In the weeks leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz organization is faced with two fundamental issues: A current vacancy in their head coaching position, and a valuable fifth pick in the draft. Typically the fifth pick in a projected deep draft is a good thing. However when your team is ripe with youth and short on veteran leadership, it’s easy to overdose on young talent.
It’s equally simple to devalue youth in the NBA if you don’t have a LeBron James or Kevin Durant suiting up every night. This has led to rumors that the Jazz might try to package their pick and a couple of players to acquire a bigger name – like Kevin Love for example. What the Jazz must realize is that a bigger name is all they’ll get in any situation.
Let’s say general manager Dennis Lindsey puts together a package attractive enough for the Minnesota Timberwolves and they do acquire Kevin Love. Ironically they immediately become the Wolves, as Love isn’t a franchise-changing player. He’s an upgrade on any squad, but if the name on the back of your jersey isn’t James or Durant, there’s no other player capable of delivering a higher degree of success on his own. It’s a mistake teams often make, and one the Utah Jazz can’t afford.
However, the Jazz’s situation is a bit different. Yes they’re babies, but currently own the greatest upside in the league with their young players. Their core of Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward has insane potential, although it has left the club short on wins. The Jazz finished at the bottom of the Western Conference with a dismal 25 wins, only winning 13 out of 39 games in conference, and only nine out of 32 games played on the road. It was their third worst season in franchise history.
Former coach Tyrone Corbin had much to do with such a dismal season, but he can’t take all of the blame. Without doubt Dennis Lindsey has surely grown weary of finger-pointing as well. The Jazz have been strategic in adding pieces that will move their franchise back into Western Conference contention. Youth has been their ally, and it’s imperative they remain steady on course.
When the Jazz pick at number five, it’s likely that power forwards Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh will be available. Aside from matching Gordon Hayward’s restricted free agent offers, the Jazz will enter the summer with around $16.2 million in dedicated salary, and the most talented young core in the league.
Just recently the Oklahoma City Thunder were in the same situation. Sure, drafting the reigning MVP and scoring champ Kevin Durant helped, but after drafting Durant, the Thunder drafted Russell Westbrook the following year, followed by James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Minus Harden, they’re now hooping in the Western Conference Finals, familiar territory for the Thunder, who’ve been there three times in the last four years.
If the Jazz draft a big man (which they should), it makes Favors and Enes Kanter even more expendable, especially after they only logged 771 minutes playing together on the year, or 19.5 percent. Bringing another rookie big man into the fold out of a deep, talented draft gives the Jazz a low-cost nucleus capable of big things in the future. All it will take is patience, and it’s commonly referred to as a virtue. If the Jazz seek to get back into title contention they’ll need to be more virtuous and less hasty.
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