Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Dante Exum (Australia) is interviewed after being selected as the number five overall pick to the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Grading the Offseason for the Utah Jazz Thus Far

Coach

The offseason, and grading the offseason for the Utah Jazz thus far, began with telling Corbin he would no longer be the head coach. The Jazz struggles under Corbin, primarily defensively, were clear and opened the door for the front office going in another direction. Particularly frustrating for me was watching players such as Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams receive significant playing time late in the season. I understand early in the year, before they fell so far behind in the win column that the playoffs no longer were an option. Once that occurred (and it occurred fairly early) the focus should have been on getting the young players playing time and playing time together. The Jazz “core” of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors only played together for 111 minutes the entire season. That simply cannot be the case when you are trying to develop a young team and they are no longer a legitimate contender for the playoffs.

Roughly a month after Corbin left the Jazz hired former Hawks assistant, Quin Snyder. Snyder is primarily known for his ability to develop players, a must for such a young team. He is also a pick and roll enthusiast, as evident by his 12 page document on running the pick and roll. I think he will be an excellent coach, who will help the young players develop their game. Particularly of the young guys that were on the roster last year I believe Alec Burks and Derrick Favors will benefit the most from Snyder’s tutelage. Burks has the ability to get to the rim, almost at will, but despite a solid percentage from three (35% last season) he is not considered a threat. The biggest problem is he pushes the ball when he shoots from three. If Snyder can help him to shoot with the same form he does from mid-range and Burks puts in the time to make it natural he could add a deep game to his arsenal and be a very good, if not great, offensive weapon. Favors has all the athletic ability in the world, but was inconsistent. I think playing in a system where everyone knows their role (too many times players looked lost on defense under Corbin) will immediately improve Favors’ game, but helping his form, footwork, etc. will allow him to use his athletic ability to dominate the paint.

the only thing in which could have made the higher even better was if Snyder had been able to hire Messina as an assistant, but who knows if that was ever a real possibility. I give the Jazz a B+. Probably the best choice available for the team, but he does not have experience as an NBA head coach, so as good as he may look on paper there is just some uncertainty as to how good a coach he will be.

Draft

When the Jazz fell to 5th in the draft many fans were frustrated as they were going to miss out on a chance at a player considered to be a potential franchise player. Fortunately for the Jazz Dante Exum fell to 5. The draft simply worked out perfectly for the Jazz, not just because Exum fell, but because of who was taken ahead of him. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were going to be the first two picks, but who went afterwards was in question. With Joel Embiid it did not put the Jazz in a position to either a) draft him and risk Embiid being injury prone, thus throwing away the pick or, b) pass on him and risk Embiid overcoming the injuries and becoming a star. The Jazz no longer have to worry about that as he was taken prior to the 5th pick. If he does become a great player, oh well, the Jazz never had a chance to draft him anyways.

Then the Magic selected Aaron Gordon with the 4th pick. Aaron Gordon is a jumpshot away from being a potential stud. If he learns to shoot the ball, he could be great. The Jazz dodged that bullet as well by having Gordon drafted before their pick. Jazz fans will not have to watch Embiid or Gordon light up the NBA in agony knowing they were someone the Jazz passed on.

Then, as if Exum falling was not enough, there sat Rodney Hood with the 23rd pick. Hood, not only provided the Jazz with a great value pick, as he was projected in the late lottery or one of the first picks afterwards, but also filled a major need. The Jazz do not have anyone on the team who is a threat from deep. Hood gives them that threat, along with someone who is a leader, can drive to the basket, and set up teammates (he was a pg in high school).

I give the Jazz an A. The only reason it is not an A+ is because I would have liked to see them get more for the 2nd round pick. They picked a pretty solid prospect for the 2nd round and traded him for a 2nd rounder that will be a lower pick and in a year where the draft isn’t as deep as this draft class. I understand the Jazz saying that was the best they could do and didn’t want to bring in three rookies, but I would think they could have sent Jarnell Stokes to the D-League and kept him there while he developed. Similar (although different as they would have to sign him to a contract) to stashing a player overseas.

