The Jazz Prime Directive

Disappointed and confused. That's how I felt after Adam Silver announced our pick last night. It was like watching the final episode of Lost. I didn’t really understand what was happening at first, and when I finally figured it out, I was disappointed and even more confused.

Two years from now when reflecting on the 2014-2015 NBA season, the average Jazz fan will look back on this season as a watershed season. We got a dynamic new coach, bought a D League affiliate, and got rid of Kanter. More importantly, the talented roster the Jazz have put together started showing signs of what they’re capable of. Yes, two years from now Jazz fans will be happy with this team and they’ll see this season as the first of many good seasons for the Jazz. Ten years from now however, as the window of opportunity closes on this team, it will be a different story. We’ll see that this team was good, but not great. This team needed one more star-caliber player to win a championship, much like the Jazz teams of the 90's.

This was the year to add that final star-caliber player that would make us as talented as the teams we will face deep in the playoffs. Adding this player in future years, while not impossible, is highly improbable due to continually drafting in the 20’s. Because we didn’t add this final piece, we, like the Jazz teams of old, now have to soley rely on the internal development of our team, hoping that somehow the team can turn good players into great players.

Ahh, internal development, the Jazz fan’s oldest friend, the Utah Jazz Prime Directive. Like my cousin who swears he can quit smoking, because he’s quit six times before, the Jazz Prime Directive is a foolish belief that they can take a team with good, but not great, talent and through the magic of internal development turn them into a champion. After all, internal development worked for LHM in his business endeavors, worked for Jerry Sloan to make him a great player, helped Rudy finally get on the field at Notre Dame, and it worked for Frodo in his quest, but it does not work in professional sports. Why? Because every good team focuses on the internal development of its players, as they should, and therefore it is talent that makes the major difference in professional sports teams, not internal development. The Jazz's newest spin on internal development is called the 3D's, but's it's the same philosophy the Jazz have always had. They seem to think they have a monopoly on player development and therefore they can beat teams that have superior talent because we're going to have more discipline, play better defense, and our players are going to be better developed. A disciplined, well-coached team may beat an undisciplined team that has superior talent, but they will never beat a disciplined, well-coached team that has the superior talent, which is what most playoff teams are. This is a lesson than the old Jazz brain trust never learned.

The epic failure of last night began at the end of the regular season. The Jazz, following their Prime Directive, tried to win every game. After all, winning just one extra game could give our players the self-confidence they surely lack and this will pay dividends later on. I’m calling BS! While I’m not advocated tanking an entire season like Philadelphia does, losing a few games strategically at the end of the season, when you’re not going to make the playoffs anyway, can help you get a higher draft pick. We foolishly didn’t do that this year and it cost us BIG! One more loss moves us up 1-2 spots to #11 or #10 (another coin flip). Two losses moves us into sole possession of the 10th spot. I’m talking about just two additional losses moving us up two whole spots in the draft. What’s the difference between the 12th pick and the 10th pick? Justise Winslow!!!!!!

Justise Winslow could have very well been that missing piece we needed. He reminds me of a more athletic Ronnie Brewer without the odd elbow-out shooting. His winning pedigree, athleticism, hustle, ability to guard 4 positions, and developing jump shot would have been a great fit for the Jazz. Even worse, with Winslow still available at #10, we may well have been able to package the 10th pick and make a trade for D’Angelo Russell, Mario Hezonja, or Kristaps Porzingis. Don’t believe me? Try this trade offer to LA: Justise Winslow, our 2016 and 2017 1st round pick, Golden States 2017 1st round pick, OKC’s 2018 1st round pick, and as many 2nd rounders as they want from us. That right there folks gets us D’Angelo Russell. Think of the potential this team would have with a true point guard that shoots 3’s at 40%. We could have made a similar offer for Hezonja or Porzingis. This was a missed opportunity that happened because we couldn’t find a way to lose two game. But hey, the confidence our young team gained from winning those two games will pay dividends next year, right?

I can’t predict how good a pro Trey Lyles is going to become because he played limited minutes, while out of position, for only one season at Kentucky. He may very well have been the best player available at #12, but the odds of him being as good as Winslow, Russell, Porzingis, or Hezonja are slim to none. Those guys project as true difference-makers in a few years that very well could have helped us win a championship. Trey Lyles projects as a rotation guy that never cracks the starting roster on a good team. We could have done much better.

What can Dennis Lindsey learn from all of this? First, the Jazz old guard view losing a few games to move up in the draft as unethical and counter-intuitive. They also believe that internal development can overcome the short-comings of inferior talent. In other words, if Trey Lyles works hard enough he can become as good, or better, than Winslow, Russell, Hezonja, and Porzingis. In order for this to be correct, they must also believe that they have discovered some ancient knowledge about player development that the rest of the league does not have. He, and Snyder, must call BS to all of this, and if they find themselves in the lottery again, they must be willing to lose an extra few games if it moves them up in the draft.

Next, Dennis must see that the Jazz still need one more piece for the team to have a chance at developing into a championship caliber team. How he finds it now is a mystery as the Jazz should be a playoff team each year for the foreseeable future and therefore have low draft picks.

You blew it tonight Dennis (or really you blew it at the end of the season) and I’m not sure how you get this team over the top now. There’s always hope that something unexpected happens. One of our players could become better than expected, or a good free agent is willing to sign here for less money to chase a championship, or maybe even we find a gem in the D League, but it’s hard to bank on any of that happening. The draft is the surest and cheapest way to add young talent to your roster. You’ll remember that when we keep losing in six games in the Western Conference Finals.

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

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