What are we waiting for? When are we willing to put aside our irrational fandom and admit that this rebuild has failed? What will it take for us to stop drinking the purple Kool-Aid and have the courage to stand up and say "Dennis Lindsay has no clothes on?"
We Jazz fans are a bruised and battered lot. We often feel slighted and ignored. Our hearts go pitter-patter every time the national media bothers to mention our team. We pine irrationally for the good days of Stockton-Malone, even though those team, you know never actually won a championship. We're okay with always being the bridesmaid and never the bride.
After the DWill was traded we suffered through a horrible, painful cruise to nowhere that was the Corbin years. More recently we have consoled ourselves with the thought that Dennis Lindsey had some grand plan to bring us a championship. But guess what? This rebuild has fizzled. It’s out of gas. This one playoff appearance as a #4 seed is the climax of our rebuild. We have been bidding our time for all these years so that we can savor this one playoff appearance. Relish it boys and girls because this is as good as it gets. A year from now we’ll be back in the lottery. As Jazz fans we deserve better.
As a fan I’m enjoying the victories this year. And as a fan I’m convinced that the Jazz can beat the Clippers in a seven-game series, despite evidence to the contrary. As a fan I want to believe that this is just the beginning of a glorious run for the Jazz after a long wander in the desert. But as a nerd I can’t really separate the basketball from the front office business of drafting and building a team. When I look at the team I don’t see a team primed for a long run of increasing greater success. What I see is a team hamstrung by finances. I see a team with underperforming young players, and a team with a huge hole at PF.
What? You think I’m a pessimistic bunghole who just wants to rain on your parade? You're right, but lets take a closer look.
This summer Gordon Hayward is going to opt out of his contract. That whole all-NBA thing isn’t going to happen. While it’s true that the Jazz can offer him the biggest contract, Gordon has publicly stated that his main goal is to win a championship. He has in the past shown a willingness to leave. There have been rumors over the years that he asked to be traded, and last summer rumors circulated that the Jazz were shopping him. The Jazz were quick to put a lid on those rumors but where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Jumping to the Celtics just makes too much sense for Gordon. The Celtics are already as good, if not better than the Jazz. Adding Gordon to their roster would make them the clear favorites in the East. Plus, Boston also has all those amazing draft picks and a front office willing to spend into the luxury tax. Moving to Boston provides a clearer road to the NBA Finals, All-star games, and endorsement deals both during and after his playing career. It probably lengthens his career by a year or two as well. It’s a no-brainer. Gordon is gonna make a ton of money wherever he goes, and unless Gordon has a secret addiction to Lagoon or Chuck-a-rama I don’t see a compelling reason to stay.
In order to stay is Utah, Gordon is going to want to see that the Jazz have a way of improving from a 50 win team to a 60 win team. This summer the Jazz will be forced to salary dump Favors and Burks just to be able to tread water. Then with almost no money and no lottery picks the Jazz will have to find a way to add an impact player at PF while also improving a deep but inconsistent and mismatched bench. Did I also mention that Exum and Hood will be up for expensive contract extensions after next season?
There's just no way around the fact that without significant capspace or lottery picks there is no clear-cut way to bring in additional talent. Dennis Lindsay has built a house of cards that will go no higher.
I think the mostly likely scenario is that Gordon leaves for greener pastures and Hill leaves for a max contract. The Jazz aren't going to be willing to offer Hill a max deal, and without Hill the Jazz would take a big step backwards next year. I just can't see Gordon signing up for yet another rebuilding year. Without Hayward and Hill this is a lottery team.
So, the Jazz will cobble together a lineup centered around Rudy Gobert and hover around the #8-#10 seed for the next few years before belatedly committing to another rebuild. Man, it sucks to be a Jazz fan.
This rebuild failed because it was strung out over too many years. It failed because of the original core four + Burke, the only one still contributing is Hayward. It failed because of injuries, an inconsistent draft approach, a passive front office, and a moronic head coach who refused to develop young talent. The list goes on.
Because I’m a fan, I will sit through this journey even though I know it will eventually end at a painful and disappointing destination. But as long suffering Jazz fans we deserve better. On maybe if we’re unwilling to stand up and truthfully admit that "the emperor has no clothes," maybe we don’t deserve better.