The Utah Jazz are not known for being a big trade deadline dealer, especially over the past couple of seasons when it might have been more prudent.
The question on every Jazz fan’s lips this time last year was, “what can we get for Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson?”. The Jazz were fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the West and no one thought they would make any noise when they got there- why not get something for the expiring contracts of Millsap and Jefferson? Instead, general manager Dennis Lindsey and president of basketball operations Kevin O’Conner decided to stick with the roster they had and try to make a playoff run.
Unfortunately one has to make the playoffs before they make a playoff run. In that instance, silence at the trade deadline showed a commitment to mediocrity by the Jazz front office.
This season is far different than last: the Jazz are in full rebuilding mode and everyone knows it. The Jazz are far from being the worst team in the league, but nonetheless have little to show in the win column. The 1-14 start to the season planted the seed in the mind of Jazz fans that Utah would cruise to a top 3 pick in the draft, but the return of Trey Burke from injury and the emergence of young talent has started to wither that little seedling of hope for a Jabari Parker or an Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 NBA draft.
Some speculators thought the Jazz would ship off players like Richard Jefferson or Marvin Williams in the hopes of decreasing their win total for the year, and that almost came to pass when the Jazz nearly made Jefferson trade bait for Andrew Bynum, who would have been cut immediately to save more salary cap space for next season.
But alas, Dennis Lindsey and company once again decided to hold fast to their ways and stick with what they’ve got. In this instance, silence at the trade deadline shows a commitment to the talent this team has acquired and developed over the past four years.
Previous trade deadlines have been stressful for all who are invested (in mind and money) in the Jazz franchise. The Millsap/Jefferson conundrum of last season and the heartbreak of trading away Deron Williams in 2011 have made the middle of February a frustrating and confusing time for Jazz fans; but the conservative effort made by the Jazz front office, and the Miller family, have soothed the worries of fans, players and coaches for the time being. No more worrying about shipping off Gordon Hayward in fear of not re-signing, no more worrying about trading Alec Burks or Enes Kanter to acquire more “pieces”, and no more worrying about finding a veteran point guard to mold the young Trey Burke.
The rebuilding has gone pretty smoothly since last offseason. Step one was trading for Trey Burke in the draft, check. Step two was signing Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward to long term extensions; Favors got done, but Hayward is still left hanging. With the bright future ahead and the cap space the Jazz will have come summer time, I’m not too worried about Hayward re-signing as a restricted free agent, so I’m checking that off the list. Step three is the hard part- losing lots of basketball games to get in the draft lottery- but that’s a check too.
All the latter steps come this offseason; re-signing Hayward is a big step but re-signing Alec Burks and Enes Kanter after their rookie contracts expire is equally important. The draft should be loaded with game-changing talent, although I’m hoping that Jabari Parker falls into the Jazz’s lap I would be content with an Andrew Wiggins or even a Doug McDermott out of Creighton.
Finally, the Jazz must sign at least one upper echelon free agent to join their small group of veterans. Marvin Williams speaks highly of his young teammates and seems eager to join them in the fight for next season. Richard Jefferson has raised some eyebrows in Salt Lake City and would be warmly embraced if he and the Jazz decided to continue working together, but calls from other teams might be too tempting so I won’t count him in yet. Some 2014 free agents I believe the Jazz might be able to peruse could be Chris Bosh (depending on what his free agent teammates Lebron James and Dwayne Wade decide to do), Luol Deng, Paul Pierce, or Mario Chalmers.
A lot remains up in the air for the Jazz this season. More wins might knock them out of a good draft pick, more losses might kill what little want a free agent has to want to play in Salt Lake City. But rest assured, because of the patience and knowhow by the Jazz front office, there’s still a chance for this team to return to greatness.
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