It's that time again. Time to have another honest discussion with Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor. I tricked him into meeting me by calling him up and pretending to be Steve Nash's agent. Then I slipped him some more truth serum in a ginger ale and we did another interview. If you want to see what we discussed last time, it's here.
As another reminder, this piece is fictional and doesn't represent any things that Kevin O'Connor actually said to me.
Clark: Kevin, we have so much to talk about, I'm really glad I could trick you into meeting me. How's your ginger ale?
Kevin: I was glad to have an excuse to get out of the house My wife has been forcing me to watch the Bachelorette with her. I'm more of a Desperate Housewives guy.
Clark: So give me a general assessment of the season. How happy are you with how it played out?
Kevin: There were obviously some great parts of the season and some horrible parts of the season and a lot of in between. Those last 5-10 games for us and winning 6 or 7 of them, that was fantastic. We had something to compete for and we played some of our hardest basketball over that stretch. In the midst of that, we had the loss to New Orleans which was really deflating at the time. The collapse in Minnesota was a low point. But for me the worst part was trading Mehmet Okur. It was absolutely the right basketball and business decision, but there isn't a nicer guy that gives so much to the franchise as Okur. That had to be a low point.
Clark: You didn't mention the playoffs as a highlight. I, for one, have to apologize. I didn't think it was capable of this team.
Kevin: Well, it was a highlight to make the playoffs. We have two major goals as an organization every year: to make the playoffs and to exceed expectations. We did both this season. Obviously you would like to compete a lot more in those 4 games. We didn't compete as well as we should have. We were pretty poor mentally and that made me mad. After having so much toughness to make the playoffs especially. It is wrong to pay so much respect to your opponent, but that is why we made the playoffs. We need to learn what it means to be a playoff team and how to play playoff basketball. It's like learning to drive a car. At first you want to drive anywhere, run the errands. You're just glad to have the ability to drive. Later in life, you are much more efficient about it. You compete. You take control of that car.
Clark: I'm not following that analogy.
Kevin: Neither am I. But I said it confidently. That's a major part of looking like you always know what you are talking about. Keep it short. Keep it strong. You can say what you want to.
Clark: Thanks for the advice. Anything you would change about how the season played out?
Kevin: Sure. There are a lot of things. I'm a fan of the team. I'm a general manager first, but I live and die on all the things that Jazz fans do. You can see me on the TV and think that I don't give a crap about anything, but I am festering inside. This is my job. You watch the team and you enjoy yourself and you might be critical of a player or two. Well, times that by 100. Your job performance doesn't rest on how the team plays. I've learned to internalize my emotions, but that is also going to be the death of me. My blood pressure is in the mid 100s on a good day, Clark.
Clark: So what would you have changed about the season?
Kevin: I don't want to burn any bridges or throw anyone under the bus. I make it a point to not tell Coach Corbin what to do with playing time or exes and ohs, but there are things I wish could have been different. But I'm not the coach. The front office allows me to be the GM of the team and I allow Coach Corbin to be the coach. It's a beautiful thing.
Clark: I am going to read between the lines and assume that you would like to see a little more playing time for Derrick Favors. At least I am hoping that's the case. You hold the keys to that. You could trade Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap and make it a certainty. Why don't you?
Kevin: Nobody said I wouldn't. I'm just not going to do it solely to free up time for Derrick Favors. I don't like to be told what to do and I don't like feeling pressured into doing anything. So I'm not going to let myself do that. On top of that I have a serious dilemma on my hands. Nobody in the league wants to trade for Al jefferson without giving us some horrendous contracts back and we aren't going to add useless money in the future in the climate of the new CBA. But can I really trade Paul Millsap? Twenty seven other teams are interested in him, but it's hard to trade a guy who plays bigger than his contract, works so hard, and embodies what is good about the franchise.
Clark: Who are the two teams that aren't interested in Millsap?
Kevin: Orlando and Sacramento. But I only don't know if they are interested or not. I haven't talked to their GMs in months. You know the situation in Orlando and I think Geoff Petrie has been on vacation since he drafted Jimmer Fredette. And I think he had an assistant phone that pick in.
Clark: There have been rumors about General Managers being lazy and not doing much, maybe a few hours of work a week. What are your thoughts on those allegations and how do you rank in hard work as a GM?
Kevin: I don't know how hard every GM works, but I know that I put in a good amount of time. It's hard though. Look at the logistics of what I do. I can't make any transactions between February and June-July time. College basketball ends in March. So from March to now, I can't make trades and I can't scout live basketball games. So how do I fill up my time? We watch a lot of film and pretty soon we will see a lot of draft prospects up close and personal. I have a list of players in the NBA that I love, in case any of them become available. But you can see how this job could get easy, if you didn't put in the extra work, other than picking up the phone and listening to trade offers. It's so much easier to stand pat. That is why fewer trades happen than we always want. Too much risk in a trade. And for some GMs, too much work.
Clark: Interesting. So now that we've talked about trading one of the bigs, lets discuss another topic of interest. Are you going to acquire a first round pick and get into this draft?
Kevin: Maybe. No promises. And probably not. I am very aware of the price of those picks and what it would take. But if the right player becomes available at the right price, then yes, I would make a trade.
Clark: What do you mean by right player at the right price?
Kevin: I have a big board of each player. I rank them according to where we would draft them. But then I make a range of picks with each player. I'm taking Anthony Davis #1. If he slips to the early teens, I'm making a trade to go get him. Of course I'm making a joke about that. You didn't laugh Clark.
Kevin: But I have a range of picks for each player and I know what it would cost to acquire the 10th pick or the 12th pick or the 2nd pick for that matter. And when a player we like moves far enough down the board that their value outweighs what it would take to go get that guy, then I'm going to make that trade. I'm not just going to go trade Paul Millsap for the 6th or 8th or 11th pick willy nilly, unless I know that a player who will outvalue Paul is there. Or for any Jazz player for that manner. So I don't know if we will trade into the draft. You'll have to tune in and find out. But probably not.
Clark: Sounds reasonable. One more question and then I'll drive you home. You should never drive on truth serum. How does this team get better? What are you going to do to improve the team?
Kevin: We will do our work. We expect to get a player who will compete for a rotation spot with the 47th pick. I take phone calls everyday about trades, but I'm not going to be pressured into making a deal. We have a playoff team right now and that is our main goal. We will make the playoffs next season. Hopefully one day the stars will align and we can win a championship, but you can't win a championship if you don't make the playoffs. And you also can't win a championship for the next 5 years if the Thunder hold onto Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka. So that sucks. But we are going to be a playoff team as well for the foreseeable future. Now if you'll excuse me, I should probably get home. I have a lot of messages I need to read on my phone.
Clark: Is your wife wondering when you can come home and watch the Bachelorette?
Kevin: No. My phone is blowing up with twitter updates from Lost Taco Vendors tweets about the Bachelorette. Those make me giggle.