Pathway to Contention

This started out as a reply to 00ster-lags post but I got a bit carried away. His post basically discussed Jazz roster needs for next season and provided some good suggestions.

I have heard other fans mention this so I’ll just echo it - I’m not really interested in many roster changes next season. I think everyone here expects playoff contention or possibly actual playoffs next season. DL has said the Jazz are a bit ahead of schedule and with the amount of young talent they already have most decisions should be aimed to capitalize on it in 2-3 years time (hopefully as a serious contender).

The Jazz are unlikely to land a superstar - Utah never seems in the mix for the big FA names and sadly I don’t expect this to change despite the obvious appeal the core talent should have. A Harden-style trade was crazy at the time and won’t be happening again soon as the salary cap is about to explode. I could see a team renting us a disgruntled star for assets in a reverse deron williams trade, and DL hoping crazy success convinces them to stay. Not sure if this will apply to any stars hitting FA in the future but you never know.

So without acquiring obvious superstar talent where should the Jazz look for inspiration? I would say some combination of the Spurs, Hawks (Spurs-East), 13-14 Pacers, and 2004 Pistons. The Spurs & Hawks being current examples of disciplined systems where players know their roles and the whole is more than the sum of their parts. The Pacers for the success they could accomplish mainly though defense. The pistons as the classic example of a great team with a bunch of all-star/fringe all star talent (but no real superstar) that complemented each other well and was able to win it all.

Exum, Burks, Hayward, Favors, Gobert - the probable starting 5 are all legit NBA talent and I could see anyone of them starting for an NBA championship team a couple seasons from now. For next season the Jazz have talented bench contributors in Hood, Booker, and possibly Tomic (we swear the rumors aren’t false hope this time!). I am perfectly fine rounding out the roster with some combination of Ingles, Sap, Evans, Cotton, Cooley, and the draft rookie. We have already seen that Q can get competent basketball out of these guys.

The biggest weakness at the end of season was guard play. Trey plays like a Mo Williams who can’t shoot. He is still young but his physical limitations seem to prevent good defense and finding open teammates. I think his play style makes the team worse on both ends of the court and am not sure this will change. Certainly open to being proven wrong but I have no expectations of him. I was a little worried with exum until he finally started attacking the last part of the season. His defense is a pleasant surprise and fits the team identity well - really excited to see how far Q can develop him. Cotton is a nice 3rd string PG, but the Jazz could really use a solid vet that sets up teammates and doesn’t interfere with Exum’s 35 minutes (~10 at SG if necessary). I have no idea who this mythical player is and also don’t care if we just draft another young guy that has 3 and D potential - just no more trey please.

For shooting guard I think the problem is already solved… A healthy tandem of Burks and Hood is more than capable of eating the bulk of SG minutes with ingles and Sap being suitable bench guys.

For big depth it seems as DL is serious about trying out Tomic and Q is working his magic to make Booker a competent stretch 4. If evans doesn’t want to try for a bigger role elsewhere I would continue to reward him with whatever contracts don’t hurt the big picture. Cooley is also a suitable towel waiver.

If you have bothered reading this far my basic point is that the Jazz have no shortage of competent/good NBA players. There are no immediate needs or glaring holes to be filled outside of miracle superstar landing (or maybe a PG). They basically need to hold course and hope Quinn can develop a couple borderline all-stars or better from his current crop of talent. Obviously they need to continue to draft well and be opportune about acquiring talent, but most of the minutes are already spoken for out of a necessity to develop the players they have. The team has so much young talent and it would be premature to try and decide what the team has already. We are just going to have to be patient - the core of a championship team might be hiding in the roster already.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.