Ground Zero...July 8, 2010. The other day I received some fair criticism on my lack of positive commentary on the Jazz's current rebuilding plan. I certainly have been critical of Kevin O'Connor and many of his moves since he took over the team in August 1999 and turned a perennial title contender into just an occasional playoff team. While the team O'Connor inherited was an aging powerhouse, the moves he made to keep the Stockton/Malone era in the title hunt all seemed to fail.
Further, while O'Connor did a good job assembling the Boozer/Okur/Williams core, he hesitated to make the necessary moves to take the 2007 squad higher and the team eventually crumbled, primarily due to financial constraints. Over the past 4 years the Jazz have won exactly 0 playoff games, and have been in general disarray with a seeming lack of direction.
While I think the Jazz have made many missteps over the past several years, I do believe they have also made positive moves to rebuild a contending team. In order to analyze the positive moves of this rebuilding plan, I think it is important to establish a date on when the team started to rebuild.
While many might cite the Jazz's moves this summer in letting Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk in free agency, or the Deron Williams trade in 2011, I'd argue that rebuilding began on July 8, 2010. It was on that date that the Jazz agreed to trade Carlos Boozer to Chicago in a sign and trade that brought the Jazz the Traded Player Exception necessary to acquire Al Jefferson later that year.
While Boozer has his critics in Utah, it is undeniable that he was either the 1st or 2nd best player on the Jazz's playoff teams from 2006-2010. Even though it was Boozer's choice to leave the team, the Jazz were pushed into rebuilding from that day forward. The sad reality then is that the Jazz have now been in rebuilding mode for 1,295 days and we are just now bottoming out.
What follows are what I'd rank as the four best Jazz transactions since letting Boozer walk in the summer of 2010. I'm very interested to know if you guys agree, disagree and what moves you think I might have left off this list..
Rudy Gobert Purchase, June 27, 2013. The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to use cash considerations in trade transactions. While this provision has been in place, I cannot recall an instance where the Jazz included a meaningful amount of cash in a trade, until last draft night.
The Jazz were able to move up 20 spots in the draft by the inclusion of an estimated $3MM. While late first round picks like Gobert are anything but a sure thing, the biggest advantage is the cheap contract that Gobert will be operating under for the first 2-4 years of his career. Worst case scenario the Jazz are paying Gobert $1.0MM this year, $1.1MM next year and the original $3MM from draft night for a total of $5MM.
Considering the requirement to fill the roster spot anyway, that is a very cheap risk to see if Gobert can develop into a productive NBA player over the long run..
Mehmet Okur Trade, December 22, 2011. Shortly after the lockout ended the Jazz, already in rebuilding mode, sent away Okur in return for a 2nd round pick. While the pick itself held little value for the Jazz, the trade allowed the Jazz to dump $10.9MM in salary obligations for a player we weren't sure would return to his preinjury form. This large chunk of savings was no doubt beneficial to the Jazz as they reconfigured their books after the lockout and looked into the future.
In addition to the money savings the trade created a large traded player exception which enabled the Jazz to acquire Mo Williams from the Clippers the following summer essentially for free. While I was disappointed in Mo's return performance with the Jazz, it was a reasonable risk to bring him in to fill the enormous hole the team had at PG at the time..
Deron Williams Trade, February 23, 2011. A refresher of the trade specifics: Utah Jazz traded Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, cash, a 2011 1st round draft pick (Enes Kanter) and a 2013 1st round draft pick (Gorgui Dieng).
The more time passes, the better this trade looks from a Jazz standpoint. The Jazz got decent value for Williams by adding two #3 draft selections, a serviceable PG in Devin Harris and a late round pick that assisted in the Trey Burke acquisition. I'd argue this return was better than the Carmelo haul that Denver received just prior.
Perhaps more advantageous from the Jazz's standpoint was missing out on having to re-sign Deron Williams to a 5 year $100MM contract. While that point is mostly proven through hindsight, and there is a good chance Williams would have never re-signed in Utah anyway, it is hard to look at post-Utah DWill and get excited for his level of play anymore. The Jazz appear to have dodged a huge bullet here..
Trey Burke Trade, June 27 2013. While it is far too early to judge whether Trey Burke will be a great NBA player, we can reasonably conclude that he is playing a high level for a rookie PG. Regardless, this trade was good simply on the value the Jazz were able to acquire.
Before the draft I had spent a lot of time looking for way for the Jazz to move up from #14 to #9 and I had a hard time finding trades that were anything close to the 21st pick that the Jazz included to move up. Rather, most moves usually required a salary dump or a valuable player of some sort included in the deal. The fact that Dennis Lindsey was able to jump 5 spots, and draft the best PG on the board was very impressive.
Now it is just up to Trey Burke to take the Jazz back to the Finals so that we can start discussing this trade on the same plane as the Magic and Dominique robberies of prior Jazz administrations.