The NBA is a star driven league and to make the finals you typically need three. Whether it’s Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the championship Heat or Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for the Spurs, you need those three players that lift your team into the finals.
With the Jazz, it wasn’t until they added Jeff Hornacek that they were finally able to overcome the Western Conference to face Jordan and the Bulls.
The Jazz today already have their first two stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
All offseason Jazz fans wondered if there was a possibility of signing, or trading for, a big free agent. But with a limited cap situation, the Jazz were only able to re-sign important pieces like Derrick Favors and Dante Exum and will have to wait till next offseason to see if they can sign a big piece.
Up until this point the Jazz front office has manufactured incredible production from role players they’ve picked up either by trade, late in the draft or through development.
One of the biggest success stories, possibly in Jazz history, was signing Joe Ingles for nothing. Ingles joined the Jazz and has improved his game to the point of being a top ten small forward in the league. Ingles has become such a major component of the Jazz success he was third on the Jazz last season in win shares behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. (This should also tell you why it was so important to keep Derrick Favors.)
On top of adding Ingles, the Jazz were also able to pick up Royce O’neale who was playing over seas and have turned him into an integral part of the Jazz team and culture.
In games that Royce O’neale started for the Jazz last season, they were 4-0. This can be attributed to O’neale’s tenacious defense and 35% three points shooting.
Donovan Mitchell rightfully received a ton of hype for his breakout season last year, but O’neale quietly had one of the best rookie seasons in the NBA. If O’neale can become an even better shooter, he could become of the best bargains in the league.
After Haywood left last season, the Jazz had to scramble in free agency to replace his production and they found a gem in Thabo Sefolosha.
Easily one of the most overlooked injuries in the league, Sefolosha would have been huge in the playoffs had he not gone down halfway through the year. Last season, Sefolosha posted a 1.33 real plus minus which was 6th best on the team. Before his injury? It was the best on the team.
Sefolosha is a long, crafty and smart defender who creates fast break opportunities with 1.4 steals per game. On top of his defense, Sefolosha shot 38% from three. But he doesn’t just contribute shooting on offense, Sefolosha is a good passer and great cutter to the rim. Last season he shot 68% at the rim according to basketball reference. Sefolosha can also play the four position which creates a ton of versatility for Quin Snyder to work with.
These are the things that get me excited when the Jazz promote players like Georges Niang with long-term contracts. It wouldn’t be surprising if Georges Niang becomes a contributing rotation player because of the Jazz’s track record with other development decisions. The Jazz make better and better decisions with each season that goes by.
This is also why I’m excited to see what Grayson Allen brings to the table. If the Jazz’s recent draft picks are any indication, Allen should be a great addition to the team and produce quickly.
It’s this ability to find production from out of nowhere that makes the front office so good and will be a major reason the Jazz will advance farther in the playoffs, health permitting. And maybe the third superstar is also on the Jazz already? There are young players on the Jazz like Dante Exum that haven’t hit their upside yet and maybe they do this year.
But if that third superstar isn’t on the Jazz it will be next season that the Jazz have an opportunity at a big free agent. And that will be the biggest test of the front office. Can they find the next Jeff Hornacek that gets the Jazz to the next level? If they can, they are easily the best front office in the league.