I will be the first to admit that we’ll have a much better answer to this question 1 year from now. For the time being, I’ve had some thoughts on this that I’ve been wanting to get out there and then we can revisit this next offseason. A major theme for this season I’ve been trying to pass along to Jazz fans is that we need to enjoy this season. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to have ups and downs. It’s going to be a season that we have not seen for a very long time. A possible (most likely is more accurate) starting 5 of guys 23 or younger. Arguably the most athleticism, overall, that has been assembled on a Utah Jazz team. I expect on offense the ball to exchange hands quickly and that this young team will try to fast break as often as possible. I expect a tenacious effort on D that will be fun to watch. Most of all I expect to enjoy watching a young team grow and develop together and I’m excited for the opportunity. I really couldn’t care less about wins and losses this year. We should all be excited, because this isn’t going to last forever. It may only be for this season.
The reality is the Jazz cannot afford financially to keep these young talented players together. They are handcuffed by salary cap restrictions and small market cash flow. They simply cannot function like the Lakers, Nets and Knicks that can reach into deep pockets and pay millions of dollars in tax penalties. With those penalties going up each year, even those big spenders are looking for ways to reduce payroll. The Jazz have done a tremendous job of assembling young talent and a situation where they can watch to see who is the cream that rises to the top. They will most likely keep 3 of the 5 young talented players they have to be their cornerstones and then build around them the best supporting cast they can. This has been en vogue in the NBA for quite a while now (Remember Stockton, Malone, Hornacek? and more recently Williams, Boozer, Okur) and the Jazz are trending in that direction.
So who will this Big 3 be? There are many factors that will go into determining this. I get the feeling that the Jazz really want their Big 3 to be Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Gordon Hayward is their best player right now, Derrick Favors has all the talent in the world and they moved up to get Trey Burke to be their franchise point guard. For those scoring at home that’s a PG, SG and F/C. Sound familiar? It should. Dennis Lindsey had the same set up in San Antonio with PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili, and F/C Tim Duncan. (Please keep in mind I am merely pointing out that these players play the same position as these future Hall of Famers. I realize they have yet to put together a comparable body of work. I believe the Jazz are implementing the same concept in hopes of similar outcomes). Once these young players prove themselves, Lindsey can go to work and put together a supporting cast that truly complements these players.
Let’s talk a little about the 2 players I left out: Alec Burks and Enes Kanter. I think Kanter is going to have a monster year this year and will have a big impact on the future of this franchise. He’s either going to play so well that the Jazz decide to go with him instead of Favors or his trade value will skyrocket and the Jazz could net themselves a top 5 pick in next year’s draft. The Jazz already have 2 picks next year, one of which will be a lottery pick. If Kanter has the type of year I think he’s capable of he could very well net the Jazz a top 5 or top 3 pick in next year’s draft. A pick that high could be another franchise changing player which is why we’ll definitely be returning to this subject next year. Or the Jazz could simply decide to keep these young bigs together and let Kanter become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. Alec Burks is interesting. I think he’s going to have a nice season but he won’t command anywhere near the max. If he and the Jazz can work out a reasonable extension next offseason, then he could stick around as one of those key role players and the Jazz could sneak away with 4 of their 5 young guys intact. If someone extends an offer sheet in 2015 the Jazz deem unreasonable they will let him walk and find someone else. Or he could be traded by that point in time anyway. So many things can happen from now until then, but it’s fun to talk about and as fans we can.
The Jazz will have some big decisions to make in the near future. This is why it’s so important to enjoy this season and the highs and lows it will bring. We will see new leaders be made and who separates themselves from the pack. It’s an exciting time to be a fan. Let’s have fun watching our young team because it’s something that may not happen again for a very long time.