Though he played well for long stretches of the game, Ricky Rubio’s inability to stretch the floor made it hard for the Jazz to score when the game got close.
Rubio's lack of spacing has killed the Jazz's chances of scoring here late.— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) February 13, 2019
Derrick Favors is always a point of debate with both Jazz fans and national writers. Can the Favors/Gobert pairing work?
The answer is almost always ... Sometimes?
The best lineup for Utah is always with Jae Crowder at the 4-spot. This isn’t because Crowder is a better player than Favors, it just means that he’s a better fit at that position in the modern NBA.
With the trade deadline behind the Jazz these are moot points now. They’ll go into the playoffs and, if they keep up their current level of play, should have a good shot at making it to the second round for the third straight season. They won’t go beyond that because of a very clear ceiling with their current roster makeup.
Conley, for his entire career, has been one of the most underrated players in the league and would have been a big upgrade for the Jazz. Not just because of his overall talent level, but also because of what his fit would have been on the court.
Current leaderboard in my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric: pic.twitter.com/LxEZTRQDZT— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) February 12, 2019
His ability to make plays and hit shots would have spread the floor and made life easier for everyone else on the team. But, again, moot point.
What’s the next step for the Jazz? There’s really only one. Free agency.
And that’s the scariest thing of all for Jazz fans. There isn’t a long history of impact players coming to Utah in free agency. The biggest names are probably Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. The list of stars is zero. That was the main reason Jazz fans were clamoring for a trade. It might be the only way to pair an impact player with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. What happens if Utah comes out of free agency with nothing?
So now Dennis Lindsey is tasked with something rarely done in Jazzland, bring over a star in free agency. No pressure or anything.
Sure, there still might be a chance to make a trade in the offseason. The problem is that the Jazz won’t have all the expiring contracts they had this season. Ricky Rubio will be a free agent as well as Thabo Sefolosha. The Jazz can choose to opt in on the Derrick Favors contract and may be able to make a trade with his expiring, but if they weren’t able to make that trade during the deadline, why would they be able to do it a few months later?
That means to make a trade for an impact player, they would have to trade core pieces that could fit the salary structure. This isn’t going to work. The Jazz can’t be content with marginal improvements any more, they need a big addition to take them over the top. That means free agency.
For Utah to get an impact player, or even a star, it will take a little bit of luck and likely an overpay. But that’s what contending teams do to win.
The Jazz may have also foreseen this years ago with the savvy signings of Joe Ingles to a 4-year contract (one that descends each season) and a trade for Jae Crowder who’s contract continues to be a bargain for a starting caliber player. The team is ripe for a splash this summer.
That’s easier said than done, though and that splash may come in ways that Jazz fans didn’t predict. It could mean throwing a max at a player people didn’t predict would be getting one. Do the Jazz think Malcolm Brogdon is worth big time money? Or are the Jazz ready to max out a volatile personality in Jimmy Butler? That may be the type of signing the Jazz are looking at.
Tobias Harris will be on the top of the list for the Jazz, but he’ll be on the top of the list for a lot of teams, including the Sixers who will now have the inside track to getting him. It’s not the most likely of signings. That’s why a player like Jimmy Butler may be the answer. Will the Sixers be able to stomach a max for Butler and Harris with contracts for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid looming?
A signing like that is a huge gamble but could pay huge dividends in the long run for Utah. Rudy Gobert is on the team for at minimum two more years. You want to take advantage of his prime as much as possible while also proving to him this is a place where you can contend for a title. On top of that, you also want to take advantage of having Donovan Mitchell on a rookie contract.
This summer has the potential to be huge for the Jazz. They can fill the needs that are keeping them from getting over the hump with some deft signings. It will be difficult for Lindsey but he’s proven he can get a surprise player like he did with Joe Johnson.
Whether he can bring in that final piece is yet to be seen. The only thing that’s for certain, the time to go for it is now.