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Jazz Jam Session - The NBA Draft, Free Agency, the Off-season, and now

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Get back into the swing of things with this Jazz jam session!

AllThatAmar

So, it’s another season of Utah Jazz basketball, and among other things that means another season of Jazz Jam Sessions. For those who are new-ish to the site it’s a place where we tackle some of the pressing issues surrounding the team and break them down. Everyone gets a say and no one is wrong. Effectively it’s a jam session for Jazz musicians. Or in our case, where we get to go back and forth on a few topics every so often. This week we’re jamming about the NBA Draft, NBA Free Agency, the Jazz off-season and more. It’s a "while we were gone" piece and jamming with me today is Yucca Man, UtesFan89, and JuMu. And as you can imagine, we have to touch on the rather quiet off-season for the team; the state of the team in this non- Dante Exum season; and of course our lottery pick Trey Lyles! So let’s get jamming!

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1. The NBA Draft came and went and we didn't see a very aggressive Utah Jazz front office. Was this because the players Dennis Lindsey wanted fell into his lap, or just that the asking price to wheel and deal was too high this draft?

Yucca: My hunch is that for anyone that is more of a sure thing (Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, etc.), the price would have been absurdly high. But once you got away from those "sure things" there's not really that big a difference. I also think that Lyles does happen to fit pretty well with what the Jazz are building as a team. He certainly fills a spot that was quite shallow last year, and he has the skills that, if he proves himself NBA-caliber, would be nicely complement the skills of the other bigs.

UtesFan89: I feel the asking price was too high for everyone. There was that rumor about the Charlotte Hornets turning down 6 draft picks for the #9 pick. I don’t know if that actually happened or not, of course, but I think it’s a pretty good sign that maybe the asking price to move up was a little bit too pricey. Or, at the least, there was no one that Lindsey thought was worth 6 picks. Which, in my completely irrelevant viewpoint, was the correct thought process (except maybe Towns/Russell, but even there I’m not certain).

JuMu: A little of both. The marginal odds for attaining a star with a higher pick (say the 7th vs. the 12th) is worth it sometimes, but now with the booming salary cap and resulting overpaid free agents. Rookie deal contracts are by far the best value deals in the league.

This has raised the asking price for 1st round picks (even late 1st rounders) higher than ever before. This draft had the least amount of movement of draft day trades in recent memory.

Jazz went with the top person left on their board at #12, they obviously saw keeping him worth more than trading him away for other assets, so they must have had at least somewhat of a high level of satisfaction in getting Lyles.

AllThatAmar: I used to believe in a make believe world where Dennis Lindsey could do anything he wanted at the draft. In 2013 that seemed likely, in 2014 it was less so, and in 2015 our big move was trading away a Spanish dude. I think everyone has a tendency to overvalue their talent, and after player x, y, and z were off the board no one wanted to play. Also, I will point out that Myles Turner would have meant probably no Jeff Withey or Tibor Pleiss this year. Just throwing that out. Probably would have kept Jeremy Evans though . . .

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2. Utah did pick up Trey Lyles, a complimentary player who played at a big program and was able to demonstrate some versatility in NCAA and NBA Summer League. How do you feel about him going into training camp?

Yucca: Because of Trevor Booker, I don't think Lyles will be put into a major role at first. He'll have to grow into it. Though I do trust Quin and DL to make adjustments if Lyles proves that he can produce and contribute more. Let's just say that it is very nice to have this confidence in the management and coaches again after the Years that Shall Not Be Named. I do like him right more than I did at the draft ... which I reacted to with a shrug and a "meh".

UtesFan: Nothing against Lyles, but I feel if he’s forced to play major minutes (especially early in the season), it means that 1- something has gone horribly wrong and 2- we’re screwed. As the season moves on, maybe he carves out a role for himself. But at this point I feel like he’s probably on the outside of the rotation looking in, at least for major minutes. I don’t know if he’s going to be the "spread the floor" big the Jazz want, but I guess that’s what coaching/training camp is for. Hopefully he can develop well, and become a higher-impact draft pick for the Jazz than like Morris Almond or whomever else the Jazz have drafted and we’ve hoped would become the "long-range shooter we’ve been waiting for."

