Living in Utah can be very painful as a sports fan. There are 3 local sports radio channels and the majority of the time the topic of conversation is the Utah Jazz. I love talking NBA basketball but very rarely does a mediocre team like the Jazz catch my attention. That is because like so many others around here, I don’t agree with how they handled their recent draft picks. I’m not even talking about who they picked. Of course the fact that they missed out on Kahwi Leonard to draft Alec Burks or that they took Gordon Hayward over Paul George doesn’t thrill me. But had the Jazz taken Leonard or George we wouldn’t know if they are any good because they would barely see the floor.
For the life of me I can’t understand why you would play average or journeyman pros to try to get the 8 seed in the playoffs each year. If your goal as a franchise is a championship you need to do things very differently going forward. With that being said I have a plan that I’m sure most Jazz fans would love but there is no way the organization would ever follow.
The first thing I would do is cut ties with all of your high level free agents. That right, I said it. ALL OF THEM. None of your so called cornerstones need to lose minutes to what are at best decent role players. Saying good bye to Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, and Paul Millsap is for the best. They will never lead you to the Promised Land and none would settle for being the 8th, 9th, or 10th man. Let face facts, that is where Mo, Randy and Paul belong. As for Al, he can score but not much else. He is one of the worst pick and roll defenders I have ever seen. Since every other team in the league knows this all they do is set the high screen and destroy Jefferson on the switch. Al is still worthy to be a starter just not in Utah. Having him has stunted the growth of Kanter and Favors for too long. We’ve heard that he is a great teacher for these young bigs but he should no longer be in a place to take their minutes.
The second thing I would do is take a point guard with the 14th pick in the draft. There are a couple guys who would fit nicely in the Utah system. Though both are raw Michael Carter Williams and Shane Larkin could be plugged in right away at the one spot. If both are available I would take Larkin. He is older, a better shooter, has a better handle and is the son of a hall of fame athlete. He knows what it means to be a pro. The NBA and the life style won’t be a shock to him. Plus I’m sure Barry has drilled it into his son’s head how hard you have to work if you want to be a star.
The third thing I would do is play all the kids. Start Larkin, Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter. Give them at least 30 minutes a night and see if they will sink or swim. There is nothing wrong with losing a few more games than you would like, to see if any or all of them can be special. I don’t see the Jazz winning 16 games if they follow this plan though. Kanter stepped up as a starter last year with a few monster games before getting sent back to the bench once Jefferson and Millsap returned. Both Favors and Hayward have shown flashes of greatness if only for small periods of time. Favors needs to develop a go to move to reach his potential while Hayward just needs to be consistent. I’m still up in the air on Burks because he doesn’t have a great outside shot, but the one thing I know for sure is that he can get to the line.
Even if the Jazz struggle next season, I don’t see that as a bad thing. The fans have been dying to see what the kids can do. Also you have a wonderful fall back if some guys don’t pan out the way you would hope. The 2014 draft should be the best draft in at least a decade. If the Jazz manage to miss the playoffs and land in the top ten they would end up with a star. Wiggins, Parker, Gordon, the Harrison twins,’ Randle, and Marcus Smart are all studs and that’s just to name a few. There are 6 guys who would be the first pick in this year’s draft if they were eligible. That doesn’t seem like a losing proposition to me. Then I wouldn’t have to turn on my local radio and hear fans whining about why the Jazz aren’t good and why they don’t give their lottery picks a shot to play. It would be win win for everybody, especially me. Then they could talk about why Dwyane Wade all of a sudden thinks he’s in 1980s wwf dropping flying elbows like Tito Santana or flopping at the slightest contact like the Honky Tonk Man.