Shelvin Mack had become a forgotten man with the Atlanta Hawks thanks to the presence of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder at the point guard position. Enter the Utah Jazz, who desperately needed a point guard upgrade at the deadline. There were rumors that the Jazz went after Teague, but when nothing materialized on that front or anywhere else, they settled on Mack for a cheap price of a 2018 second-round pick.
Luckily for the Jazz, the return of Mack to relevance helped turn their season around.
This has been a roller coaster year for the Jazz, with key injuries to Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors all playing a part in the team's inconsistent play. Exum's ACL tear before the season even started was a real killer, made even worse by Trey Burke's shortcomings and Burks' injury. Raul Neto was a fine fill-in as a starter, but Utah needed more from the point-guard position, even with Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood providing capable secondary ball handling.
The acquisition of Mack wasn't a splashy one, but it was the kind of savvy move that could mean the difference between a playoff berth and the lottery. He's provided not only a steady hand running the team, but also career-best production that's helped lift the Jazz offense to another level with him on the floor.
After scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Utah's 123-75 shellacking of the lowly Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, Mack has now scored in double figures in eight of the last 10 games. The Jazz went 7-1 in those eight games and have won eight of 10 overall, with Mack averaging 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field and 44 percent from three.
In those 10 games, Utah's offense has scored over 107 points per 100 possessions overall and 111 points per 100 possessions with Mack on the court, the best mark on the team, per NBA.com. The Golden State Warriors are the only team in the NBA with an offensive rating higher than 111 throughout the entire year.
That's not a sustainable number and the Jazz have played against some of the worst defenses in the league during this stretch (ahem, Lakers), but they deserve credit for taking care of business against some of these weak teams after a rough patch had them at just 29-35 on the season and on the verge of another disappointing campaign.
Mack's individual numbers are likely to fall a bit, as his 40-plus percent three-point shooting is well above his career 33 percent mark. His 3.2 turnovers a game also rank near the top of the league since the All-Star break, but that list is littered with some of the NBA's best players, which isn't surprising considering how much those players handle the ball. Mack isn't on the level of those top guys, so he needs to be a bit more careful.
Nevertheless, he's clearly found a comfort level that's allowed him to flourish. He may not be great at anything, but he's a jack-of-all-trades player who can do a bit of everything, and he's not afraid to take big shots:
Mack flirted with a triple-double in this huge win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 14, and in addition to that three, he racked up six assists in the fourth quarter. It was a signature victory the Jazz have built upon thanks to the improved offense and resurgence of their elite defense. They now sit at 37-37 on the year, good for seventh in the Western Conference.
Utah will have decisions to make at point guard moving forward when Exum returns from injury for next season. Do they put their faith in the talented youngster? Do they again look for a splashier upgrade? Does Burke finally find another home? It's unclear where Mack fits into the future plans with Neto around on an affordable deal as well, but he has a $2.43 million non-guaranteed deal for next season. You'd have to think his play this season gives him a chance to have a permanent role in the future.
For now, Mack's strong performance will continue to be key as the Jazz fight to return to the playoffs after a three-year drought.
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Greatest NCAA Cinderella: Was it NC State or Shelvin Mack's Butler Bulldogs?
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