JuMu: He's not going to be a star anytime soon, but he's a 12th pick. You don't swing for home runs outside of the top 3-5 picks.

He's going to fit into the team culture and not be put under to much pressure to contribute this season. If he surprises and becomes part of our 8 or 9 man rotation by all-star break, it will allow the Jazz to shop Booker's alluring expiring contract for a possible solid return.

Lyles, at this point is our 3rd string PF/SF. I put the odds at around 50/50 he breaks into the 2nd string this season (higher if we experience frontcourt injuries, of course).

AllThatAmar: I’m impressed. I didn’t watch him much in college, and from what little we saw of him in the summer league I wasn’t on board. I could see that he would be a ‘tools’ player, someone who doesn’t rely on one overwhelming talent, or insane athleticism or anything. For example next season, when he’s 20 years old, he’ll be doing things that Kenneth Faried still hasn’t learned how to do after being in the league for so long. As a tools guy he has a bunch of things in his tool box to help a team out. In a situation where another team tries to force things by going small he may just be good enough to emerge at the power forward – guarding a big three. He essentially was guarding them all the time last year in college. Offensively I’m also impressed with what he can do with the ball. He’s like a bigger Rodney Hood with his ability to drive a bit, and make a variety of shot types at intermediate ranges. I thought he would be a less athletic Carlos Boozer with slightly more range . . . but he looks like he can be more than that. So, basically Larry Bird. (Unless Grant Jerrett is Larry Bird. In that case then Lyles will become Peja Stojakovic.)

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3. Is it even reasonable to expect to get a star at #12 in today's modern era of over-scouting?

Yucca: No, it is not. Even in years past did a star pop up at #12 frequently enough to expect it.

UtesFan: Reasonable? I’m sure it is, if it’s a draft that goes "12 deep" (or 13 or 14 or whatever – some number more than 12) – though also very improbable. It also depends on how you define "star." But other than that I think it takes, more than anything, finding a "good player" guy that can be coached up into becoming a star. The Jazz are pretty much out of the "hope for a top draft pick that can be a star" category at this point – that time came and went with Deron Williams, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Trey Burke. We’re back into the late-lottery area of things. So now you just need to find someone good – a like "complementary player" that can be coached into being a star (or, you know, just into being a really good complementary player). I feel finding someone that everyone missed on is very, very unlikely, though not impossible (Draymond Green, maybe as an example?). I feel the Jazz are more likely to be looking for a role player/"solid" pick than an actual "star" at that point in the draft though – simply because of where they’re drafting. Lindsey doesn’t strike me as the irrationally crazy GM who always swings for the fences going for star-or-bust guys. Sometimes, you just gotta go with the BPA, even if he’s probably never going to be a superstar.

JuMu: Maybe if you're the San Antonio Spurs.

For the rest of us mortal franchises, even netting a player at 12 who's good enough to last in the NBA for more than 5 seasons is better than par for the course.

AllThatAmar: It may not be reasonable, but possible? I think so, but we’re only going to see it happen once every 15 years or so. Or even more remotely than that. I believe 'over-scouting' means that someone is going to focus in on the wrong thing and someone good, with star potential, may drop. Could the Jazz have found a star at #12 in the 2015 draft? Not really. But time will tell for sure. Of course, let's not forget that Alec Burks was a #12 pick, and perhaps his career trajectory would be slightly different if he a) went to a team that believes in him as much as the Jazz believe in Gordon Hayward, and b) never, ever, got injured.

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4. The team didn't bring in a Top Tier free agent, but did make a number of quiet moves to retain Joe Ingles, bring in Raulzinho Neto and Tibor Pleiss, while possibly stealing Jeff Withey for a song. How did you view the Jazz' performance this off-season in the free agent market?

