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Utah Jazz Search For The Blue Ocean: The Downbeat #1624

Dennis Lindsey is one smart cookie. In today's downbeat we look into Dennis Lindsey's possible offseason strategy.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

In one week the NBA will hold the NBA Draft Lottery.  While I don't think the Jazz will be lucky enough to leapfrog anyone in the draft it does give us a good chance to evaluate the Jazz's strategy heading into the offseason.  While we may not be in any Utah Jazz war room or office this offseason, we can evaluate their talent and their moves from afar and evaluate whether they will decide that this is the year that they compete head to head with the upper echelon of the Western Conference by going all in during free agency or continue their grow from within strategy of the past 2 years.


First we are going to evaluate the Jazz's current trends and benchmark them against other teams.  For those who are or have studied marketing, no we are not going to use SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) here.  Why?  Because it's trash.  Instead first we're going to use some Blue Ocean Strategy.  Blue Ocean Strategy describes how organizations should try to find a way to work in a marketplace that is free of competitors. Why am I using Blue Ocean Strategy for the Utah Jazz?  Because they cannot compete on the same playing field with a good 80% of the league.  They reside in one of the league's smallest market, they have limited cash flows, and are not near a beach.  They have to attempt to attract players against the stigma that it's not a nice place to be.  Sorry, Utahans, that's your reality.  So how do you compete when you can't compete?  Find a new playing field.  Think about what Robb said in Game of Thrones:

If we do it your way kingslayer, you'd win. We're not doing it your way.

So the Jazz are looking for a new playing field.  So where's that playing field?  Let's look at their current actions and see if we can see if they have found a new playing field, a blue ocean.

Blue Ocean Map

Blue Ocean Strategy Mapping of Jazz vs Other NBA Teams vs NBA

I chose the other teams deliberately because one can begin to see the Jazz are borrowing styles from other franchises and incorporating them as their own.  There's some striking similarities between what the Hawks are accomplishing and the San Antonio Spurs.  I intentionally included the OKC Thunder Model in this as well.  They had a really good thing going.  What's funny is they started to fall apart when they abandoned one of the tenants of their model: Attempt to keep their core together.  They abandoned that strategy by trading James Harden.  They held draft picks and cap flexibility higher on their value scale than core integrity.

So have the Jazz found their Blue Ocean?  Well ... check out the end of the chart.  The Jazz are mining the D-League.  They had more D-League call-ups than any other team.  Yes, that includes the 76ers.  Pretty fantastic, right?  They managed to consistently improve despite all the roster movement because they have an offensive system based on ball movement.  They also built around defensive analytics.  This was a change in strategy at the beginning of the year, but stumbling upon a possible once in a generation talent (Rudy Gobert) at center can do that to a team.

A focus on the defensive side of the ball can actually allow the Jazz to find players in their price range.  Offensive perimeter players fetch a pretty penny.  But defensive players?  They can easily fall through the cracks.  Ask Carroll, Elijah Millsap, or Bruce Bowen.  This is where the mining of the D-League comes in.  The Jazz will continue looking for the skill they can underpay for to fit their budget.  This is their Blue Ocean.  It's not Moneyball.  It's finding a new playing field.

The Jazz are also enhancing that Blue Ocean.  They purchased the Idaho Stampede and strengthened their ties to the D-League.  They are trying to make the D-League their oyster.  Yes, the Utah Jazz have to go through a lot more players to find gems, but unlike the NBA Draft, you can keep combing through the D-League as much as you'd like.

So now that we have found the Jazz's Blue Ocean, let's move onto some Resource Analysis.  Resource Analysis essentially takes a look at all the assets and services a firm possesses and evaluates if any of those assets are valuable, rare, costly to replace, and what their performance is.  For the sake of this exercise we will throw out the Jazz's facilities, ticket offerings, coaching staff, executive team, and The Bear.  But we all know the The Bear is valuable, rare, costly to imitate, and his performance is ELITE.

Resource Analysis

Resource Analysis -- Utah Jazz

A few things become apparent in this analysis.  First of all, the Utah Jazz are top heavy.  They have 3 bonafide stars: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert.  Beyond those three, the waters become very murky.  In fact if we put these into a graph counting their 5 star, 4 star, 3 star, 2 star, and 1 star ratings we get this.

Star Graph

Jazz Team Divided By Star Ratings

So the 2014-2015 Utah Jazz were very top heavy.  But there is relief in sight.  That relief is Dante Exum.  Just by a quick resource analysis I can quickly debunk the asinine rumor that the Utah Jazz will draft or, worse, sign a free agent point guard.  Just by using these two strategic tools it is possible to see that the Utah Jazz DO NOT WANT TO OVERSPEND ON FREE AGENTS.  It goes counterintuitive to their strategies used.

