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Utah Sports Ruckus: Grading the Jazz's rebuild so far

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 22 2014 3:21 p.m. MDT

When Corbin was promoted following Sloan’s resignation, the Jazz made it clear they did not view it as merely an interim promotion, but as a long-term hire. They quickly gave Corbin a three-year contract to remain head coach of the franchise.

Owner Greg Miller said at the time: “I am confident that Tyrone is the right man to lead this team into the future. He is someone with longstanding ties to the Jazz and this community, and who has embraced the core philosophies and ideals this organization holds true. I feel that his character and leadership qualities will be true assets to the Jazz moving forward for many years to come.”

General manager Kevin O’Connor said: “He is ready for this job and we feel certain he will excel as a head coach just as he excelled as an assistant coach and as a player.”

Judging by these words of Miller and O’Connor, Corbin’s tenure as the Jazz’s head coach has to be viewed as a disappointment.

Looking back, the mistake the Jazz made was signing Corbin through the 2013-14 season. Jazz management should have had the foresight to recognize that a major rebuilding season was possible in 2013-14 — given the player contracts set to expire before that season — and therefore should have only signed Corbin through 2012-13.

Instead, the Jazz ended up putting their coach and players in an awkward situation and allowed Hornacek, one of the most promising basketball coaches in the world today, to walk out the door to Phoenix.

Who could have known Hornacek would be such a good head coach? Not me. As an outsider I was fully on the Corbin bandwagon. But Jazz management gets paid a lot of money to have such inclinations.

Grade for long-term handling of Corbin: D+

2011 NBA draft

The Jazz, still with O’Connor as general manager, went into the 2011 draft with picks No. 3 and No. 12, which they used to select Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Despite being the third pick overall, however, Kanter is 19th in most minutes of players from the 2011 draft. Burks is just ahead of him at No. 18 in minutes played. At this point it seems the Jazz are unsure, at best, of what they have in Kanter and Burks.

We’ll never know how the Jazz might have been able to use these draft picks in trades, so all we can really do is look at what other players they could have drafted.

As already mentioned, 17 players from this draft have played more minutes thus far than Kanter or Burks. Players the Jazz could have drafted include: Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic, Chandler Parsons, Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris.

Regardless of whom the Jazz might have picked, it’s doubtful they would have played them enough minutes for us to know whether they’re any better than Kanter or Burks right now.

Grade for 2011 draft: C (though largely still to be determined)

Hiring Dennis Lindsey as general manager in August 2012

As of yet, Lindsey has not had the time to earn the trust or distrust of Jazz fans. That certainly won’t be the case much longer, given the summer the Jazz have ahead of them.

Grade for hiring Lindsey: To be determined

Decision to let Jefferson and Millsap leave for nothing

In February of 2013, the Jazz chose to let the trade deadline pass without making any trades, a puzzling move to many fans and NBA insiders considering the quality of the players and contracts the Jazz had available — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap being at the top of the list.

Instead, Jefferson and Millsap left the organization as free agents following the season, netting the Jazz nothing in return except cap space.

Dennis Lindsey admitted after the deadline that the Jazz were “very” popular in trade talks but declined to mention any specifics. Without knowing what was on the table for the Jazz in trade offers, it’s impossible to fully evaluate the decision to stand pat.

Having said that, I feel comfortable in saying there must have been a way the Jazz could have pulled at least one decent long-term asset in exchange for Jefferson and Millsap, but they failed to do so.

Grade for 2013 trade deadline: C-

2013 NBA draft

The Jazz made a move to trade up and nab Trey Burke with the 9th pick. Interestingly, there is potential for this draft to end up looking very similar to the 2010 draft for the Jazz — they may have picked up a decent player at No. 9 while passing on the top player in the draft.

There was a lot of positive talk about Burke this season but ultimately I’m not sure the stats justify it. Burke played a lot of minutes (third-most among rookies) and so he put up higher averages per game than most other rookies.

When looking at more advanced stats, however, Burke didn’t fare as well. He was only No. 11 among qualified rookies in PER at a below-average 12.64 and No. 7 in EWA at 1.8.

Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams, who Philadelphia took with the No. 11 pick in the draft, had an EWA of 5.5, tops among rookies by a wide margin, and a PER of 15.59.

It looks possible, if not probable, that the Jazz could have another Hayward vs. George situation on their hands with Burke and Carter-Williams. In addition to the stats, it’s worth nothing that Carter-Williams is a good six inches taller than Burke. Many in the NBA believe size is ultimately a big deal.

Mostly, of course, this grade is still to be determined. But for now:

Grade for 2013 draft: B (though largely still to be determined)

Progress made in the 2013-14 season

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