Having been a Utah Jazz fans for decades and decades I've seen a lot of teams. Good teams and bad teams. Rebuilding teams and teams on the wrong size of their apex. I've seen teams built to win fail, and I've seen teams built to tank succeed. I'm not the oldest Utah Jazz fan. I'm not the longest die-hard Jazz fan either. And I'm far from the wisest. But what I do know is that whatever I do know needs to be passed down to the next generations of fans. And one of those things is that current Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey (and company) are making the right moves.
They are just really hard to see right now because of injuries. As a consequence, the lack of depth is apparent -- but that would be the case for every other team in the league if they were missing four of their top six rotation players and forced to start two rookies for close to two full months. No one knows how good this constructed team is, and as a result, their talent, potential, ability, and capability are the NBA's best kept secret. This is a team that's building, in secret, something that will end the war, and end all wars. Because of injuries Lindsey's team is like a nuclear submarine. Such a vessel is a pretty crappy sailing ship. And there aren't a lot of cannons on the side of it to launch starboard passing strikes. But what this team can do -- when fully operational -- is going to blow people away.
Now, I know. Utah didn't get lightning to strike thrice and whatever four times something is in that phrase. After all, it was pretty lucky that it stroke twice when they got Hall of Famers from the middle of the 1st round with John Stockton and Karl Malone. And, yes, I know, none of their current teams have made the playoffs. But what we need to focus on is that our current 2015-2016 Utah Jazz team has sneaky good depth. And that depth allows for this team to do battles in the future that many of the John and Karl teams of the past could not.
I made the assertion that Utah didn't really strike the metal when it was hot after drafting John and Karl. Frankly, they did end up surrounding them with contender-level talent, but the first decade of their careers were spent listing in the doldrums. In effect, the front office enjoyed their good fortune and didn't work as hard as GMs for other teams did for ten straight years, and tried to see how far two guys could get you.
Bold words. I know. And I don't mind people telling my I'm crazy.
But the crazy part is that this Jazz team (when healthy) is deeper than many of those older Jazz teams were. Since getting the job, Lindsey isn't trying to coast for a decade. And the rosters prove it.
1986 Playoff Roster:
This was the first year of John and Karl, and John was still coming off the bench. I don't think that Darrell Griffith is injured here I'm looking at it if everyone was healthy, hence being one of our "Top Four Guys" and being in the mix here. (Also, you could argue that is better than Dante Exum. I actually think that Dante is going to end up being a better two-way player. And this is a subjective piece so, that's the way it shall stand for this exercise.)or (in their 5th and 3rd years respectively) were better than John in his 2nd year. You could argue about that. But I do think that our wings are way better -- even though
Outside of Stockton, and a nearing the end of his career Griffith, I take our "Next Six" guys. There's no comparison with the "Top Four". But that's not what this is about. It's about Lindsey's sneaky depth perception vs. How shallow the talent was on a lot of those early Stockton and Malone teams.
1987 Playoff Roster:
If you look at the numbers, Thurl Bailey was a best, either as a Top Four member, or a member of the Next Six. The Jazz played with such a tremendous pace of play that it's hard to compare teams from the 80s against what we're doing this season. But It's fair to say that Thurl would house either or . Darrell is healthy in this playoff series, but he's not nearly as great as he used to be. Here we also see Rickey Green and a dream match-up of University of Michigan guards as I'm sure he and Trey Burke would get into it. (Sidebar: When I talked to Trey at the NBA Draft he did not recognize Rickey Green's name even though they went to the same University, but some of the old African American reporters fist bumped me for name dropping him, after the presser was over.) Kelly Tripucka wasn't that effective in a Jazz jersey, and I think Rodney Hood eats him up. No one on this '87 team can stop Alec Burks.
If you are looking at these teams from the #5 to #10 roster spot range it's a close match. Old vets and one big man at the top of his game going up against youth and athleticism.
1988 Playoff Roster:
This was the Utah Jazz team I feel in love with, the one that advanced and made a statement in the 1988 Playoffs. That said, this team wasn't deep at all. Frank Layden coaxed a heck of a lot out of Bob Hansen (who had to check Johnson for seven games in the second round), and Mark Eaton really came to play against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But ultimately this Jazz team didn't have the talent to keep up with the better team. I don't know if the '88 Jazz have the talent to keep up with the '16 Jazz group after the Top Four players.
Thurl was great, again, but his is Rickey Green before his career is over, and everyone else is really below replacement level. Many Jazz players this year aren't implicitly great either. But in a direct comparison I think we think our current #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #10 guys take the day.
