You may or may not have heard, but the Utah Jazz are rebuilding. The main point of a rebuild is to get better players than the ones your already have. Some teams can do this with trades. Others do it through free agency. The Utah Jazz, though, have to start with the draft. Getting good young players means, most of the time, that you have to be really bad, lose a lot of games, and get good draft picks. The other thing you need to do is have a great scouting department so you don't blow it when it's your turn to select someone. Of course, the next step is playing those guys, teaching them, and giving them experience so that they can fulfill their destiny and be better than the players you had at the beginning of this process.
That's how you rebuild. The Jazz are years into their rebuild. Two players are in their first year after their rookie contract, and that's year five of their NBA careers: Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. Two players are in the last year of their rookie contracts, year four of their careers, one has gotten an extension from the Jazz in Alec Burks, the other has not and will be a restricted free agent this summer, Enes Kanter. To be fair, I do not believe that those four players are a) as good as they are eventually going to be, and b) probably not as experienced as they should be going into their 5th and 4th seasons in the NBA. This is a failure of the last step mentioned above.
As a result, the Jazz are still rebuilding, with a Phase 2 rebuild YEARS after the point where they should have started. (Very few teams with high potential lotto picks decide to keep them on the bench for years in this current era of NBA basketball) Phase 2 started with two 1st rounders in the 2013 Draft, Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert, and continued with another two 1st rounders in the 2014 Draft, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.
If you add it up, though, this is a young team that is inexperienced. (No doy why we only have 6 wins!) But it's a super young team where 9 of the 15 players on it are under 25.
So...... ESPN's three headed monster of Kevin Pelton, David Thorpe, and Amin Elhassan decided that only three of them are among the NBA's Top 25 players under the age 25. (In$ider). Because I'm a nice guy, I'll fill you in on what they had to say:
11. Derrick Favors / Age: 23 / Jazz
Projected 3-year WARP: 16.8
Pelton: Improved floor spacing in Quin Snyder's offense has helped Favors set career highs in both usage (22.2 percent of the Jazz's possessions) and true shooting percentage (.593).
Thorpe: Favors has made a jump as a scorer, which moves him up on this list with another year to go. Right now he is a good defender and can be a good team's second-best scorer, with room to grow.
Elhassan: His progression has not happened as quickly as I anticipated, but he's still a high-level rebounder and shot-blocker who is making strides on the offensive end.
12. Gordon Hayward / Age: 24 / Jazz
Projected 3-year WARP: 17.3
Pelton: Hayward will be 25 in March, and similar players were about at their peak by that age. It's OK if Hayward continues performing like he has this season, as he ranks in the league's top 30 in both RPM and WARP.
Thorpe: He's enjoying a career year, as players entering their prime years should be. Can help an offense as both a scorer and passer while bringing great energy to the game, which is not a small thing.
Elhassan: Nice all-round talent who can dribble, pass and shoot, but I wonder whether Hayward can take the next step toward greatness. If he can't, the Jazz will need to add someone who can lead them there.
23. Dante Exum / Age: 19 / Jazz
Projected 3-year WARP: 1.5
Pelton: After a strong start, Exum has shot just 24.2 percent since Nov. 21, including 2-of-14 from 3-point range. SCHOENE includes Tony Parker among his comparables, but the closest match is Indiana Pacers wing C.J. Miles.
Thorpe: Maybe the best example of upside versus downside on this list, but his abilities as an athlete and passer suggest a big future. We don't know if he will be a great scorer, which would lower his ceiling significantly if he doesn't turn out to be. As a plus, he's young enough to be on this list for five more seasons.
Elhassan: Of all the players on the Jazz roster, Exum has the highest upside. He is in the first few steps of a thousand-mile journey of development, but as Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee showed last season, the light can turn on sooner than expected.
So there you have it, the Jazz are rebuilding and have three players with potential who are young, and they are getting recognized right now. But is three enough? What if one doesn't become a star? Does that make the rebuild a failure? The Jazz have a lot of youth right now . . . will any of the overlooked players make a jump?
Maybe this is just Jazz-fan DNA, and my anti-ESPN bias against their Jazz / small market bias is flaring up, but I think that more than just three of our guys have the ability to make a list of people under 25. Maybe a Top 30 list, as the actual ESPN Top 25 list is pretty solid.
I think the Jazz front office is doing their part during this rebuild. And they finally got a coach who is on board with it too. Results will follow. But seriously, in a year or two Alec Burks or Enes Kanter better be better than Draymond Green!