I've been spending the last few days in sunny Jazz land trying to figure out exactly how the Jazz can turn this mediocre mess around. The Jazz have been known for being pioneers in the NBA with their ability to compete with much larger markets as well as generally producing winning seasons year after year. The San Antonio Spurs most often quote the Jazz as a model for their franchise and they are still using that model when it comes to playing time for their aging stars. I would say that they have taken that model to the extreme by sitting out players for certain games though.
I have often thought that the Jazz may have blown their chance in the past couple of seasons by not staying in the lottery and building up multiple drafted assets like the Thunder. The OKC model is what most GM's quote when blowing up their teams. Even the Jazz GM recently stated that this is not exactly a free agent destination. He indicated that the Jazz need to acquire assets through the draft and then use those assets along with the new CBA to strike when the opportunity is right and acquire real championship talent. What if the Jazz have it right?
I have seen a number of cracks in the Thunder model lately especially since they up and traded James Harden. Certainly the Heat, as long as Lebron stays, is the main cause for most of those cracks. While the Heat, due to three stars taking less money, are set to run the table for awhile. Most teams, especially small markets can't count on such a model for their success. That would be more of a model for large markets.
The Jazz on the other hand, have ample opportunity laid out before them to produce a new model for success. They are already getting credit along with Denver as teams who have done well by trading their All Star player for multiple players and or draft picks. Here is how the Jazz (after trading their All Star), in my humble opinion, can do that...
First, avoid completely building your team through the draft in consecutive years. This actually worked somewhat against the Thunder as they ran into too many extensions on young talent and couldn't keep Harden due to future luxury tax issues. The Jazz were set up via the D-Will trade to pick up lottery talent without having to keep dipping into the lottery record wise.
Second, keep your winning culture and develop lottery talent as much as possible. Use this time to develop leadership in your young stars by working both with and against veterans in practice and in workouts. Try to keep fans involved with mediocrity so you don't lose too much money. Try to blend Vets and Young guys together to avoid the lottery while setting up your cap flexibility with expiring contracts.
Third, Trade away your veteran players for future assets either at the trade deadline or in the off season. If that isn't possible, don't resign your vets. Turn your team over to your young talent and dip back into the Lottery as you move towards long term extensions on your first group of lottery players.
Fourth, by playing a young team you will be able to assess your developing young talent and sign extensions to only those players who warrant being center pieces in the future. Trade or let the other young players contract expire. You don't want to over pay at this point. Hopefully, with only a year maybe two back in the lottery, you have a young team that is on the upswing towards being a middle of the pack contender.
Fifth, this is the most important part of the CBA which is having prior lottery talent signed to long term extensions, playing with the second group of lottery talent on cheaper rookie contracts. For example Durrant & Westbrook playing with Harrison Barnes or Lillard on their rookie contracts this year. You could keep a team like that together for a few years until the rookie contracts came up for an extension. At that point if you couldn't pay to keep them, you could again trade them for future lottery talent and start the cheaper lottery contracts all over again.
Lastly, you could sign veteran players to mid-level exceptions and or pair your young lottery talent to acquire someone who could put you over the top on the way to being a championship contender. This model would require the Jazz to trade away or let both Milsap and Jefferson's contract expire. As well as only signing vets to Foye like deals year to year while working the lottery to your teams benefit. At least this could give some Jazz fans hope that the Jazz are still on the right path if they play their cards right even if nothing happens at the trade deadline.
All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.