I'm not talking about the draft/free agency/summer league stuff. I mean the big picture stuff. Yucca's post on how the Jazz play moneyball, and JuMu's post on his offseason predictions got me thinking about what the franchise goals are and how they'll get there. It seems like Dennis Lindsey has managed to tear down almost everything he started with, and now he's in the process of rebuilding it from the ground up.
Let's start by reviewing what Lindsey has already done:
For Lindsey's first season after being first hired to be the new Jazz GM, Kevin O'Connor was still in control. There are quite a few people who aren't happy with the way KoC ran things, but at least he cleaned house (as much as could be expected) for Lindsey. There were no bad contracts, and every player was either on his rookie deal or would be off the books within a season or two. DL has taken it even further this year, with only two players on non-rookie, guaranteed contracts (Favors and Evans). The coaching staff is also clean, with only Quin Snyder officially on the books (though Jones and Jensen will almost assuredly be on staff as well).
I know that the Jazz started expanding their international scouting before Lindsey was hired, but DL has kicked it up another notch. Not only has he improved our international scouting, but he's being much more thorough in scouting free agents as well. The mini-camp he implemented last off season will give him great insight on fringe players. DL also appears to be highly invested in draft scouting. He seems to be very good at getting permission to view draft workouts for other teams, as well as getting players to come to Utah.
We'll have to wait and see in Quin Snyder does well as our new head coach, but it is clear that Lindsey did some solid research and found a candidate he's not only comfortable with, but is aligned with his views on the future of the team. All we have to go on right now is interviews, but it seems like Coach Q is fully on board with Lindsey's 3 Ds.
I see this as the first real change that Lindsey has made to the franchise. Everything listed above is something that every other team does/has to some extent. By forming a partnership with the Stampede, Lindsey is starting to branch out and make the Jazz different. Only 8 other teams in the league have an exclusive partnership with a D-League team. I'll be going into the real benefit of the Stampede below.
So, now that I've recapped what the Jazz have already done, I'm going to start prognosticating. Here's what I think is going to happen:
GOAL: Integrate the Jazz and Stampede coaching staff
There are two parts of the coaching staff that are still missing, Snyder's assistants, and the Stampede's coaching staff. I think DL views both of these as extensions of each other. The Stampede's head coach, along Snyder's assistants, will run Snyder's system (possibly a simplified version for the Stampede), and will be directed to focus on developing the players assigned to the team.
While I can hope that Snyder will convince someone like Ettore Messina to come be lead assistant, I don't think it really matters (long term) who else is on the bench. By controlling the Stampede, we essentially have twice as many assistants on the Jazz, which is the real benefit of our partnership. If Snyder does as well as we hope, then his assistants will start being offered head coaching positions, at that point, Lindsey and Snyder will already have replacements on the Stampede bench, familiar with the system, ready to fill in as soon as an opening presents itself. This will give the team a new kind of coaching stability. I wouldn't be surprised if every player on the Jazz ends up spending a little time with the Stampede coaches, if for no other reason then to get to know them before they end up on the Jazz bench.
GOAL: Make every player/pick useful to the team
At some point we have to stop collecting assets and start moving them. Last offseason, Lindsey used our cap space to pick up extra draft picks (2 1st round & 3 2nd round), and I think he might do the same this year while he sees how our new picks integrate with our current group. By the end of next season, Lindsey will have a good idea of who he should keep and who he should move. The collection of draft picks that Lindsey has accumulated will also start moving. I'd expect that Lindsey will mostly use the 2nd rounders in other deals. We may even see some of them move at this year's draft. If he looks to make a Harden-like trade next summer, both Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond will be entering the last year of their rookie contracts.
I would expect Lindsey to move on from the asset accumulation phase to the playoff contention phase before the start of the 2016-17 season. At that point, most of our starters should be set for 3-4 years at a time, and our 6th-9th players should be fairly consistent as well. 1st round draft picks (likely to be in the 20s) are useful in one of two ways, as end of the bench players that hopefully work themselves into the rotation (like Tiago Splitter and George Hill did), or as trade pieces.
GOAL: Utilize statistics to better determine how players can be used/improved
Everything before this is just a way to to create a stable environment for players to find success (based on the Spurs franchise). Once Lindsey has a functioning system in place he can start making tweaks to improve that system. This is where the Jazz can start being revolutionary. This is also where it becomes difficult to predict. Several coaches (Stan Van Gundy, to name one) have pointed out that advanced statistics are very useful, but only if placed in context. Right now, the SportsVu system is great at giving teams information, but we have yet to see how well that information can be contextualized to improve player performance. I expect that Lindsey will be working closely with the new coaching staff to determine what information is useful to them.
This process will constantly be evolving as rules change and more detailed information becomes available. At some point, we may see players pulled for certain amounts of time because the team sees signs of potential injury, or maybe we'll see certain players brought in, not because of their basketball skills, but because their interpersonal skills sway the referees.
GOAL: Broaden the appeal of the Jazz franchise to both players and fans
Ultimately, the NBA is a business and the Jazz front office is looking to maximize the amount of money the team generates. This is both a good and a bad thing. The bad side usually manifests itself in salary dumps (immediate savings) and perpetual borderline playoff teams (extra revenue from ticket sales). The good part about the business side of the NBA is that there's even more money in being really good. Since the Jazz are a small market, they have to be good in order to break even, and great to really make money. On occasion, small market teams can put out a sub-par product and still make money by selling hope/potential/personalities, but it's not sustainable (as evidenced by the Kings, Bucks, and maybe the Cavs). The Jazz have reached the point where promises aren't enough and fans are looking for more. Lindsey has bought himself a little time by replacing Corbin with Snyder, but unless the team starts performing, he'll soon be out of a job.
To become a great team the Jazz need to have a great system and great players. Most of this post has been about building the system, but that won't be enough. The Jazz need to attract great players. The only way to guarantee that a player will come to the Jazz is through the draft, and DL has done a good job of positioning us to get some good to great players that way. The next best thing is a trade, which is where our assets come in. Our last chance is through free agency, which is the most difficult for us. We've done it before, both Boozer and Memo came here through free agency, though neither were very high profile at the time.
I see two ways to make Utah appealing to free agents, the first is to win, though if we're winning we won't need as many free agents. The second is to change how the NBA world views Utah. That's a lot harder, but may be more effective in the long run. Right now the Jazz have a reputation for being white and cold. The last few years may also have damaged the Jazz reputation due to players like Raja Bell and CJ Miles not being happy when they left. The way that some fans boo former Jazz players probably doesn't help. Lindsey can't do much about the cold, and he can't really change the population of Salt Lake, but he can certainly work on building relationships with players and their agents. He may even work at promoting former players in an effort to reduce the animosity shown toward them.
Anyway, that's where I see the Jazz heading, at least, I hope that that's where the Jazz are heading. I'm probably giving to much credit to Dennis Lindsey, since I have him in charge of everything from scouting to marketing, but I do feel like he at least has some say in everything.