Ranking the best free agent signings in Utah Jazz history

We are smack dab in the middle of the NBA free agent period and there have already been plenty of moves that will change the face of the league for years to come.

Free agency is always an exciting time for basketball fans as they get to see what their teams are trying to do to build for the future. Every year, there are plenty of big names available that could change the fortunes of many teams and this year is no different. This time around, the crop of game changers include the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Greg Monroe and a handful of others, that could make a serious difference to any franchise. But, as in years past, none of those big names were linked to the Jazz. In fact, when it comes to free agency, the Jazz are more about making strategic moves to fill holes as well as finding diamonds in the rough. While there aren’t many big stars on the list, the Jazz have signed plenty of players who made a difference.

Where they have had their most luck has been in the point guard department with nine lead guards making the list.

Here is a look at the best free agents that the Utah Jazz have ever signed.

All free agent signing  information comes from Basketball-reference.com.

H.M. Earl Watson: Watson signed with the Jazz before the start of the 2010-11 season and earned plenty of minutes as a backup point guard. He played 178 games with Utah and averaged 3.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists a night.

H.M. Jamaal Tinsley: Tinsley inked a contract with the Jazz in December of 2011 and appeared in 111 games over three seasons. His best year with Utah came in 2012-13 when he averaged 3.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 66 games (32 starts).

For his Jazz career, Tinsley averaged 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

H.M. John Crotty: Crotty came back to Utah as a free agent in the summer of 2000 and played in 72 games over two seasons as a backup point guard. His most productive season came in 2001-02 when he averaged 6.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

For his second stint with the Jazz, Crotty averaged 4.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

25. Armen Gilliam: Gilliam played the last year of his 13-year career with the Jazz after signing midway through the 1999-00 season.  Gilliam appeared in 50 games as a back up power forward and averaged 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds a night.

24. Milt Palacio: Palacio signed with the Jazz just before the start of the 2005 season.  He played 71 games (18 starts) over one season as a point guard and averaged a career-high 6.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

23. Mark Jackson: Jackson inked a deal with Utah just before the start of the 2003 season.  He spent just one season in a Jazz uniform as a back up point guard behind John Stockton.  During that season, Jackson averaged 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 82 games.

22.  Josh Howard: Howard signed with the Jazz midway through the 2011-12 season and spent 43 games (18 games) in a Jazz uniform.  During that time, Howard averaged 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

21. DeMarre Carroll: Carroll signed with the Jazz midway through the 2011-12 seasons after he got released by the Denver Nuggets and lasted for two seasons.  His most productive season came in 2012-13 when Carroll averaged six points and 2.8 rebounds in 66 appearances (12 starts).

For his Jazz career, Carroll averaged 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 86 games.

20. Devin Brown: Brown signed with the Jazz just before the start of the 2005-06 season.  He appeared in 81 games (14 starts) over one season before getting traded and averaged 7.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

19. Keith McLeod: McLeod signed with the Jazz right before the beginning of the 2004-05 season.  He played 119 games (79 starts) over two seasons as a starting point guard.  His most productive season came in ’04-05 when he started 47 of 53 games and averaged a career-high 7.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals.

For his Jazz career, McLeod averaged 6.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists a night.

18. Danny Manning: Manning inked his deal with the Jazz in the summer of 2000.  He lasted one season in Utah and was a key piece in the front court coming off the bench.  In 82 games, Manning averaged 7.4 points on 49.4 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 2.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists.

17. Calbert Cheaney: Cheaney signed with the Jazz during the summer of 2002.  He spent one season in a Jazz uniform as the starting shooting guard during 2002-03.  In that season, Cheaney averaged 8.6 points on 49.9 percent shooting to go along with 3.5 rebounds and two assists in 81 games.

16. Greg Foster: Foster landed with the Jazz in 1996 and lasted four seasons as a backup power forward and center. During that time, Foster was a valuable piece on two NBA finals teams because of his ability to stretch the floor and creat space for Karl Malone.  His best season in Utah came in 1997-98 when Foster averaged a career-high 5.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 78 games (49 starts).

For his Jazz career, Foster averaged 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 272 games.

15. Olden Polynice: Polynice signed with the Jazz in the summer of 1999 and spent two seasons with Utah as the starting center.  Although he wasn’t much of a scoring threat, Polynice provided solid rebounding and an interior presence on the defensive end of the floor.   His most productive season came in ’99-00 when he averaged 5.3 points on 51 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds and a block in 82 games.

For his Jazz career, Polynice averaged 5.3 points on 50.3 percent shooting from the floor, 5.1 rebounds and one block in 163 games.

14.  John Starks: Starks spent two seasons with the Jazz after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2000.  Starks wasn’t the same player he had shown to be during his younger years with the Knicks, but he still had plenty left in the tank and earned a starting role during his first season in Utah.  His most productive season came in ’99-00 when he averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and one steal in 75 games (64 starts).

In his Jazz career, Starks averaged seven points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 141 games.

13. Chris Morris: Morris played three seasons with the Jazz after he signed as a free agent just weeks before the start of the 1995-96 season and turned out to be an important weapon on two runs to the NBA finals.  His most impressive season came that same year when he averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and one steal in 66 games (33 starts).

For his Jazz career, Morris averaged 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 193 games.

