The Utah Jazz are in uncharted waters.
As long as I can remember I’ve never seen the Jazz have an offseason quite like the one they’re currently having.
Sure, the Jazz have had nice free agency signings in the past like with Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer. But with both of those situations the Jazz were either taking advantage of a team dealing with cap hell or an incompetent owner.
This offseason didn’t happen by chance, but with years of discipline and strategy by a front office that refused to deviate from their long-term objective. If the team had a bad loss they wouldn’t make a hasty move for short term gain, if a transaction didn’t happen the Jazz wouldn’t panic like so many of the bottom dweller teams do.
Last season, the Jazz wanted to be sure if Ricky Rubio was the long-term answer at point guard. The season before he had had a rough start to the season but had an epic turnaround midway through the year that carried into the playoffs and contributed to a first-round victory. They went into the season with an almost identical roster and saw Rubio regress but without the turnaround this time.
At the trade deadline they worked with a Memphis front office that leaked information about a possible trade. The trade eventually fell through and it affected Rubio enough to take a shot at the front office.
Ricky Rubio, on the drama of the trade deadline: "Do I like it? No. I hate it. … The team, sometimes, upstairs, they don't feel like the chemistry matters, and sometimes it matters more than anything." pic.twitter.com/NPW46TIp86— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) February 8, 2019
There are a lot of front offices (I’m looking at you Suns) that might have overreacted and made a hasty trade or banished the player to the bench. Even past Jazz front offices might have done something like they did with Raja Bell.
But Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik (who would eventually become the general manager) stayed disciplined. They knew that that a long term outlook would pay off.
And this summer it did.
Conley wasn’t just a clear upgrade at the point guard position, he also gave the Jazz ammunition in free agency to lure more players. Unfair as it may seem, the city of Utah is never going to be a top tier destination for free agents. Instead, the organization has become the destination for players. If you want to win you’ll come to Utah. If you want to be developed into an NBA rotation player, come to Utah. If you want real fry sauce instead of that thing they call Mayochup, come to Utah.
Acquiring Mike Conley alone would have made the offseason successful, but Utah also knew they still had a lack of consistent shooting. Originally, Utah was going after Nikola Mirotic and thought they had the trade set until they woke up to surprising news that Mirotic would be going to Spain.
Again, the Jazz didn’t panic but pivoted to their next planned target in Bojan Bogdanovic. This was the riskier option and Utah would have been willing to make a sign and trade. This is where Justin Zanik probably shined most. Knowing the amount they would need to offer helped them sign Bogdanovic quickly.
It can’t be overstated how fantastic this move was by Justin Zanik. With his years of experience with contracts and negotiations, Zanik went into the meeting with Bogdanovic knowing what offer he should give. On his ESPN podcast, Adrian Wojnarowski said that the Pacers were offering Bogdanovic something in the low 50’s. So when Utah came into negotiations, their offer got the deal done quickly.
Indiana's Bojan Bogdanovic has agreed to a four-year, $73M deal with the Utah Jazz, league sources tells EPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2019
Having a team with just Conley and Bogdanovic, you’d have the makings of a competitive team. Add in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and you have a finals contender.
But the Jazz weren’t done there, either. Knowing that they’d need to replace the Derrick Favors role as backup center, they went out and grabbed Ed Davis on an incredibly reasonable contract. Jazz fans shouldn’t sleep on this move, either. Davis has been a plus minus darling for years with his defense and rebounding.
Did you guys realize Ed Davis averaged 8.6 rebounds last year in 17.9 minutes per game?— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) July 1, 2019
Losing Favors and Jae Crowder meant that there was a definite hole at the power forward position for the Jazz. Because of the moves they made, the Jazz officially became a destination team.
Just got this text from an NBA scout about Jeff Green signing: “Happy for Jeff. He’s now at the point of his career where he’s probably ring chasing a bit.”— Spence Checketts (@spencechecketts) July 2, 2019
“Ring Chasing.” In Utah. WTF is going on.
Jeff Green has multiple suitors, League Sources tell The Athletic....a significant reason he picked the Utah Jazz is because of his relationship with Mike Conley, according to sources. The two played together in Memphis— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) July 2, 2019
Ring chasing and Utah Jazz are not things I ever thought I’d see mentioned in the same tweet but here we are.
I for one am excited for this crazy reality the Jazz are now a part of, the hardest part is to now live up to all the hype.