Yucca: I am extremely happy with their off-season regarding Free Agents. Basically, I don't think the Jazz are in the right part of their rebuild to go after a big free agent. The main goal of the team, imo, is to really get a handle on Alec Burks and Rodney Hood. Will both fit well? If so, what role? If not both, then who? Going after a SG free agent would only hurt this part of the team building (since a quality SG would likely be much more expensive than Burks and especially Hood). A quality PG would have been nice, once Dante Exum went down, but could they get one who wouldn't be in the way next year, when Dante's back? That's a hard thing to do.

I think next year, when the team understands Hood and Burks more, and they have a decent idea about Lyles and Pleiss ... that's when they start looking at the right kind of FA to fit with the team.

UtesFan: I was disappointed, mostly because I was hoping for a big move. I don’t even know what I wanted, but just something splashy. Just to say that it happened. Because splashy is the new … splashy. Beyond that though, I feel the Jazz did what they needed. They filled the holes (I think), and added the depth they wanted/needed. Of course the Exum injury kinda throws a wrench into … well, everything. But before that, they seemed to have built a good young team with a young starting core. But with the whole off-season going as it has, I feel this season is going to come down more to the guys that were on the team last season and are still going to play big roles (Gobert, Favors, Burke, Hayward, Burks, Hood) and less on the free agency moves. As long as they can come in and give minutes without totally sucking it up, we’ll be good.

JuMu: Same as always, the Jazz are not big free agent players.

Jazz went for insurance and depth bolstering this summer. The bad news, it probably doesn't lead us to more wins this season. The good news, we were able to fill out the rest of our roster with 2nd/3rd stringers on the cheap, moneyball-style.

It's considered a loss in free agency when you don't get anyone that helps your team. As Jazz fans, we are used to experiencing this much more often than not. But hey, we're not the real losers of free agency forcing ourselves to overpay for players whose names sound like certain below-the-belt orifices.

AllThatAmar: With the limitations that the Jazz have due to market size or franchise ‘sizzle’ or whatever, I think all things considered they did well. Many times assets and draft ‘n stashes never realize into players. The Jazz got two guys to change leagues (and lifestyles) in the same off-season. The Orlando Magic are still waiting for Fran Vasquez, and he was drafted during the Clinton era if I remember correctly. (Actually, I think he was drafted in 2005.) So it’s not always a given that a guy you own as an asset will ever become a player. Furthermore, I think the Jazz front office want to see what this core can do instead of trying to supplant development in favor of a quick fix. This team isn’t there yet where a vet will put them over the top. This team isn’t even in the playoffs yet. For where the team is right now and for what they could have possibly done with their cap space you can always want them to do more. But in this case I actually believe that they didn’t need to. I give them an A grade. Perhaps I’m an easy grader.

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5. These have all been small moves not to rock the boat. Even with all the assets the team has they opted to tinker here and there instead of make huge changes after Dante Exum went down for the upcoming season. Does this tell us that the Jazz brass see this core farther long ahead than the National media thinks they are? Is this already Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert's team -- and everyone else is along for the ride?

Yucca: I think it means a couple of things:

  • 1. The Jazz feel like they have addressed the depth at C/PF with Lyles, Pleiss, and Withey.
  • 2. The Jazz have confidence that at least one of Hood and Burks will be very productive players ... and possibly both.
  • 3. The Jazz couldn't find the kind of fill-in PG they wanted: one who would be high-quality, and either a 1-year-rental who would buy into Quin's system completely and be willing to defer to Hayward as a playmaker, or a guy on multiple years who would be willing to go back to the bench next year, when Dante is healthy next year.

UtesFan: Is this already their team? Yes. They’re looking for that backcourt combination that will go with them – hopefully Burke and/or Exum is that guy, but that still remains to be seen. This is obviously Burke’s last stand – and I think the team knows as much; it is put up or shut up time for him. With Exum going down, it clears the road for him to try and make this his team (well, you know – beyond the fact that it’s already Rudy/Derrick/Gordon’s team). He’s got one season, and then Exum will be back to stake his claim to the team. Let’s see if he’s up to it. Beyond that, I feel like yes it is "everyone else along for the ride."

JuMu: Our team is going to make it as far as our frontcourt can take us, and unlike the recent failed frontcourt-heavy experiment in New York (Carmelo Anthony - Amare' Stoudemire - Tyson Chandler), our big men can pride themselves on their efficiency and suffocating defense with little weakness.

