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Adjusting the Trajectory Part 1: The Utah Jazz Life Cycle

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Among the 37 posts I'm working on right now, there's one that's very important to get out as soon as possible. And instead of writing a 7000 piece I'm splitting this one out into smaller, more manageable portions. It is on our beloved Utah Jazz, and attempts to figure out what trajectory we are on. Are we rebuilding? Are we getting foundational pieces right now? Are we 'not rebuilding' and going to win every game we can -- under the guise that we are a playoff contender? Are we developing young talent? Many people have many different ideas of what our team should be doing. Some of us always want to aim to do the best we can, going season-to-season without any care for a long term plan. Others feel the opposite, and desire for a long term plan that achieves greater success, at the expense of a season or two.

I took a long hard look at the Life Cycle of our last group. A group that started during the last season of Stockton-to-Malone -- and ended last season. Over the last decade (2002-2003 till today), we've won a lot of games, and even a bunch of playoff games. We saw the fall from the last core, the rebuilding, the growth phase, the plateau, and the eventual fall again. Click on to read the rest of this Part 1 post.

Here is my concept of the Post Stockton & Malone Utah Jazz Life Cycle

You don't have to agree with the terms, but this is how I see things. Obviously, things get very binary at the end -- you're either in the playoffs or you're a lotto team. If you are in the playoffs, then how far did you go? If you are in the lotto, then you are not a contender. It's simple.

Post Stockton & Malone Utah Jazz Life Cycle
Year Description Wins Losses Win% Playoffs Lottery
2002 - 2003 Forest Fire Year 1
47 35 57.3% Lost in 1st rnd
2003 - 2004 "Green" Year 42 40 51.2% Yes
2004 - 2005 Growing Pains aka "Boo-Boo" Year 26 56 31.7% Yes
2005 - 2006 "We're not rebuilding" Year 41 41 50.0% Yes
2006 - 2007 Organic Growth Year 1 51 31 62.2% Lost in 3rd rnd
2007 - 2008 Organic Growth Year 2 54 28 65.9% Lost in 2nd rnd
2008 - 2009 Organic Growth Year 3 48 34 58.5% Lost in 1st rnd
2009 - 2010 Organic Growth Year 4 53 29 64.6% Lost in 2nd rnd
2010 - 2011 Forest Fire Year 2
39 43 47.6% Yes
2011 - 2012 Current Year* 13 11 54.2% ? ?

In the last 10 years we've gone to the playoffs 5 times (2002-2003, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2009-2010), and gone to the lotto 4 times (2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006, and last year 2010-2011). The deciding year is this year (2011-2012). If we go into the lotto this year we go 5-5. If we go to the playoffs, our franchise went 6-4 over the last decade. Either way, our team has been average. A legit threat for three years, a team in transition for the rest.

The Terms:

  • Forest Fire Year 1 (02-03): This is the year where the old growth is burned down, and the soil gains the nutrients needed to regrow into something fresh. This was the last season of Stockton to Malone. There were no rookies on that team, and a lot of guys did not return for the next year. The core was spent, and the franchise was going in another direction.
  • "Green" Year (03-04): This is the year all Jazz fans look back fondly on, we were lead by a 22 year old Andrei Kirilenko playing 37 mpg, and our team had zero expectations. There was no old growth to block development, and a lot of young guys played, and our team played hard every night.
  • Growing Pains / "Boo-Boo" Year (04-05): The Jazz front office went all out in the off season. Guys got paid. Guys got drafted. Guys got signed as free agents. The team lost a lot of games because Andrei missed 61 games, and Carlos Boozer missed 51 games. The foundations were solid, but still missing a big piece.
  • "We're not rebuilding" Year (05-06): In the off-season the Jazz moved up in the draft and picked Deron Williams. They got the pass-first PG that our offense needed. The Jazz were no longer rebuilding, they were going to try to win as many games as possible. They came close, but still missed out.
  • Organic Growth Year 1 (06-07): Jazz continued to go all out to win as many games possible. They made the playoffs, and went to the Third Round (Western Conference Finals). It was amazing. The Jazz went from "end of the era" with John and Karl; went through rebuilding very quickly; and now were back to contending and being a perennial playoff team.
  • Organic Growth Year 2 (07-08): Continued growth, and they were a legit contender.
  • Organic Growth Year 3 (08-09): Continued growth, and they were a legit contender.
  • Organic Growth Year 4 (09-10): Continued growth, and they were a legit contender.
  • Forest Fire Year 2 (10-11): The era ends, again, with a massive forest fire. The Jazz lost a number of rotation players over the off-season. The Head Coach Jerry Sloan resigned. Our franchise player Deron Williams was traded. Obviously we were starting over, not reloading.
  • The Current year (11-12): It remains to be seen what year this is . . .