12. Randy Foye: Foye just spent one season with the Jazz after he signed a free agent contract in the summer of 2012,but left as a fan favorite because of his ability to knock down shooter from longe range.  Foye spent the 2012-13 season in Utah and averaged 10.8 points on the strength of 41 percent shooting from behind the arc.  He also added 1.5 rebounds and two assists per night over 82 games (72 starts).

11. Carlos Arroyo: Arroyo spent three seasons in a Jazz uniform after he signed as a free agent just before the beginning of the 2002 season.  After starting out as the third string point guard, Arroyo earned the starting job and helped propel the Jazz to just a few games from making the playoffs.  His most productive season in Utah came in 2003-04 when he started all 71 games he played in and averaged 12.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and five assists.

For his Jazz career, Arroyo averaged 8.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 145 games.

10. Tom Chambers: Chambers landed with the Jazz later in his career after he had very successful stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Seattle SuperSonics. He lasted two seasons with the Jazz after he signed as a free agent in the summer of 1993.  His most productive season came in ’93-94 when he averaged 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and one steal in 80 games.

For his career, Chambers averaged 8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 161 games.

9. Antoine Carr: the “Big Dog” spent four seasons with the Jazz after he signed just a few days before the start of the 1994-95 season and saw important minutes as a front court back up on some of the better teams te Jazz have ever had.  His most productive year came in that first season when he averaged 9.6 points on 53.1 percent shooting to go along with 3.4 rebounds in 78 games.

For his Jazz career, Carr averaged 7.5 points on 48.7 percent shooting  and 2.6 rebounds in 306 games.

8. Raja Bell:  although his time in Utah didn’t end on the best terms, Bell had a few successful seasons.  Bell signed with the Jazz as a free agent on two different occasions. The first time came in the fall of 2003, while the second came in the summer of 2010.  His most productive season in a Jazz uniform came in 2004-05 when he averaged 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 63 games (32 starts).

For his Jazz career, Bell averaged 9.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 247 games.

7. Howard Eisley: after it took a few chances for Eisley to stick in Utah, he became the most consistent back up point guard the Jazz ever had.  He signed with the Jazz as a free agent three different times. His most lengthy stint on the roster came after he signed for the second time midway through the 1995-96 season and played for the next five years.  His most productive season came in 1999-00 when he averaged 8.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 82 games.

For his Jazz career, Eisley averaged 6.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 435 games.

6. Jeff Wilkins: Wilkins was one of the best finds the Jazz have ever made.  Although he was drafted in 1977, Wilkins didn’t appear in a regular season NBA games until the Jazz signed him part way through the 1980-81 season.  Wilkins played almost all of his six-year career in Utah and was a very productive big man.  His most productive season came in 1982-83 when he averaged 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 81 games.

For his Jazz career, Wilkins averaged 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and one assist in 427 games.

5. Allan Bristow: Bristow signed with the Jazz just before their move to Utah and had two of his more impressive seasons in his 10-year ABA-NBA career.  His most productive of the two came in 1979-80 when He averaged a career-high 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 82 games.

For his Jazz career, Bristow averaged 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 164 games.

4. Matt Harpring: Harpring was the perfect fit from day one in Jerry Sloan’s system because of his toughness and grit. Harpring spent seven seasons in a Jazz uniform after he signed as a free agent in the summer of 2002.  His most productive year came in 2002-03 when he averaged a career-high 17.6 points on 51.1 percent shooting from the floor.  He also added 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists a night over the course of 78 games.

For his Jazz career, Harpring averaged 11.9 points on 49 percent shooting, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 474 games.

3. Rickey Green: Green was the best of the diamonds in the rough that the Jazz ever brought into town. Utah signed Green as a free agent part way through the 1980 season after they claimed him off waivers from the Detroit Pistons only month before, according to Basketball-reference.com.  After a bit of a slow start with the Jazz, Green became one of the best point guards in franchise history.  One of his best seasons came in 1983-84 when Green appeared in the all-star game after he averaged 13.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, a career-high 9.2 assists and a league leading 2.7 steals in 81 games.

For his career, Green averaged 11.4 points on 47.9 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 606 games.

2. Mehmet Okur: The Jazz took a serious risk when they overpaid the back up big man from the Pistons after their title run, but it paid off in a big way.  Okur landed with the Jazz in the summer of 2004 coming off two solid seasons in Detroit.  He spent the next seven seasons of his career in Utah terrorizing opposing centers with his ability to knock down one big shot after another.  One of his most impressive seasons came in 2006-07 when Okur made the all-star game after he averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and two assists in 80 games.

For his career, Okur averaged 15.3 points on the strength of 38.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 474 games.

1. Carlos Boozer: although many Jazz fans don’t have a real soft spot for Boozer thanks to the amount of time he missed because of injury, he is clearly the best free agent signing Utah has ever had. Like Okur, Boozer found his way to Utah in the summer of 2002 thanks to a massive free agent contract. He lasted six years in a Jazz uniform and was a dominant score and rebounder during that time.  His most productive season came in 2006-07 when he made the first of back-to-back all-star appearances after he averaged 20.9 points on 56.1 percent shooting.  He also added 11.7 rebounds and three assists a night over 74 games.

For his Jazz career, Boozer averaged 19.3 points on 54.4 percent shooting from the floor, 10.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 354 games.

 

 

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