Give this to the Utah Jazz front office: Following the franchise changes this summer, they’ve been eager to explain their vision.
Jazz CEO Danny Ainge and General Manager Justin Zanik held a press conference Monday morning, streamed on YouTube, to tell fans exactly why they swapped stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. And what they said wasn’t exactly complementary to Jazz’s past efforts of the previous era — they seem much more excited about what’s to come than what’s happened.
Ainge said when he joined the team in December he was “curious and optimistic” about the Jazz’s chances.
“But what I saw during the season was a group of players who really didn’t believe in each other,” he said.
He explained further: “I think individually they have resolve. I just don’t believe collectively they’ve done it. So we’ve seen a lot of players trying to do it on their own. , because the trust in each other was not as great as in other teams I have been in and around.
Ainge says he gave his team one last chance last April.
“So when we got to the playoffs I thought, well, this is a team that’s had a disappointing playoff and maybe they’re just waiting for the playoffs,” he said. he continued. “And so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. But it was clear the team had yet to perform well in the playoffs.
Zanik agreed: “Previous results kind of told us who we were. It wasn’t just a one year thing. It’s been a good three years where we’ve won a lot of games, had a lot of success, but we’ve been exploited from a potential point of view.
With no way up, it was time to start over. So the Jazz traded Gobert and Mitchell for a stupendous pair of packages – in the end, receiving Ochai Agbaji, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Talen Horton-Tucker, Stanley Johnson, Walker Kessler, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt and Collin Sexton. Oh, and they also received a 2023 first-round pick, two 2025 first-round picks, two 2027 first-round picks, and two 2029 first-round picks — plus the right to trade draft picks with the Cavaliers or Timberwolves in 2026 or 2028.
The returns have, frankly, stunned fellow NBA executives. But perhaps the most surprising part of the two moves wasn’t the return, but who the Jazz found in business partners. In particular, Cleveland was rarely mentioned among the landing spots for Mitchell respectively, but the Jazz ended up making deals with them over the much higher-profile Knicks. Why?
“It was the best offer,” Zanik said. “I think for them they saw an opportunity to add to their squad and open a window with Donovan and a young group, I think they’re going to be very good. And, you know, to get a good yield, you also have to give up something good.They certainly gave up a lot.
What shall we do now? First, there are decisions to be made in the coming weeks.
The Jazz still have 17 players under full contract for next season – the league limit for the start of the regular season is 15, not including two-way players. There are still trades to be made. Given that the Jazz have clearly set their sights on the future, three players born before 1990 are perhaps the most likely to be moved: Rudy Gay (36), Mike Conley (34) and Bojan Bogdanovic (33 year).
“These conversations continue to evolve, we continued to be in direct contact with them and their representation,” Zanik said. “Obviously there have been a lot of changes this summer, so it’s only natural for us to have these conversations.”
But Zanik also said those veterans could find themselves in this otherwise young squad this coming season.
“Our job is to put the organization on the best footing, and that can include these veterans as Coach implements their program,” Zanik said. “It’s going to be a culture of hard work. They all have qualities of leadership, mentorship, ability. We are happy to have them and continue to help our team grow should things arise.
Next, the team must figure out what to do with all of these newly acquired assets. The team has more unprotected picks than any NBA franchise, which means plenty of chances to acquire new players. Or, says Zanik, they can also be tools for faster reconstruction:
“What those picks represent is not necessarily, oh, you’re going to keep them and just select them. It just opens up multiple opportunities and conversations, the flexibility to acquire players or move them around to speed up the process or slow it down,” he said. “I see that as a lot of different cards that you have the ability to play and be involved in those conversations – where if we didn’t have those choices…you just don’t become part of those conversations.”
“We wanted to give the organization every chance to build the biggest base of flexibility, young players and assets to make really good decisions so that we can reach the ceiling that we want to reach,” said Zanik – noting that the franchise wants to win its first NBA championship.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, but we’re really excited about where we’re starting from.”