Dante Exum is the most important piece to Utah's future success.  Why?  Because he's rare.  There are so few players with his combination of speed, size, length, and team first attitude.  Add to the impressive combination Dante's youth and that is almost an irreplaceable player.  That's incredibly, incredibly rare.  It's also very costly to imitate.  If the Jazz spend for the short term for production at the point guard position it is apparent with this strategic tool that they'd be investing a lot of money when there are a lot more holes on the roster.

Have I convinced you yet why the Jazz shouldn't go after a free agent?


Okay let's move onto another tool that let's us know if the Jazz SHOULD enter into direct head to head competition through free agency for positions of need.  Ready?  Leggo.

There are a lot of tools to show what a strategy is, but now we want to see if the Jazz SHOULD go to head to head.  For that we will will something called Six Forces.  This Six Forces model evaluates what the competition is doing and if the Jazz have the upper hand in any of these examples.  If the Utah Jazz have the upper hand then it could be a good time to go after these free agents.  If not, then the Jazz will be subject to these Six Forces.  That means significant increases in prices.  Even though the Utah Jazz have room in their salary cap that does not guarantee operating room on the balance sheet for their business.  So these pressures can affect the Utah Jazz heavily.  Especially as a small market team.  So what are those 6 Forces?

  1. Threat Of New Entrants
  2. Buyer Power (Power of the Team Over Player)
  3. Complements (Do they complement the team?)
  4. Substitute Products (Is this market easily substituted?)
  5. Supplier Power (Power of the Player Over Team)
  6. The Amount of Rivalry Between Teams
So how do those forces look for the Utah Jazz this free agent offseason? Well ... eh ... not good.
6 Forces

6 Forces For Utah Jazz This Offseason

The Jazz are facing some significant pressures.  They have low buying power.  That's not good when you're in this market.  This we already know.  This force is what causes the Jazz to have to overspend for free agents.  The Jazz also have supplier power being exerted over them.  Those suppliers?  The agents of these NBA players.  Not many people want to bring their client to Utah.  That's a problem.  One that is not going to be fixed over this summer.

Next the Jazz are in a fierce rivalry with the rest of the league.  There are going to be a lot of teams looking to reload this offseason.  A lot of those teams have free agency as one of the cores to their strategy.  That goes in strict contrast to the Jazz's strategy.  Do the Jazz want to have to abandon strategy for someone that knows they need them?  Probably not.

So from these three things where do the Jazz go from here?  Let's go to the draft.

We see from the Jazz's Blue Ocean strategy that they want to keep their core a long time, have a great offseason training facility, focus on defensive analytics, and ball movement.  In addition, they have a great developmental coach, who would have been on a true resource analysis model.  Out of all the draft picks Kevon Looney seems to fit that bill.  He's a UCLA guy and we know UCLA guys seem to over perform their college career.  The Jazz's strategy FITS Kevon Looney and it wouldn't surprise me if the Jazz target him in the draft.  The ball movement meets the biggest need.  He can be flexible in the system.  He fits the new Utah Jazz system.

Free Agency.

The Jazz will go for big men.  Mark it.  Look at the resource analysis.  Their big men are their most costly to replace players.  Kevon Looney would fit a need, but the Jazz will most likely make it a priority to keep Booker and bring over Pleiss.  It's expensive to sign another big men paying the market price.  That's what makes the Kanter deal so smart.  They got another big man under the market price while giving up a big man.  The Jazz had a rising star in Rudy but they sacrificed depth when the trade was made.  Bringing Tibor over will aid the Jazz when big man depth is costly and expensive.

While most might be looking at the Jazz's struggles at point guard and think that the Jazz MUST sign a point guard it becomes apparent that even though Trey Burke struggled last year, the Jazz have a great guard in the making in Dante Exum.  He's a rare player.  That's where Raul Neto comes in.  He's an average point guard.  Great change of pace guard who can push Trey in practice.  He can be a 3rd point guard on the roster at a 3rd point guard price.  But he can also be a 2nd point guard on the depth chart at a 3rd point guard price.  That's why the Jazz won't go after a point guard in free agency.  The price is overvalued and the Jazz won't see a good return in production for what they'd be paying for.  In addition, it blows up their strategy.

Look at the Jazz's roster when it comes to swingmen they have found a Blue Ocean for 3 and D players in the D-League.  They'll let the rest of the league pay top dollar premium for players the Jazz can easily find under appreciated in the minor league.  Does it require more scouting, work, and rotating players in and out of the roster?  Yes.  Is it much more cost effective than overpaying for Middleton?  Very much so.  Dennis Lindsey has found a Blue Ocean and he's not going to abandon it for the overcrowded seas of free agency.

What do you guys think?  See any other Blue Ocean Strategies that the Jazz are doing that other teams are not doing?  How do you feel about our guys?  Is my resource analysis on point?