First this was going to be about Laker fans. Then it was going to be about Boozer. But now, after Ronnie B being shipped to Memphis while Boozer is still a Jazzman, I’ve got to write about the Jazz front office first.
The whole point of running an NBA franchise is to build a team that seriously contends for a championship. Teams are fun to watch and fans are happy as long as it’s clear the team is somewhere on a well-designed path to that goal.
It doesn’t really matter how good the team is right now. What matters is whether the team is going in the right direction. 15-win teams can be on the right path. 50-win teams can be on the wrong path.
And it’s not hard to see the difference—just watch the games. There’s a reason Oklahoma City’s 23-win team of last season was so much more loved by its fans than the Knicks’ 32-win team. The Bandits were obviously headed in the right direction. The Knicks were not.
Of all the kinds of teams on the wrong path, one that is most maddening is a team that thinks it’s a contender right now when it just isn’t.
But almost as bad is a team that can’t make up its mind. Say hello to your 2009-10 Utah Jazz!
Look at two deals for the Jazz: one that happened and one that didn’t.
1. Ronnie B. to the Grizzlies for a conditional first round pick.
This deal makes a lot of sense for a team building for the future.
Ronnie B. is all he’s ever going to be. They’ve got players on their roster with potential to be more (CJ and Matthews)—but the only way to see is to give these guys the playing time. But giving these guys playing time could make winning games less probable (slightly less probable if OMSW is the guy, much less probable if the playing time goes to CJ). But in the long term, it’s worth making the sacrifice to develop potentially better players.
And the pick from Memphis gives the Jazz potentially three 1st rounders. The last time they had three 1st round picks they traded them for the chance to draft Deron. Again, we’re sacrificing a good player for better opportunities in the future.
But if the Jazz are a contender right now, the deal is lousy. Matthews is great, but he’s more inconsistent that Brewer is right now. And giving CJ Ronnie B’s minutes and role guarantees major fiascos. The Jazz will lose games rolling the dice with CJ. And every game matters if you’re a contender right now. And how will those 3 picks help the team right now? Oh. They won’t.
So the Jazz must be a non-contender building for the future. That’s the only way this trade makes sense.
No matter what was actually discussed, this deal also makes a lot of sense if the Jazz are building for the future.
Boozer’s not in the Jazz future. Millsap is their future. The draft picks would be even more assets for the team’s future (would a team with the #1 pick be willing to trade it for four or five 1st round picks? Strange things have happened on draft day—Portland gave up Deron and Chris Paul because they already had Steve Blake). Or Haslem would be a nice fit as a backup PF*. No matter the variation of the trade parts/partners, the PF keys would be handed over to Paul, and the Jazz would be able to see sooner than later exactly how good Millsap is going to be.
But if the Jazz are a contender right now, the deal is lousy. The Millsap-Boozer combo is much more talented than a Millsap-Haslem combo, or Millsap-future draft picks combo. If you’re a contender right now, you’ve got to put on the court the most talented, cohesive team you can.
The Jazz didn’t make the deal, so the Jazz must be a contending team right now.
The Jazz front office doesn’t know what the team is. It can’t decide. It wants everything at the same time: build for the future and play for today.
Well, sometimes you have to choose. Sometimes you have to make several choices, and it helps if they fit together into a single master plan. Iit helps if choices A and B work together.
And I’m sorry, but when your team gets blown out at home by the Lakers sans Kobe and Bynum, I don’t see the team as one of the league’s elite.
The Jazz are an exciting team, a team with lots of good things to build on, a team that feels very close to being one of the league’s elite. So much good about the Jazz has been resurrected during the past 2 months, but I don’t see them seriously challenging for the championship this year.
Do I see a possible deep playoff run? Yes. Do I see a great future? Yes. Can I see them becoming one of the elite teams even as soon as next year? Absolutely, if they play their personnel decisions right.
But it would help if there was a plan. And it would help if the front office decisions all fit together. But I’m not so sure they do.
* I don’t know why so many people say the Jazz need equal value in any trade for Boozer. It’s as if they have to replace Boozer’s 19 and 10. Isn’t Millsap supposed to replace Boozer’s 19 and 10?
Last season, when Millsap started I didn’t miss Boozer once. Not a single time. Do you know who I missed? Backup-Millsap, coming off the bench. That’s who the Jazz have to replace when Boozer leaves. I say the if the Jazz find a guy who costs significantly less, plays either C or PF, rebounds and hustles like a mad dog, replacing Boozer has been a total success. And if that guy could possibly be either the KOOF or Fess, so much the better (and cheaper).
As long as Millsap becomes the player I think he will be.