When you think of teams that hear the clock ticking you usually think of contenders filled with aging vets, like the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. Guys like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash know that their playing days are all going to be over sooner rather than later. But the clock is also ticking for rebuilding teams too, just at a completely different end of the success spectrum.
Particularly, rebuilding teams need to be on the right track within a few seasons, or else be mired in perpetual stagnancy. This is doubly so for teams that worked hard enough to get lottery picks -- those rookie contracts do eventually end, and they can be on their way out if you don't do enough to make them want to stay.
The third aspect of this -- beyond being a contender and beyond having rotation players on rookie contracts -- is that some of the players you have on your team may not be going to be playing this well forever. Guys do get older, and they often don't maintain their peak performance into their golden years.
In some cases they get much, much worse.
Let's take a look at the Utah Jazz roster right now:
A few things pop out:
- Our entire PG corps are entering (or are fully in) their golden years right now. Sure, players play for longer now, but I don't see Earl Watson or Jamaal Tinsley getting better -- only more and more incapable of staying in front of the quick guards that join the league every season. Mo is going to be in his 30s too, next year. All three are off the books this off-season too. If we want any continuation of knowledge we better get our "PG of the Future" soon, and add him to the team so he can learn from these guys before their days are over.
- Raja Bell, the team's older player, is really out to pasture right now. But dude has SO MUCH EXPERIENCE. You almost want a guy with that much experience to be around a team filled with so much young blood.
- Randy Foye basically has half the experience Raja has, and I can really see him getting offered $7m next year from the Jazz. Because of basketball reasons.
Alec Burks and Kevin Murphy really have no experience -- and so far they are the only guys still on contract for next season out of our guards. Burks played 63 minutes in the playoffs last year (4 games); this season he has played in only 75 minutes (18 games for the Jazz).
- You could argue that Gordon Hayward is a guard too, but I think his true position is SF going forward. The good thing about Gordon is that he's our only young guy who seems to be on track for being ready to play once all the old guys are replaced.
- I'd love to have Marvin Williams back -- he's played A LOT OF BASKETBALL. He's 38 days older than DeMarre Carroll and has played 4 more seasons in the NBA.
- Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson will both by 28 by the time next season rolls around. In the worst case scenario both guys will be off our team next year -- which would totally suck for us Jazz fans.
- Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter were both #3 draft picks. Their remaining rookie contracts aren't cheap. And they end soon (DF and GH end next season, and EK and AB end the next -- not including extensions and qualifying offers). I hope we do enough between now and then to make them feel like they want to stay here.
The clock is ticking for us, and we aren't even close to a championship right now.