Back in 1999 a great invention was made that would change the television industry forever. That device? TiVo. TiVo was amazing. It provided the ability to record live tv, pause live tv, create a season pass, and other amazing features that made television more convenient for people everywhere. There was one problem though. Even though it was a great idea. It was a game changer and altered the course of the television industry, but it never became a juggernaut. How is that possible? How in the world does a company whose name is mentioned when one refers to recording a television show not dominate the very product category that they created themselves? Easy. The implementation. They had the idea. They had the product. But they pitched it wrong and, ultimately, even though they are still around as a company they aren't the leaders in their own industry.
TiVo had the right idea. Hell, they even had the right timing. The market was ready to be liberated. But their marketing actions and plan for retail didn't connect with their target market. It fell flat. It was a great product. Actually it was a revolutionary product. But the full plan to get it to hit with people never took off. Other companies made copycats. Soon people referred to "TiVo"ing their favorite shows without actually using a TiVo. TiVo may have made the right move first but botched their chance.
On February 23, 2011, the Utah Jazz made a trade that would change the NBA for the long term. Instead of playing the waiting game with a star and hoping they would re-sign with them, a la LeBron, Bosh, Carmelo, etc., they made a pre-emptive strike. Utah decided it was better to rewind the clock and begin the rebuilding process with a hoard of draft picks and prospects. It actually was a great idea. Utah has been praised by avoiding the drama that other stars have caused.
But there was a problem with this plan.
They didn't follow through.
If one is about to start over, rebuild, one has to admit that they are rebuilding. You have to admit what you are. TiVo would not admit it was an auxiliary item. They had trouble completely selling out to cable and satellite companies. As a result, these companies created their own version and went away from TiVo. TiVo had success but it's ceiling was limited.
Rewind back to February 23, 2011, the Jazz had just made the shocking trade of Deron Williams. Many speculated the Utah Jazz were going to completely go into rebuilding mode. The Jazz may have still been in the hunt for a playoff spot, but many saw the Deron Williams trade as a sign the Jazz were giving up on that playoff spot. Except for one party: The Utah Jazz. The Jazz quacked like a rebuild, walked like a rebuild, and started trading like a rebuild, but in their heads they were a playoff team. The Jazz on February 23, 2011 still had 24 hours to put the final touches on starting the rebuilding process out right. With lots and lots of assets.
Teams were calling the Jazz to see if they could pry Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson off their hands. Teams assumed the Jazz could see they were no longer a playoff team. But the Jazz didn't comply. Consider the trades made after the Deron Williams trade:
Blazers trade for Gerald Wallace
• F Dante Cunningham
• C Joel Przybilla
• C Sean Marks
• 2011 first-round pick (from Hornets) and 2013 first-round pick
• Cash considerations
• 2011 first-round pick (from Clippers)
• G Mo Williams
If one looks at both of these trades made in the hours after the Deron Williams trade one sees they were made by teams who knew they had to rebuild. Looking back at the Cavaliers deal the Clippers just wanted rid of Baron Davis' contract. That lottery pick turned into Kyrie Irving. Not that the Jazz would have needed that. The Blazers were looking for any impact player. Including Utah's own Paul Millsap. They instead brought in Gerald Wallace. We know how that wonderful trip turned out. But the Bobcats received a haul of picks from the Blazers for him anyway. Instead the Jazz retained Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Missed the playoffs and woefully so.
The following year 2012 the Jazz avoided the trade deadline like a plague again. Then in the offseason drunk with playoff fever as the result of being swept by the San Antonio Spurs they made trades. They traded away Devin Harris (his contract due to expire after 2013) for Marvin Williams (whose contract expires after 2014 if he chooses to forego his early opt out). They used a trade exception to bring in Mo Williams to replace Devin Harris. These were moves of a team that would not accept what it was. A team rebuilding that overachieved in 2012 to make the playoffs due to injuries to other teams and a shortened lockout season.
Now we come to the present.
The Utah Jazz are fighting for their playoff lives. It's a credit to them that they are in the playoff race in a very competitive Western Conference. But that's not where they should be. This year they once again jilted the trade deadline. We as fans do not know what trades were presented to them. But that's not the problem. The Jazz, who created the pre-emptive star trade, should have known that a team can receive a greater return if you trade a player before their contract year. But the Utah Jazz waited. They were left without a dance partner for Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
In addition during these years they have tried to quack like a playoff contender. That is a great model to follow. That is IF your future key cogs are getting significant minutes. The only Jazz players who will be on contract next year (Hayward, Burks, Favors, Kanter, and Evans) have combined for a total of 5891 minutes. Consider this, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Randy Foye have combined for 6,592 minutes. Three players on contract years have combined for 701 more minutes than 4 lottery picks and a second rounder from the last 3 years of Jazz draft picks.
The Jazz may make believers out of their fans in the offseason as they make the final transition from the Deron Williams-era Jazz to the Core Four era Jazz. But if the last three years tell their fans anything it's that they have not been able to admit what they are. The Deron Williams trade was not a bad trade. It was a great trade. It could have been the start of something great. But it wasn't. The Jazz just couldn't fully buy into what they had started. They were a rebuilding team. They just wouldn't admit it. In the end, they ended up like TiVo. They're still relevant but they will never realize the full potential of the trade made on February 23, 2011.