Of course, I go into way more details in the next post on each of these particular seasons, the expectations, the actual wins, and the over-all trajectory of the team at that point in time. If we do not examine our past, we really have no frame of reference for understanding where we are, and where we are going.

The Players:

Here is a full list of all the guys who were on the roster over the last 10 seasons. (From Forest Fire #1 till today)

Player Yrs '02-03 '03-04 '04-05 '05-06 '06-07 '07-08 '08-09 '09-10 '10-11 '11-12
Andrei Kirilenko 9 x x x x x x x x x
C.J. Miles 7 R x x x x x x
Jarron Collins 7 x x x x x x x
Matt Harpring 7 x x x x x x x
Mehmet Okur 7 x x x x x x x
Carlos Boozer 6 x x x x x x
Deron Williams 6 R x x x x x
Paul Millsap 6 R x x x x x
Gordan Giricek 5 x x x x x
Kyrylo Fesenko 4 R x x x
Raja Bell 4 x x x x
Ronnie Brewer 4 R x x x
Ronnie Price 4 x x x x
Carlos Arroyo 3 x x x
Greg Ostertag 3 x x x
Kyle Korver 3 x x x
Al Jefferson 2 x x
Ben Handlogten 2 R x
Curtis Borchardt 2 R x
Derrick Favors 2 R x
DeShawn Stevenson 2 x x
Devin Harris 2 x x
Earl Watson 2 x x
Gordon Hayward 2 R x
Jeremy Evans 2 R x
Keith McLeod 2 x x
Kosta Koufos 2 R x
Kris Humphries 2 R x
Morris Almond 2 R x
Raul Lopez 2 R x
Alec Burks 1 R
Aleksander Radojevic 1 x
Andre Owens 1 R
Brevin Knight 1 x
Calbert Cheaney 1 x
Dee Brown 1 R
DeMarre Carroll 1 x
Derek Fisher 1 x
Devin Brown 1 x
Enes Kanter 1 R
Eric Maynor 1 R
Francisco Elson 1 x
Howard Eisley 1 x
Jamaal Tinsley 1 x
Jason Hart 1 x
John Amaechi 1 x
Josh Howard 1 x
Karl Malone 1 x
Keon Clark 1 x
Kirk Snyder 1 R
Kyle Weaver 1 x
Louis Amundson 1 R
Marcus Cousin 1 R
Mark Jackson 1 x
Michael Ruffin 1 x
Mikki Moore 1 x
Milt Palacio 1 x
Mo Williams 1 R
Othyus Jeffers 1 R
Paul Grant 1 x
Rafael Araujo 1 x
Randy Livingston 1 x
Robert Whaley 1 R
Roger Powell 1 R
Sasha Pavlovic 1 R
Scott Padgett 1 x
Sundiata Gaines 1 R
Ton Gugliotta 1 x
Tony Massenburg 1 x
Wesley Matthews 1 R

Who was the most important player for the last decade of Jazz ball? Who is the poster child for this era of Jazz basketball?