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

In a Nov. 14, 2013, column for the Deseret News (nine games into the season) I wrote:

“It will take great coaching and management to keep the Jazz’s young core from beginning to doubt themselves and each other. … Whether Tyrone Corbin is the man to get this young team where it needs to be in the months to come remains to be seen. The Jazz chose not to give Corbin a long-term contract; owner Greg Miller said he did not want the coach to feel too comfortable. … Jazz management have openly admitted they expected the team to struggle this year, but they promised a focus on establishing a tough defensive identity. If what the Jazz have played to start the season is tough defense, somebody get Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong on the roster, because at least that would be entertaining.”

There we find two objectives of the 2013-14 season for the Jazz:

1. Keep the players from doubting themselves and each other (Grade: C-)

2. Establish a tough defensive identity (Grade: F)

About a month later, with the Jazz at 6-21, I wrote another column: “For the Jazz, it’s all about 2016-17,” talking about what the Jazz needed to accomplish this season for the future. Some pertinent excerpts:

“This season for the Jazz is not about winning games. … The purpose is for the Jazz to do everything they possibly can to set themselves up for future playoff runs and serious contention. The target is the 2016-17 season. Coach Tyrone Corbin has 240 minutes to give out per game. These minutes should be divided up with an eye toward the 2016-17 season.

“The single biggest threat to the Jazz’s rebuilding plan is team management. The Jazz must make certain they do not get in their own way. The front office and coaches must be on the same page. Dennis Lindsey, the team’s general manager, has to ensure that the coaches realize and appreciate that every minute given to players that are not likely to be major contributors for the Jazz three seasons from now is essentially a minute gone to waste.

“The fact that the Jazz sent Gobert to the D-League is proof that fans could have legitimate reasons to worry about the Jazz getting in their own way. … If the Jazz’s purpose this season has nothing to do with making the playoffs then it has everything to do with player development. Players develop by getting on the court in meaningful situations and learning the difference between doing things right and doing things wrong.

“The Jazz make a mistake and get in their own way every time their coach worries about matchups with the other team this season or pulls a young player for making mistakes. The only long-term thing that makes sense for the Jazz is to give Favors, Burke, Hayward, Kanter and Burks 36 minutes per game. Gobert and Evans should get between 15-20 minutes per game. The other 20-30 minutes per game? Who cares?”

After the season, Kanter stated plainly that he should have played more and that the young players should have played more together.

I agree. Gobert and Evans are included in that as well.

Other objectives noted for the 2013-14 season:

1. Minutes should be divided up with an eye toward the 2016-17 season. (Grade: C-)

2. The front office and coaches must be on the same page. (Grade: D+)

3. The Jazz make a mistake and get in their own way every time their coach worries about matchups with the other team or pulls a young player for making mistakes. (Grade: D)

Overall grade for the Jazz’s progress in the 2013-14 season: D

Rebuilding process thus far

By far the best accomplishment of the Jazz’s rebuild so far was the trade of Williams. Overall, their drafting acumen from 2010 forward would appear to be decent, but certainly not without question marks.

I would say the same thing about the rebuilding process as a whole to this point — decent but certainly not without question marks. The good news is that the Jazz have not backed themselves into a corner — they have a lot of flexibility in terms of assets and cap space and could go many different directions from here.

Rebuilding grade going into the summer of 2014: C

Intrigue going forward: A+

Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

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