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Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey is teaching Utah front office to forget checkers, and learn to play chess

Older Jazz regimes were content to sit on their hands. Dennis Lindsey is not.

Melissa Majchrzak NBAE

It's still very fresh in my memory, way back when Karl Malone put the Utah Jazz front office on blast on national TV, NBC, and complained about how his front office wasn't making enough moves to make the team better. He would add that his front office would tell him "we're trying", but the Mailman insisted that while they were trying other teams were doing. Looking back on it today he had a legitimate gripe. For the majority of his career in the 80s and early 90s the Jazz hardly did anything to advance the roster capability beyond Karl Malone, John Stockton, Mark Eaton, and a revolving door of under-performing wing players. Late in his career the front office did try to put the team over the hump, and win that title, but by then Karl and John had already gone on the decline.

I got tired of watching other teams go to the playoffs with a young roster, getting a return on their draft investments in short order -- while our teams either languished in the "can't get better zone" of being #6 to #12 in the West or pretending that they were title aspirants while having glaring holes. I bet Karl got tired of watching other front offices actually pull off trades to make the team better during his peak years while his didn't seal the deal. Today the Utah Jazz have a general manager who isn't going to ever have his players feel that way in Dennis Lindsey. Lindsey is on fire.

Since joining the team back on August 7th, 2012 he and his coworkers haven't rested on their hands like the Kevin O'Connor era (and before that, the Scott Layden era) did. I have been counting every roster move for the last few seasons:

  • 2009 - 2010: 49 moves
  • 2010 - 2011: 37 moves
  • 2011 - 2012: 34 moves
  • 2012 - 2013: 43 moves
  • 2013 - 2014: 65 moves
  • 2014 - 2015 (Up to Feb, four months left): 72 moves

The last three seasons, the Lindsey era, is one where things are actually happening.



Season Trades Traded Away Traded For
1 2009 2010 2 Eric Maynor Matt Harpring Ronnie Brewer Peter Fehse
2 2010 2011 3 Carlos Boozer (S&T) Kosta Koufos Deron Williams Mario Austin Al Jefferson Derrick Favors
Devin Harris (Enes Kanter) (Gorgui Dieng)
3 2011 2012 2 Mehmet Okur Tadija Dragicevic Mo Williams
4 2012 2013 4 Devin Harris Shabazz Muhammad Gorgui Dieng Marvin Williams Trey Burke Rudy Gobert
Erik Green Raul Neto
5 2013 2014 2 Kevin Murphy Jarnell Stokes Richard Jefferson Andris Biedrins Brandon Rush
6 2014 2015 4 Diante Garrett Erik Murphy John Lucas III Steve Novak Carrick Felix Kendrick Perkins
Malcolm Thomas Enes Kanter Steve Novak Grant Jerrett Tibor Pleiss (Picks)

Yes, Kevin O'Connor was still pulling the strings for the D-Will trade, but that was an emergency situation that had to be resolved immediately. The trades are mostly salary dumps, sadly. If anything, there has been a focus on getting younger, getting picks, and getting the guys he wants in the draft; as opposed to overtly trying to get old guys to try to cobble wins now.



Season Rookies Drafted Undrafted / FA Trade
1 2009 2010 2 Eric Maynor Wesley Matthews
2 2010 2011 3 Gordon Hayward Jeremy Evans Derrick Favors
3 2011 2012 2 Enes Kanter Alec Burks
4 2012 2013 1 Kevin Murphy
5 2013 2014 3 Trey Burke Rudy Gobert Ian Clark
6 2014 2015 5 Dante Exum Rodney Hood Joe Ingles Elijah Millsap Grant Jerrett

Remember back when the message was that this team didn't want three rookies? Well, now they have five. I guess they didn't anticipate having to losing Alec Burks for most of this season either, but hey -- DL has put a commitment towards making this team one that builds through the draft, and not look to skip steps. I can't help but expect that having multiple draft picks down the line means that "yes, the Jazz are still rebuilding, and not building."


Free Agents:

I'm just going to list the players signed from out of the organization instead of matched players, or extended players from within.


Utah just isn't a free agent destination. And that's fine, that's why the draft is so important, and why being able to retain your lotto picks past their rookie contracts is so important too. So far the Jazz are 3 for 4, with two more guys on the docket in Burke and Exum, while Gobert will be looking for a raise too (despite not being a lotto pick). Who was the best free agent pick up? Wes? An undrafted rookie? That's how attractive Utah is.

During Season:

For the most part, these are all NBA-DL call ups, with four of these guys getting past the 2nd 10-Day contract phase and signed for multi-year deals (Gaines, Jeffers, McNeal, and Millsap). I decided not to include training camp contracts because those are mostly worthless, but the Jazz are really mining the NBA-DL right now. Not including Patrick Christopher's auto multi-year, there were 5 different 10 days offered so far this season, and it's not over yet. Of thise group only really Carroll is a real NBA player right now, but he worked on his game quite a bit.

It may be likely that the Jazz add someone else to the roster by now and the last date to cut players before the playoffs start. (Like the Erik Murphy thing that happened late last year for no good purpose.) But as it stands, this year (July 2014 to June 2015) has been a very busy one for the Jazz front office. Allegedly a front office that was one of the tops in the league for taking long vacations and had something like a mid-day "nap time" during parts of the season.

Dennis Lindsey has changed the culture of this franchise from top down. He now has hired TWO coaches he wants (Quin Snyder for the Jazz, and Dean Cooper for the Stampede). He has overseen the hiring of two coaching staffs (PA fans: staves), and promoted development staff members. And he will now be going into his third NBA draft as the decision maker.

Lindsey is likely to make a Gordon Hayward type of jump from year three to year four, and then another from year four to five. A young GM for a young team, with a unified goal of being the best possible. I love it. Karl Malone would have loved to have been a part of an organization that treats itself like a sports franchise trying to win, instead of just the 6th most profitable car dealership. (Background: look at how many LHM Group of company interviews are given by high ups who describe the Jazz as just that.)

Moves for the sake of moves are pointless. And DL isn't doing that. These are all moves with the purpose of maximizing the team's ability to develop and mine talent from the available locations -- and not pin the hope of flexibility upon the impossible (luring a big name FA with money). Effectively, Lindsey has upgraded the Jazz' thinking from checkers to chess. And that's why I am fully still drinking the "DL is a Wizard" Kool-Aid right now.