With the Utah Jazz having acheiving the worst-case scenario this postseason, there are some franchise-altering choices that Danny Ainge has and Justin Zanik have to make. Each decision will have huge consequences making this offseason fascinating.
I thought the best thing for this was to get a consensus decision from our readers and I came up with the 2022 Utah Jazz Offseason Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s based on the RL Stein Goosebumps books, but this one is probably a lot scarier than finding out your science teacher is actually some sort of bug, or you were the ghost the whole time.
In this choose-your-own-adventure you are now Danny Ainge, CEO of the Utah Jazz, and you must make the final decisions for this team. Beware, every choice you make will be criticized relentlessly on social media, local media, and the national media. It is recommended you turn off your Twitter notifications to avoid the never-happy masses of writers, bloggers, and those who think that since they bought an NBA coaching pdf they’re qualified to put “coach” on their Twitter bio.
Read through the options and then vote below, as a site we’ll decide together. There are a combination of these things that could happen so for this poll pick the position you think is the most vital move to improve next year.
Now, let’s begin! Because the Jazz are way over the salary cap and are flirting with a repeater tax, you’ve just had to trade Mike Conley and received a late first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets. Now you have to pick between Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jared Butler to be your starting point guard. You’ve also moved on from Rudy Gay and received a late 2nd round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks. Sadly, you had to move on from Juancho Hernangomez as well to clear space. Now, you’ve got the big decision to make. Here are the choices in front of you.
Choice 1: Run it back!
The mere mention of those three words sends a chill down your spine, like in Night of the Living Dummy when Slappy’s eyes started looking right and left on their own.
Here’s the logic, 4th times the charm! You’ve decided that it was just back luck this year. The vibes were bad, the refs were bad, everything was bad except for the team itself and the coach. You make this choice because you believe that a downward trajectory in every statistical category is in no way an indication of reality and it’s a good idea to be over the salary cap and put another year of age on every one of your players. In fact, you decide to really run it back and bring back Joe Ingles a year after ACL surgery. Maybe this brings back the magic from last season when you gave up a 2-0 lead to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round. Let’s go!
Choice 2: Move on from Quin Snyder
In the last three seasons in the playoffs you’ve watched the Jazz give up a 3-1 lead to Denver, a 2-0 lead to the Clippers, and a 1-0 lead to the Dallas Mavericks. You’ve decided that the head coach should be, at least somewhat, responsible. You also feel like with all the drama this season, the head coach is, at least somewhat, responsible for creating a good lockerroom culture based on accountability, toughness and selflessness. The coach having really any sort of responsible isn’t a crazy concept to you. For an entire season, you saw the responsibility for a good lockerroom anything but Quin Snyder’s responsibility. People online and in the media me talked about the importance of Joe Ingles’ locker room presence, but not a peep about Snyder. When Ingles left the responsibility then became ... everyone’s besides the head coach? If you’re making this decision, you’re the type of person that believes the Head Coach of the Utah Jazz should be, a the very least, an important part of creating a culture of responsibility, something the Jazz have lacked for a long time. This is a tough decision, and the Jazz media machine has been telling fans for 8 years, including at lockerroom cleanout, that Quin Snyder is a genius, a savant unmatched by other NBA coaches, one of the best in the league, and there will be some backlash.
Now’s your chance to start over and bring in a coach that can hopefully develop, maybe even actually play, your late draft picks. Perhaps you want someone that will adjust lineups or schemes based on the opponent you’re playing. Maybe you can hire someone that can preach toughness on the defensive end or just mental toughness overall. It’s your chance to bring someone that, if a player doesn’t play at the level they are expected to, they might actually adjust a lineup.
If this is your move, you have options. Snyder has another year on his contract but has apparently not been interested in signing a new one. That means you would need to fire him and pay him for an additional year. Ryan Smith may not be a fan of that route. Or, and here’s the more interesting option, you could trade him. Last time I recall a trade happening with a coach was with Boston and the Clippers. And just a reminder that it was Danny Ainge that made that trade.
Choice 3: Trade Rudy Gobert
One of the most beloved players on the Jazz is the one that you feel needs to be traded. Gobert has been a multi-year All-Star, All-NBA, and DPOY player. The logic for this move is that you need to play a different style to get to the next level. Rudy Gobert will raise the floor of any team he’s on to playoff contention, it’s what he did with the Jazz, and there are teams out there willing to give up something nice to get him. The issue that is well documented with Gobert is the offense. He’s insanely efficient on offense but limited on what he can do. His offensive game comes down to lobs and offensive rebounds. But he’s unable to score in any other way. The idea of moving on from Gobert is that you can find a player that allows you to play a much more open style on offense that unlocks another level of play for Donovan Mitchell.
The other thing to consider is Gobert’s contract. Gobert will make $38 Million next season. In the final year of his new contract in 2025-26? $46 Million. That’s a contract that gets incredibly hard to trade in years to come in a guard and wing-driven league. If you are thinking about trading Gobert, this is the best time to get a return for him.