Summer League

The Jazz played the minimum five games in this years Summer League. However, there was glimpses of hope for the Jazz. To start, Exum struggled to score and made some mistakes, but showcased his lightning quick first step, ability to get to the rim, and a swagger/demeanor that left zero worries in my mind about his future (can’t really explain it, but it just left me very excited to watch the Jazz). He was also better defensively than expected. Overall, Exum struggled a bit, but showed Jazz fans enough to get excited about in his potential to be a star.

Hood was a bit streaky in Vegas as shown by his first game going 1-11 from three, then going 7-10 in the second game. However, despite being a bit inconsistent from deep it was the other parts of his game that made me excited. His ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim as well as his willingness to dish it back out once he broke down the defense was a lot of fun to watch. I just hope he is able to get some extended playing time this season.

Rudy Gobert was the highlight of the Summer League. It felt like he blocked or altered every single shot in the paint. He was everything you would want in a rim protector. Dominating the paint defensively and controlling the boards. Then, as to make it even better he actually played pretty well on the offensive side of the ball. He simply was a lot of fun to watch.

The downside of Summer League was once again Trey Burke. Despite Burke struggling in Summer League last season I fully expected him to come in and be one of the stars of the tournament. Instead he looked small, slow, and someone who couldn’t knock down shots. He shot 30% from the field and 14% from three. That simply cannot continue. He was a Rookie 1st team selection last season (granted it was a really weak rookie class) he should have been one of, of not the best players in each of the games.

I give the Summer League a C+. Gobert was the only player (under contract) to play well in every game he played. Exum and Hood struggled at times, which is expected with rookies, especially Exum who hasn’t played competitive basketball in months and even then it was against high schoolers. The reason for the lower grade is Burke. I was just extremely disappointed with his play.

Trades/Acquisitions

The biggest offseason move in this category is matching the contract for Gordon Hayward. This has garnered a lot of opinions on both sides of the fence. I for one think the Jazz had to match the deal. Just think about it, we have been hearing for years now about this young “core” group of players on the team that were going to eventually lead the Jazz to contention. Now you are going to let one of the biggest pieces go when you had a ton of cap space? The Jazz had to spend the money on someone. If not Hayward then who? It was either overpay for a 24 year old player who is only going to get better, or overpay for an older player who is probably outside their prime and won’t help the Jazz in the long term. Hayward is a player who does everything well, but nothing great. He is not a go to offensive weapon, as we learned last season, but what he is is a great piece to the puzzle. He is a great 2nd or 3rd option for a team. Just watch, as soon as someone else on the team emerges as the top offensive threat you are going to see Haywards shooting numbers not only increase from where they were before last season, but exceed those numbers. He is simply a great piece to have on the team as he passes, rebounds, and scores. Not many players in the league are as diverse as Hayward.

The Jazz traded Diante Garrett for Steve Novak and a 2nd round pick. My first take on the trade was pretty excited. Novak gives them a stretch big and someone they were able to acquire for next to nothing (Garretts contract was not guaranteed). Then not too long after the Celtics took part in a three team trade in which they received Marcus Thornton and a 1st round pick. This is a trade I think the Jazz should have made. Not only is Thornton a better player than Novak, but obviously a 1st round pick is better than a 2nd. However, it was still a solid move for the Jazz.

The Jazz traded John Lucas, Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy for Carrick Felix, 2nd round pick, and $1 million. Essentially the Jazz were able to trade three non-guaranteed contracts in which they probably wouldn’t have kept anyways and turn it into assets and someone who may be able to help the team down the road. Felix probably won’t see the floor much this season, but he is entering only his 2nd season in the league (2nd round pick last year). What he provides the Jazz is a defensive player who can hit threes. Maybe he doesn’t pan out, but it not then they didn’t give up anything they weren’t already going to give up anyways.

The Jazz also signed Trevor Booker. This move simply gives the Jazz some depth at the forward position. I don’t know how much Booker will play, but it is nice to know the Jazz have a little depth if need be.

I give the Jazz a B in this area. Every move they made was solid, but not spectacular. They simply kept the core intact and provided depth to put around the young team and coach.

Tags: NBA Free Agency NBA Offseason Utah Jazz

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