Jazz head coach Quin Snyder favors (he has literally pages on the PnR ready to run in Utah)? You’ll get away with it a few times before the defense packs up the paint.
You want to post up a paint beast like Derrick Favors or that Turkish bull Enes Kanter in a favorable matchup? You can do it a couple of times without a perimeter threat to keep a D honest.
But not many more times than that before a defense adjusts and leaves poor shooters chucking wide open shots that they just can’t resist for being left all alone outside.
The Jazz lost (or are about to lose) their best three point shooter from last season in Richard Jefferson — top ten virtually all season long in the NBA — and haven’t yet re-signed Marvin Williams, next best on the team at 36%, minimum 25 minutes played per game. Lindsey knew he needed a shooter that Snyder could utilize as necessary to open up the paint and allow the young guards and big men to continue to hone and fine tune their games against deadly defenses.
Neither Bonner nor Novak do anything else particularly well, aside from nail threes, although Bonner is likely a slightly better rebounder and defender. Really, within their roles, that’s rather irrelevant, largely. Other players do those other things. These are specialists filling a needed role. They are asked to defend power forwards who put the power in it very sparingly.
Bonner and Novak make very similar salaries as well, both a shade under $4 million per year.
Novak, like Bonner, will likely be used mostly off the bench against second teams and in specific situations where an opposing defense may be particularly troublesome in the paint. They’ll help to pull out defenders to make space at the rim as well as space the floor as a perimeter threat, giving Snyder and his young guns room to operate more successfully as they continue to learn the game at it’s highest, most competitive level.
This, although not a free agency move, was associated to free agency in that the Toronto Raptors needed to make cap space for some free agency maneuvering of their own.
Novak will make the current Jazz team better while not taking anything away from the growth of the young up-and-comers. Indeed, he should help them grow that much faster.
An old friend of mine — known to many old-timer message boarders as Nuraman — and I have followed Steve Novak for years. Some nights I might have been watching a game he was in, other times it would be Nura.
Novak has the capability to hit threes in bunches. Big bunches. So we coined a phrase for him to alert the other whenever he was going off on some hapless defense so we could revel in the magnificence of his Supernovak nova:
“Attention! Champagne Super Novak!” the text would come ringing in, only applicable after his third three of a game.