At this point, I see the Jazz not tinkering with our weak points of our roster as probably a combination of 2 factors.

  • 1. The Jazz place a premium on building chemistry and finding guys that fit the team culture (aka not Ty Lawson).
  • 2. The point guard market is a seller's market right now. Top 15 point guards come with a steep price tag these days.

AllThatAmar: I think that big moves shouldn’t happen at this juncture. The team made a big move to trade away Deron Williams. Then they made another big move by changing coaches twice. And in-between that they made a big move to not re-sign Big Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, or Randy Foye all in the same off-season. It’s okay to find out how good these guys can be before making another big move. As for the big three vs. the rest . . . I think this team has some quality depth now, and everyone seems to be on the same page. No one is here looking for a raise regardless, or playing for the other 29 teams in the league, or whatever the case used to be. Most everyone seems to enjoy team success still, and the individual competition isn’t where it’s something you have to be mindful of. And on a team where everyone is on the same page . . . well, that’s something that a big move rarely ever contributes to. You can’t trade for chemistry. This team has it. Also, while some feel as though there’s a huge gap between the third best player on the team and the fourth best . . . the gap between the first and the 8th isn’t as large as it is on many other teams ahead of the Jazz. And that’s a strength for sure.

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6. Which lotto teams in the West had a better off-season? Why?

Yucca: Minnesota is obviously really exciting with Towns coming. Other than that ... I don't know. Jazz didn't do much. But many lotto teams in the West are looking pretty ugly. New Orleans Pelicans extended Anthony Davis, which is good.

I don't know. Jazz did fine. I'm not sure if any other West teams did better than "fine".

UtesFan: I don’t think any lotto team in the West had a better off-season … but I also don’t know that any team really had that much worse of an off-season either. The Oklahoma City Thunder get back a healthy Kevin Durant, but off-set that by keeping Enes Kanter around to make sure opposing teams keep getting easy baskets around the rim. … the Denver Nuggets drafted Emmanuel Mudiay, which is big for them. They might’ve found their PG of the future, which we all know is very difficult to do. … the Minnesota Timberwolves added yet another #1 pick (Towns), but they also lost a former #1 pick (Anthony Bennett), so that’s almost a wash. That’s how that works, right? … The Kings added a couple of big men (WCS & Kosta Koufos) to DeMarcus Cousins, so they’re obviously trying to make sure that for every point you score inside against the Thunder, you score 2 less in the paint against them. But Rondo? Seriously? … The Phoenix Suns – hm, fine. They might’ve had a worse off-season. This Morris twin stuff is just dumb. I don’t think they got that much worse, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Indian TV soaps (which I don’t actually watch – but I unfortunately have family that does), it’s that stupid drama is never good. … The Lakers added D'Angelo Russell and Roy Hibbert, but they’re also looking like they are more likely to challenge the Sixers than the Warriors this season. Maybe that’s what they wanted? In which case, they definitely got what they wanted. Winners of the off-season. … (Yeah, I’m not very impressed by the off-season of any of the lotto teams in the West.)

JuMu: TWolves got another #1 pick. Besides that, no one. Thunder just signed one of the worst contracts this summer, and that roster is going to be a mess a year from now if Durant jets.

AllThatAmar: I will hear arguments for the Wolves and the Kings. The Wolves are so bad that they couldn’t really get worse, and they did just fine with their off-season. Though, they are so far behind the Jazz that I think identify them as a threat. The Kings added big name guys to their team. Willie Cauley-Stein, Rajon Rondo, even Marco Belinelli are all "name" players in this league. Name players make you look better on paper to casual fans and casual analysts. I don’t think they did enough to leapfrog the Jazz though. What looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to something that looks good on the court.

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So, what do you think? Who is way off-base? Who did you agree with? And most importantly, what are YOUR answers? Thanks again for reading, and thanks again to our superstars who Jammed with me today – Yucca, UtesFan, and JuMu. Follow them on twitter: @YuccaManHoops @UtesFan89 and @JuMuJazz