First of all before we get to the downbeat. Calm down. Breath. Do some yoga. Do some meditation.
Just realize that this was all part of the plan.
Let's all come back to earth and realize that the Jazz were not going to light the league on fire. Was there a chance that a healthy Jazz team could surprise some people? Yes, there was a chance. Unfortunately, the Jazz have been about as far from healthy as they could be, resulting in John Lucas III, Diante Garrett, and SHOOOTING GUARD Alec Burks filling in at point guard. It has also resulted in Mike Harris being a primary option on some plays at power forward, and a lot of minutes for project center Rudy Gobert.
So before we talk about the plan for this season we must first address the obvious. These injuries were not part of the plan. Brandon Rush taking this long to return from injury was not part of the plan. Richard Jefferson playing so many minutes was not part of the plan. Rudy Gobert being the only reliable depth at the 4/5 spot was not part of the plan. Now onto the plan.
The first part of the plan was to give these young guys minutes. They are succeeding at this part of the plan.
Derrick Favors in just 12 games has played almost 23% of the minutes he played all of last year with a current total 406 minutes. At his current rate he will play 2,771.6 minutes this year. That's 984 minutes more than all of last year. He's getting minutes.
Enes Kanter in just 12 games has played 37% of the minutes he played all of last year with a current total 401 minutes. At Kanter's current rate he will play 2,738.8 minutes this year. That's 1,661 more minutes than he played all of last year and 786 minutes than he has played in his whole career combined before this current season.
Gordon Hayward in just 12 games has played 21% of the minutes he played all of last year with a current total of 446. At Gordon Hayward's current rate he will play 3,050.4 minutes this year. That is 946.4 minutes more than last year. Close to the equivalent of an additional rookie year of playing time.
Alec Burks in just 12 games has played has played 29% of the minutes he played last year with a current total of 335. At Alec Burk's current rate he will play 2,287.9 minutes this year. That is 1,150.8 more minutes than last year. Basically the equivalent of one more 2nd year in the league.
So the young guys are getting minutes, a lot of minutes. There will be a lot of times where they drowned in the expectations and pressure. That's okay. At least it's happening now when there are injury excuses, bad offensive philosophies, and excruciatingly difficult schedule to lay the blame on so that their confidence doesn't get shaken too harshly during this first month of the season. All of them no matter their ceiling are finally getting an opportunity to develop under the bright lights of playing time.
While there have been arguments made that there is no excuse for the Jazz losing this much because of the plethora of lottery picks (some using Marvin Williams as an example. Which is absolutely hilarious. Saying the Jazz should win more games because Marvin Williams was a lotto pick is akin to saying that your son shouldn't want a PS4 because he already has a Sega Dreamcast.), we can look at this dearth of lottery picks in a different light.
The goal of Dennis Lindsey is to win a championship. His goal was and never will be to win a championship with this current core. While there have been some who have said that I helped champion a youth movement because I thought they could be successful they are horribly wrong. The purpose of developing this young core is so the Jazz can increase the value of their assets.
It is true that even a player of the caliber of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, or Dante Exum could not singlehandedly turn around a franchise. If anyone believes that is the Jazz's only goal they are sorely mistaken. The goal is to bring a player of that caliber AND with the Jazz's available young and developing core they can add additional pieces that fit their future core whomever that includes. Jazz fans should be prepared to say goodbye to any combination of the Core 4 next season because whomever the Jazz land in next year's draft, they will be the face of the franchise not Hayward, not Favors, not Kanter, not Burks, and not Trey.
Let's talk about this draft class. Chad Ford interviewed various General Mangers about the top four players in this draft class. This is what they had to say. The players are listed in the order that General Managers and scouts believe they are ranked at.
[Author's Note: Let it be clear that there is a franchise changing player at each of the top four positions in this draft. That is why being the worst team this year is different than in years past. In prior years there is only one generational talent: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving. In some years there haven't been any. This year is shaping up to be the biggest draft since 2003. That is not hyperbole. It is. Scouts, GMs, Owners, and players alike agree with this statement. I trust their judgement more than a random twitter follower as should you.]