Under Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder the last three years, the Jazz chose not to build a team around Donovan Mitchell’s strengths. Whenever there was a choice between playing a defense-first wing or guard versus offense-first? Snyder went with the offensive player. Every chance the Jazz had in the 1st round to pick a wing defender in the draft, or a very good guard, or just any non-center, the Jazz chose not to. The last three seasons the Jazz would either trade back into the second round, get fleeced by the Knicks, draft a center, or traded firsts to get rid of all their centers. These decisions were all made with Gobert in mind, not Donovan Mitchell. Even the trade for Mike Conley, that was widely applauded, was a move that would enhance everything for Rudy Gobert. For Mitchell it just took the ball out of his hands more. In the three years that Conley has been on the team, he has shared the floor almost exclusively running PnRs with Gobert. Utah’s biggest change this season came after Joe Ingles went down with an ACL tear and was then traded soon after at the trade deadline. But even Ingles spent the majority of his time running PnRs with Gobert. You only have three years left for Mitchell, and you’re way over the cap, but you believe you can quickly re-tool for Mitchell, for the first time he’s been on the Jazz.
Now, no matter who you get from this trade, your defense is going to take a hit. Before you joined the Jazz they filled their team with ineffective perimeter defenders. Can you find defenders to surround Donovan Mitchell? Can you replicate 80-90% of what Gobert gave you with a cheaper center? They did that at times with a minimum contract for Hassan Whiteside. That’s the tightrope you’re walking with this decision.
Choice 4: Trade Donovan Mitchell
This would be a seismic decision. Finding a super marketable, electric scoring guard midway through the draft is a rare thing. Sending him off would be a major sign that you are all-in on Rudy Gobert and that you need players that can both get Rudy Gobert the ball in ways that make it easy for him to score, and also defend well on the end. Did I just describe prime Ricky Rubio? You likely have a hard ceiling of how far you will ever go in the playoffs, but making the playoffs is fun and you don’t like the idea of a team that might bottom out.
This also means you believe Donovan Mitchell is at his peak and he won’t get much better even if you put pieces around him that enhance his skillset and hide his weaknesses. Even if you decided to get a coach that you believe would do a better job creating schemes that do the same, you don’t believe Mitchell can get you to the Finals as the #1 guy.
If you trade Mitchell, you will definitely get a nice return of picks. That doesn’t do much in terms of playing alongside Gobert, but it does give you shots in the draft at getting an MVP caliber guy. And since the Jazz are giving this year’s pick to Memphis, the one they gave up in the Conley trade, it does give you a chance to start drafting more young athletic wings that could conceivably defend around the perimeter with Gobert. It’s not clear how you’ll score consistently at that point, but you can definitely build a better defense.
The other consideration here is that you believe the rumors that Mitchell wants out are true and you want to get ahead of it. Mitchell has three years minimum left on his contract with a fourth-year player option. That means more teams are willing to make a move for him because they’ll get more guaranteed years. THerefore you’ll get more options and a likely bidding war. Not a bad place to be in if you’re looking to get a huge haul for Mitchell. Finally, you also believe that trading Mitchell puts the power back in your hands. You don’t have to make moves just to keep him happy, you do the moes you think will help the team win.
Choice 5: Tear it down! #tanknote
This is the move that would ripple through Salt Lake like the earthquakes did at the start of the pandemic, like the murder hornets at the start of the pandemic, like the Australian fires at the start of the pandemic. Okay, you get it, sorry.
Anyways, this is the choice if you think that the current chapter of Jazz basketball isn’t getting you to a championship. That is your goal, right? You’ve decided that as electric as Mitchell is, he’s not a #1 guy on a championship team. You’ve decided that as good as Gobert is defensively, his limitations put a ceiling on how far you go in the playoffs. You’ve decided that your coach isn’t good enough with in-game or lineup adjustments to win you a series where the talent is equal.
The thinking here is that to get to a championship, you need an MVP-caliber guy. You need your Giannis, Lebron, or Utah’s version, Karl Malone. You can’t get that in any other way but in the draft. Whether you trade Mitchell or Gobert, you’re not getting that guy in a trade.
Making moves this draft could mean a possibility at a top-ten pick, maybe even a top-five if the Knicks win the lottery. Are you interested in making that move and jumpstarting a rebuild now? Maybe you decide to #tanknote for a few seasons and then build around draft building blocks. It certainly worked when the Jazz got Deron Williams. This is the choice for those willing to do the things a small-market team has to do to get to the top. It’s not fun, but it’s likely the best shot at getting a banner in Vivint Arena.
Reader beware, you choose the scare!
Which path should the Jazz take this offseason?
This poll is closed
Run it back
Move on from Quin Snyder
Trade Rudy Gobert
Trade Donovan Mitchell
Tear it down #tanknote