Utah Jazz: Plan's playing out, but plenty of questions heading into offseason

Published: Saturday, April 19 2014 10:20 p.m. MDT

Dennis Lindsey is introduced as the new general manager of the Utah Jazz at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, in August 2012.

, Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — General manager Dennis Lindsey willingly admits the Utah Jazz, days removed from the conclusion of a 25-57 season, have taken a step backwards.

On purpose.

With the ownership’s approval.

That matter-of-fact assessment, by the way, isn’t an admission of guilt or regret. He’s OK with it. Kevin O’Connor, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, is good with it. So is Jazz President Randy Rigby. The Millers are fine with it, too.

It was simply part of the plan.

The plan, the one that's supposed to vault Utah back up onto a championship-contender level, was set forth last offseason when Jazz brass opted to close the chapter on an era that included veteran stalwarts Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in favor of creating a book featuring young players Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke.

The Jazz could’ve proceeded with their former ever-steady bigs, Big Al and/or Millsap, both of whom have led their new teams to the playoffs this year. And there were serious internal discussions last offseason about doing just that. It would’ve been the safer route for the short term. It might have even pushed Utah into contention for the playoffs again this postseason after just missing out in 2013 and qualifying in 2012.

But at what cost? And how high (or low) would the postseason ceiling be?

Instead, the Jazz decided to choose what, Lindsey admitted, was counterintuitive to this world’s instant gratification preference and amounted to what the GM described as doing something that’s “seven parts to the future and three parts to the present.”

In other words, Jazz bosses smashed their collective palm on the reset button.

“(It was) us looking at our reality in a real sober way and saying, ‘We may need to let the younger guys have a bigger stage,’ ” Lindsey said. “And (then) taking that step back to take three or four forward.”

It just so happened — and not on accident — that the take-your-lumps-and-losses-while-playing-young-guys rebuilding process took place during a season that preceded what is expected to be the strongest draft in the NBA in years.

“This was the right year,” Lindsey said Thursday after his team, which ended with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, had cleaned out lockers and participated in exit meetings. “I think you could make an argument in years past, maybe the media or the fans wanted the young players to move to prominence earlier, but for a lot of reasons it was the wrong time.”

In a way, O’Connor got the rebuilding ball rolling in 2011 when he shockingly traded All-Star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey, a deal that has resulted in the Jazz receiving two key frontcourt pieces for the future, 22-year-old Favors and 21-year-old Kanter.

The Jazz maneuvered on draft day last summer to acquire Burke, getting a competitive point guard whom they believe can work and grow into being the top-tier NBA playmaker Utah hasn't had since D-Will's departure.

Utah also has two intriguing wings in the versatile Hayward and the explosive Burks, who have both made strides even while dealing with shooting struggles.

“We have young talent at each position,” Lindsey said.

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