No team has gone through as many changes as the Utah Jazz this offseason. After another disappointing early playoff exit, they hired a new head coach and traded two franchise faces: Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Other deals may still be on the way as they aim to complete the complete demolition so their rebuilding can begin in earnest.
The immediate impact of these moves is that they will be one of the worst teams in the league for at least this season and possibly the next. However, all in the hope that one day they will not only return to the level that this now disbanded group has reached, but also surpass it and really compete in the Western Conference.
Being one of the least desirable destinations for free agents in the league, they will have to realign during the draft. So it’s no surprise that Danny Ainge prioritized blockbuster draft picks from Mitchell and Gobert, acquiring seven first-round picks and three first-round trades over the next seven years. In addition to their own picks and potential futures, they will have no shortage of draft capital.
Ainge has a history of success in the draft with the Celtics; most of last season’s final team came from first-round picks. He set his sights on Jason Tatum as the best player in the class of 2017, selected Jaylen Brown at 3rd in 2016 to the surprise of many, grabbed Marcus Smart at 6th in 2014, and found rotational caliber players off the lottery on numerous occasions. including Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard.
Can he do the same in Utah? We’re going to find out.
- Replaced Quin Snyder with Will Hardy as head coach.
- Traded Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves in exchange for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, first round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 and a first round pick trade in 2026.
- Traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Ohay Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, first-round picks in 2025, 2027, and 2029, and first-round pick trades in 2026 and 2028.
- Traded Patrick Beverley to the Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.
- Traded Bojan Bogdanovich to the Pistons for Saben Lee and Kelly Olynyk
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Top of the key: complete the demolition
As their work during the off-season has shown, the most important things for the Jazz these days are done off the court. From hiring Danny Ainge, to replacing Quin Snyder with a young head coach, to swapping Mitchell and Gobert, they committed themselves to a complete organizational overhaul.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got here” Ainge said earlier this month. “But what I saw was a team that didn’t believe in each other. Maybe I thought they were just waiting for the playoffs. that this was the direction we needed to go.”
Jumping feet first into the Victor Wembanyama Lottery is obviously part of their thought process, but it goes beyond them pinning their hopes on a single draft candidate. The Jazz have acquired seven first-round picks and three first-round trades this offseason, with more to come. They are going to build this team from the ground up over the next three to five years.
First, they will need to complete the takedown by trading the remaining veterans like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. The Athletic reported earlier this month. that the team is looking into proposals for both players; Making the highest possible profit for both of them is the primary focus of the Jazz front office at this time.
Next on the agenda: determine who can play
So much attention has been paid to the players leaving the Jazz this summer, and very little to those coming to Salt Lake City. It’s understandable given the resumes and talents of the departed, but the Jazz do have some interesting young players. Perhaps not some franchise building blocks, but some players who could be part of their future.
Depending on what happens with further deals, there’s a chance the Jazz won’t have 30-year-old players this season. Regardless, they have 13 players aged 25 and under, including two first-round picks this year, Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler.
As training camp begins and the season continues, the Jazz will have to figure out which of these youngsters can play and who should be kept while they rebuild that lineup.
One more thing: start building a personality
Among the many challenges facing the Jazz over the next few seasons is finding an identity. What style of basketball do they want to play? What kind of players are needed to implement it? What values and skill sets do they need to prioritize?
None of these questions are easy to answer, and with the roster constantly changing, the answers on the court can change once or twice. However, at such an early stage in recovery, it is important to establish some guidelines. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to lose focus, and before you know it, three or four seasons will go by without any real progress. We’ve seen this happen over and over again in the league, and the Jazz don’t want to be the last example.
Let’s be honest, a team that is considered one of the worst in the league doesn’t have many key games. In Utah’s case, however, there are two very clear games to watch out for – Mitchell and Gobert’s first return to Salt Lake City.
Although the two never got what they wanted in the playoffs, this summer marked the end of the jazz era. Their first comeback will be significant for fans and players alike.
- Friday, December 9 vs. Timberwolves
- Tuesday, January 10 vs. Cavaliers