Team-building approaches

Superstar or bust vs ensemble?

There have been a lot of posts and comments recently focused on what strategy the Jazz front office should take. Some fans tend towards the Hinkie spectrum - all players are primarily assets and not worth building around unless they are a superstar. They claim championship odds without a superstar are too low to be worth pursuing. However is there really any strong evidence that the odds of getting a superstar are much better? Even with the sixers historic commitment to being awful, acquiring a superstar has proven elusive and obviously requires a good bit of luck.

Tanking has strategic merit, but for a team already with talent and assets it isn’t necessarily the best approach. The truth is that championship odds are low no matter what path the Jazz take, so why subject ourselves to miserable basketball. I tend to fall more closely with the armchair GMs who hope some of the Jazz players improve and develop enough collective star power to make a deep run. I feel this way even though Gobert is my only reasonable hope to go beyond borderline all-star/3rd team territory. Fans have suggested Hayward is not worth maxing because he is unlikely to lead a group of near all-stars to a championship. I find this a little misguided for a couple of reasons. First is that he is likely to remain a positive asset (ie very tradeable) even if the Jazz decide they need to shift gears.

The second point is more based on my overall philosophy on how to approach running an NBA team. My take is basically this - very few championship runs go as scripted. Most title runs have a series of seemingly improbable events (some set forth years in advance, others in the final seconds of a game) that leads to hoisting the trophy. Even the successful/smart teams usually require the stars to align just right to break through. I think the priority should be being ready if a lucky break falls the Jazz way. To me this means spending as many years as possible as a top 4ish team in the West, and all moves should be made with that general goal in mind.

The Warriors would not be champions/ juggernaut contender out west if not for 3 very lucky breaks. They got Curry on the cheap because of his ankles (which turned out fine), he made a leap from all-star to megastar, and a 2nd round pick turned into an all-star and crux of their league revolutionizing onslaught. Obviously the warriors did lots of smart things as well, but there is no avoiding that you need luck.

Imagine if the Jazz already had homecourt in the first round before getting lucky on a late draft steal (like Gobert or Leonard). Something like that could easily could put you into contention, but not if you are starting out as the dumpster fire sixers. Maybe Exum/Favors morph into the second coming of Amare/Nash and PNR teams to death. Maybe the Jazz become a first class organization at developing players and running a system where the whole is better than the sum of the parts. With this new Spursian rep players become more willing to sign (stars or vets on the cheap). Maybe a top seed chokes and gives the Jazz an easier path to the finals (we have seen this before), and then someone else gets injured… I’m not saying any of these are likely, but in my mind they are collectively no less likely than getting a superstar in the draft (and while we should try, we are not signing one anytime soon).

I think the Jazz have a core that could very realistically sneak into the top 4 the next few years. I agree with Clint that Gobert/Favors provide a unique defensive advantage, and coupling them with atleast a couple of playmakers like Hayward/Hood/Exum should prove a workable offense. You develop the other assets and culture and keep hoping to hit a home run that puts you into real contention.

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