1989 Playoff Roster:
This Jazz team got swept by the Golden State Warriors, and playing four guards and a small forward for long stretches of the game. It was a heartbreaker for me to see the Jazz go down without a fight in '89. I think the '16 Jazz "Next Six" is better, and probably the 2016 team could have been a better challenge to the 1989 Dubs than the 1989 Jazz were. I know, sacrilege!
1990 Playoff Roster:
As the years go by this become less and less of an exercise than it becomes a shaming. John and Karl got better and better. Mark Eaton started to break down. But the Next Six for the Jazz did not improve by much. Blue Edwards was a very nice piece for the Jazz for a few seasons. But with no Thurl Bailey on the team, our tandem of Trevor Booker and Jeff Withey command the paint.
1991 Playoff Roster:
Thurl returns to the bench this playoff year, but aside from that there's really no evidence that the Jazz are even making moves to get better. Early playoff exits must be fun.
1992 Playoff Roster:
Utah makes the West finals in '92. But they got blasted in it by the Trail Blazers. Thurl Bailey is traded away for , and the team finds a group of small forwards to throw at the other team with Corbin, Blue Edwards, and David Benoit. The bench bigs? Absolutely awful though. In real life no one on Utah's team (starters or not) could stay with Terry Porter. The outcome of that series doesn't change if it's the '16 team, but the '16 "Next Six" have a higher potential on offense with all the three point shooters, and actual theories about defense. Furthermore, it was the second straight year the Jazz were eliminated by Portland. So I bet you see some big changes in the off-season, right?
1993 Playoff Roster:
Honestly, when I was in high school I really did think that Jay Humphries and Larry Krystkowiak were going to be difference makers. I was wrong. The Jazz lost in the first round the year after going to the Western Conference Finals. This was also Mark Eaton's swan song. But if the two "Next Six" teams faced off, I think we know which side would prevail.
1994 Playoff Roster:
The Jazz got a lot better with Tom Chambers, and the Jazz front office finally started to act like one that was actively trying to build around two HOFers. At their best, the '94 "Next Six" wipes the floor with this year's version. But those player's were not at their best at that point in time. Corbin was useful but limited. Bryon Russell was a guy who would play just 36 total playoff minutes and wasn't the B-Russ of the finals era. Tom Chambers was a shell of his former self by the time he was a Jazzman. Ideally the '94 team's "Next six" is better. They should be. That team returned to the West Finals and it wasn't a fluke this time around.on the team. They also added
1995 Playoff Roster:
The '95 Jazz would be bounced in the first round, but if it means anything, to the team that would win the title. This was the second year in a row where the Jazz would be eliminated by the Houston Rockets. (And the last time, knock on wood.) The Jazz "Next Six" that year was inside heavy, but you do like the addition of bigman Antoine Carr. Sadly, to get past Houston they probably could have used a few more of the guards that are currently on the '16 "Next Six" roster.
Head to head which Next six is better? I guess it depends on the pace of play. But it's fair to point out that even with the Jazz trying their best they still weren't making big changes or adding a lot of talent year from year. Going from Fred Roberts to to to Larry Krystkowiak to Tom Chambers is progress though. But it took a decade.
I could go and finish it up by looking at the 1996 to 2003 Utah Jazz Playoff Roster "Next Six" teams (I have it all worked out too), but it gets really depressing. The Finals years had some good talent to them, with Howard Eisley and teaming up with and company. But in reality, that bench wasn't that talented at all. The team was great because of , the rest of the coaching staff, and three above average players and the emerging Bryon Russell.
After those years, though, the "Next Six" returns to a rogues gallery of over the hill vets (John Starks, Armen Gilliam, Olden Polynice, Danny Manning (at center)) and useless draft picks (Quincy Lewis, ). There's a brief shining moment in the middle to late 90s where the Jazz "Next six" during their "all in on a championship" roster was better than the "Next six" of this era.,
And our current "Next Six" is only going to improve over the next few seasons as rookieand get better and join it pushing out less complete players. This is Dennis Lindsey's making. It's easy to point out a lack of depth when everyone is hurt and you are relying on to do great things. (And truth be told, he's been playing very well in Q1 of 2016.) But when (and not if) everyone gets healthy then Lindsey's hard work is going to pay off with a really scary team on the court.
Dare I say it, a deeper, more talented roster than one build around Hall of Famers. The only thing we're missing now are stars. And that's really up to, , , and Dante Exum to figure out.
And I get it, people who may disagree with me. It's hard to see THIS Jazz roster as being deep. But that's because they're currently submerged and waiting to rise to to launch depth and fire off their trident missiles at the rest of the NBA.
I'm going to just post this now and re-watch some submarine movies.