Years ago on this site, on the radio, on TV, on social media, and other places people debated about two things: the "Memphis Grizzlies model" and the "Oklahoma City model". Our old GM, now an executive, Kevin O'Connor wanted to patch things together with vets and see if they could grit and grind into contention. It never happened. Our current GM, Dennis Lindsey, knows that is as unlikely as drafting three straight All-Stars in the lottery. But even the wise Randy Rigby knows that now is not the time to skip steps. Lindsey got his coach, after the first coaching search in Jazz history since before Frank Layden, in Quin Snyder. They have drafted well, have the right developmentally minded head coach, and a front office that's FINALLY on board with building a team *from scratch* through the draft.
There are no band-aids on this team, no "almost-stars" to hitch a one season rental to. And as a result, well, the results aren't going to be pretty. But there's no need to panic. Not yet. The Utah Jazz are on the right track.
Why am I so confident? I am, because there's this thing called having a plan. And the Jazz have one.
Utah collected assets from recent drafts: Derrick Favors (2010), Gordon Hayward (2010), Enes Kanter (2011), Alec Burks (2011), Trey Burke (2013), and most recently Dante Exum (2014). They also drafted wisely outside of the lotto: Rudy Gobert (2013), Rodney Hood (2014). Of the lotto picks three of the four who were eligible for contract extensions are on the books for years and years more. Maybe making their market value smaller than it could have been by playing them less worked out? We'll see if they can sign everyone in time, but right now there is a good balance of paid youth and rookie contract youth. And for a team that's still looking for stars to build around it has worked out well. Or potentially it will, this is still a team with five wins.
But you know what? The Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder had their share of problems too.
They started things off in 2007-2008 by giving big playing time to young guys. That team went 20-62, and finished November with a 3-14 record.
|2007 2008||20 - 62|
Then the next season, 2008-2009, had an even YOUNGER starting lineup, and went 23-59. They would go only 2-16 by November 30th.
|2008 2009||23 - 59|
However, the season after that, 2009-2010, playing all the youth all those minutes early payed off. They fast tracked their development by finally playing them -- and their 50-32 season looks great today. It looks even better when you recognize that they started it 9-8 by November 30th.
|2009 2010||50 - 32|
Eventually things paid off, but they went for 20 wins then 23 wins. They also started EARLIER in giving their future a present. The Jazz are waay behind in this, as I've asserted for years. (But oh, look at that, the Jazz front office went with what I wanted, not the other way around. I guess that's just me being lucky.)
So what about last seasons' Jazz? That team was the first Jazz team to let their younger guys play big minutes. They went 25-57, and started the season 3-15 by November 30th.
|2013 2014||25 - 57|
Their average age of the starting lineup was 25.20, which is more than the starters for OKC over the presented three seasons. However, their bench had an average age of 24.40, which is years younger than that of what OKC had going for it. An aside is, hmmm, I wonder how Marvin and RJ would have done as bench players? But that's an aside we'll never have to face now.
|2014 2015||5 - 12|
This season the Jazz are 5-12. That is by far the BEST record out of all of these individual clubs. They have an average age that is 22.80, which is the YOUNGEST out of all the five clubs too. Oh, and the average age of their bench is 23.40, which is ALSO the youngest. This is a young team, and a team that is soaking up experience right now. Some of the guys are in their 5th year, but FINALLY getting a chance to play. Some of the guys are rookies, and figuring things out at the same time.
Utah's biggest star right now is Gordon, but he's not at the KD level. Similarly, I don't think it's right to expect the Jazz to win 50 games next season. But I do think that with a 100% committal to the youth, including PLAYING THEM, it's going to work out. The team is behind on development, but ahead in wins right now. There's more balance with the roster youth, and there are no crutches this season on grizzled old guys.
The Thunder only had enough money for Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. This Jazz team seems to have managed their money better, and spread it out more. With the expanding cap they could have money for the majority of these young guys -- even if they have to Jeff Green one of them in a trade to another team for a starter. But hey, they have the pieces and assets to move if they want to. (And they should keep that option open)
Utah has only 5 wins at this point in the season. It's not the number we want, but this isn't the season we need to put our hopes on. Our team is building for the long haul. Stay patient. Let the guys make mistakes (coach included). In a few seasons we'll be one of the hardest outs in the Western Conference playoffs, and with the salary structure to maintain these guys during their physical peaks -- not just their early 20s.
And yes, it was the OKC method that our front office decided to go with. Even if it needed a GM change to make sure it happened.