1. Andrew Wiggins
"I think he can be a player that plays a lot like Paul George does," one veteran NBA executive told ESPN.com. "He's so smooth that at times it almost looks like he's coasting. But when you watch closer, you just see the game comes so easy to him. With his length and explosiveness, he's going to be able to do whatever he wants once he gets it. And from everything we can gather in looking into his background, he's going to get it. I'm not sure how we could pass on him if we had the No. 1 pick. The other guys might be more ready right now, but in three years, I think he's the best player in this class."
2. Julius Randle
"I think he's the surest thing in the draft," one GM said. "There's nothing he can't do and there just aren't that many bigs in the NBA with that set of skills. He's going to be a 10-time All-Star and will make a major impact on your team in Year 1. Wiggins might have a little more upside and [Parker] is so attractive as well, but if you take someone else, you're really risking your job."
3. Jabari Parker
"I absolutely love him," a different NBA GM said. "I love guys who just know how to play. Very few players at Jabari's age are so sophisticated about the game. You see how he's reading the floor and how he's thinking the game and you can't help but get excited. I remember when some guys were wringing their hands about Kevin Durant. Does he play defense? Is he an elite athlete? I just saw a killer out there who would do anything to win. I see that in Jabari. Some will worship Wiggins' athleticism. Some will pray to the altar of 'big' with Randle. But Parker's my guy and I don't see that changing."
4. Dante Exum
"I know everyone is so excited to see Jabari and those guys dominate," a fourth GM told ESPN. "I know the old guard is going to play it safe. But maybe I'm young and foolish, but I think Exum ends up being the guy everyone wishes they took in a few years. All of them are going to be great, but when you watch Exum, you see the ability to be a generational talent. My owner might kill me, but I think you take Exum, regardless of what the other guys do this year. Exum's already proved it to me."
Generational talent. That word is being used to describe the 4th best prospect in this class. That is why being the worst team in the league this year is so important to Utah. It guarantees them, no matter what occurs during the draft lottery, a special prospect. The Utah Jazz are right on track.
Some have said that being intentionally bad like the Jazz are this year could lead to unintended consequences like being a lottery team for years on end like Charlotte, Cleveland, or Sacramento. Is it any wonder then that the Jazz brought in guys like Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone, a statistics and salary cap expert and ex-player agent Justin Zanik, and increased their scouting department for this one year? That is what you call quality control. The Utah Jazz knew they would be bad. They planned this. So to avoid staying in the cellar they brought in the right people to lift it back up when it was at the bottom. It's a hard job but they're planning for it.
But don't be a fool and mistake current losing and demise as a sign the Jazz have given up on winning in the future. We are just witnessing one of the most analytically planned tank jobs in NBA history. Give this front office credit. They are accomplishing all their goals from a front office standpoint: Development, Gaining an edge in the NBA Lottery, and increasing the value of the current roster to attain future assets.
That brings us to the final part of the plan: Next year's free agents. No I'm not going to throw out some insane passionate plea as to why LeBron would inexplicably sign in Utah. He wouldn't. That's stupid. What there is are amazing role players that will be able to be had once the spending spree on the top tier guys dies down. That is what the Jazz are planning on. Here are some of the guys the Jazz could target next offseason.
- Loul Deng
- Kyle Lowry
- Evan Turner
- Ed Davis
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Lance Stephenson
- Matt Bonner
While I'm not advocating paying any one of these players like franchise players the Jazz will have a considerable opportunity at upgrading their bench. The Jazz will have a very talented starting lineup next season with whomever they draft. The key will be upgrading their bench which has been strategically left in a mire. They created their bench from a Golden State salary dump and by signing John Lucas III, a training camp invitee, and a D-Leaguer. That's called being bad on purpose. The Jazz will not be that way next year.
We know that Dennis Lindsey had to work hard to convince the Miller family that this one year of development and tanking was going to be worth it. After seeing how the Jazz are leading the tank race and how the current crop of lottery talent are playing the Millers must feel that their investment into this year is worth it. But it will not be worth it if the Jazz are this bad next year. Which if they follow Dennis Lindsey, they most likely won't. Dennis Lindsey had a great offseason last year. This season is going according to his plan. This is not a mistake. If Dennis Lindsey's luck can continue for just one more offseason we will all be able to look back at this season and say, "It was all a part of the plan."