Posted by: Brian McCann on March 23rd, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
As a Jazz fan for over twenty years, I have learned to be realistic in both good and bad times. Three years ago, when the Jazz were in the midst of one of the greatest runs in franchise history (right after the Kyle Korver trade; running from January through mid-may), I was overly bullish on them. The team was young, deep, and talented. Their defense was a bit suspect, but their offense was far and away the best in the NBA, leading John Hollinger to proclaim that had the Jazz started the season at that pace in November and December, they would have statistically been the best offensive team of all-time. The realist in me rationalized that most teams don’t win championships until their core is in their late twenties/early thirties. At that time I couldn’t imagine the Jazz ever making changes that would not keep the team together through that phase of their careers. But they did. And here we are.
Utah as currently constituted will get better. They could even make the playoffs next year, and probably will. The question I have is what is their ceiling? Are they a perpetual 7th or 8th seed, or could they REALISTICALLY get over the top and win a title? I have thought about this question quite a bit, and my gut feeling is that this team will win enough going forward to put fans in the seats at ESA, but not enough to make much noise in the Western Conference. Sure, being good is an important factor for a small market franchise. The most important issue at hand is staying financially viable. But in our case it seems to definitely come at the expense of being great, and it is for that reason that I strongly feel it is time for Greg and Kevin to go into full-on rebuilding mode.
Management has been reluctant to say it, and for good reason. We had been told that we were building a contender around a young core group of really good players for the last six years. However, too many of those core players were allowed to walk away, and the erosion and frustration finally pushed our all-world point guard out the door. The decision to trade Deron Williams might have been necessary, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking it was an isolated event. Every action has a reaction, and the actions of Jazz management over the preceding year finally led to them feeling they had no other choice than to let Deron go. Unfortunately, most of our once promising core players will now hit their primes in another team’s uniform.
You can’t say conclusively what it takes to win an NBA title, but we can look at history and come up with a pretty good idea. Most of the time, title contending teams have at least two all-stars, preferably three. They also typically have a core that is in their late twenties to early thirties and in the prime of their careers. Very rarely do young teams make any real noise in the NBA playoffs. Sure, you have the occasional team of young guys that might make it to the conference finals (like the Jazz did in ’07), but it is rare. Or you might have a young superstar like Kobe Bryant that compliments a star in his prime like Shaq, but the core is generally experienced with knowledge of how to win in the playoffs.
What worries me about the Jazz, is that they have now given up most of the youth they developed, and will probably have to start back at square one with young draft picks. Personally, I think this is the best course of action all things considered, but it doesn’t bode well for the team being able to compete seriously for a championship any time in the next five to six years, maybe longer. Youth can win you games in the regular season, but the payoffs are something different, where tribal knowledge and defensive grit are key. And then you have the “Superstar Issue” that this team most definitely will be confronted with again. The Jazz didn’t want Deron Williams to hold them hostage, but that is what superstars do. Michael Jordan gave Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf hell every summer. He threatened to leave, got his feelings hurt, and then eventually resigned to minimum-length contracts, all so they could go through the same thing again the next summer. Kobe Bryant did the same thing to the Lakers, ranting in a home video about how he was going to demand a trade. Karl Malone did it to Larry Miller on various occasions, and Dwight Howard has put the Magic on notice now. What do all of these players have in common? They win. Deron Williams is the same way, and while we will probably never know what actually pushed Greg and Kevin to move him, if the answer truly has to do with what they are telling us, that they were afraid that they might not resign him, THAT makes me afraid for this franchise, because it will surely happen again. Are we doomed to develop Derrick Favors, Harrison Barnes, or another future draft pick, only to have them reach “superstar status” and demand that the organization put players around them that will help them to win? Every team that is worth its weight in gold has that issue, and if the Jazz ever want to reach the precipice of the NBA elite, they will need to learn to deal with it to.
As is, it is time to rebuild. Keep your reasonable contracts (Millsap, Miles), dump your expensive, long-term deals (Jefferson, Memo) for future draft picks, and move on. Start over. Some of you might consider this throwing in the towel. Some of you aren’t ready to give up. But some of us are sick of being mediocre. Some of us are sick of the fifth seed in the playoffs, and this team as presently constituted will be lucky to ever pin down a fifth seed.
The Jazz will have to deal with developing and KEEPING young talent. They will have to deal with egos and hurt feelings. They will have to deal with young kids in their twenties that want to win so bad they sometimes say stupid things. The challenge going forward for this team will be learning to have an iron gut-like Larry Miller did. Karl Malone use to put his foot in his mouth more often than not, and threatened to leave the team on more than one occasion. Larry could have traded him. He could have said “well, I was just worried he would leave”. He obviously didn’t, and Karl now has a statue in the plaza of Energy Solutions Arena.
Yes, there are some pretty steep challenges ahead for this team if a championship really is the ultimate goal. But at this point, the Jazz would be better to go for broke, play for the future, and completely rebuild. Otherwise, I am afraid mediocrity is our best case scenario for the next few years.
Neither option really makes me happy, but if I am looking at this team from 10,000 feet up, there is only one clear option. We might not win many games over the next few seasons, but its time to rebuild from the ground up.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.