Despite Dennis Lindsey's warnings, it's been a surprisingly exciting offseason for the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz general manager has reshaped the roster with three seperate trades, bringing in three proven NBA veterans while also selecting three second-rounders. Our NBA experts gave quick breakdowns of the how the Jazz have done so far overall and by each transaction.
Beyond the obvious — the Golden State Warriors — few teams have had as potentially impactful an off-season as the Utah Jazz. Going into the summer, they had some glaring needs: leadership, shooting, perimeter defenders and an overall increase in depth and talent.
The Jazz have aggressively addressed these through the acquisitions of cagey veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw. While it cost them the No. 12 pick, Hill is a vastly underrated two-way player on a remarkable contract ($8 million this season).
Johnson, a seven-time All-Star, adds wing size and perimeter marksmanship. At $11 million a season, he, too, was a great deal for Utah. Diaw fills Trevor Booker’s front line void and adds deft passing and championship experience. They got him for a song. On paper, all three seem to fit head coach Quin Snyder’s style and the Jazz culture perfectly. While the pairing did not work, general manager managed to trade guard Trey Burke for a second-round pick. The move is bittersweet, but it could benefit both parties.
Furthermore, they could have a sleeper in Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy. Guaranteeing the contracts of Jeff Withey and Shelvin Mack are formalities. Add in healthy players Dante Exum and Alec Burks and things are looking up for the Utah Jazz.
Lay-it-on-the-line hustler Trevor Booker served as a key member of the Utah Jazz rotation during his tenure in Salt Lake City. Always doing the little things that never showed up in the box score, Booker generated a defensive real plus-minus of 2.37 last year, good for eighth in the league among power forwards. His presence will surely be missed.
That said, George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw look like solid additions and should help the Jazz rise into the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
In the past two years, Utah point guards have combined for a PER of 11.9, three points below league average. Hill? 17.3.
Also, after averaging just 97.7 points per game last season, the Jazz needed to bring in a proven scorer, and they did just that by signing Johnson, who averaged 13.4 points per game on 51.8 percent shooting — including 41.7 from deep — in 24 games with the Miami Heat last year.
Diaw, Utah's latest pickup, brings veteran leadership and a winning mindset to the club. In his 13 seasons, the Frenchman has played in 8.3 playoff games per year.
If everyone stays healthy, these moves should put the Jazz in a position to make a run at the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
George Hill: A-
The point guard position is no longer a question mark. Well, at least it’s not questionable. You can argue over who should start opening day and who might start by the end of the season, but gone are the days of the point guard position being a weakness for the Utah Jazz. No more Ronnie Price, no more Jamal Tinsley, no more Earl Watson, no more Sundiata Gaines, no more Trey Burke. I love and appreciate what those guys did for the Jazz, but the Jazz now have a bona fide starter — maybe two, with Exum. Time to unleash the dragon!
Utah gets an experienced point guard with 64 playoff starts under his belt and a career 37.6 percent shooter from 3-point range while giving up a top-12 talent. If I already had a bunch of Trey Lyleses at different positions, I would give up a Trey Lyles for a starting point guard. The Jazz also get points for beefing up the position and for allowing Dante Exum to return to a low-pressure situation. If the Jazz can re-sign Hill, this grade becomes an easy A+. A strong run in this season’s playoffs, which will happen, might help convince Hill to stay on, even with the threat of Exum taking the starting reins in the next year or so.
Joe Johnson: B+
Scottie Pippen, Kevin McHale, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill and James Worthy are all seven-time all-stars. And now the man, who will most likely be first off the bench for Utah, is too. Though the Jazz may finally get a first all-star since Deron Williams (2011), it most likely won’t be Joe Johnson — I’m talking about Gordon Hayward. But that’s not why the Jazz signed Johnson.
Johnson provides depth, basically replacing Chris Johnson with a seven-time all-star; versatility, can play one through 4; experience, has played in 101 playoff games and started all but his first six; leadership, a 15-year veteran, and did I mention a seven-time all-star; and shooting, a career 37 percent shooter from deep.
Johnson, at ywo years, $22 million, is a better value than Luol Deng (four years, $72M), Solomon Hill (four years, $52M), who started three games last year and Jared Dudley (three years, $30M). Johnson is declining, but even at 35, hasn’t dropped off the map completely. His durability and sagacity should prove helpful throughout the season and throughout a solid playoff run.
Trey Burke: B
The Jazz get a second-round draft pick from the Washington Wizards in 2021 and ship off one of seven point guards on the roster. We all knew this was coming. The Jazz did exactly what they had to and got basically all they could get. The Wizards whiffed on Kevin Durant and will probably be worse than they are now in five years. So at least there’s that.
Boris Diaw: A
Utah swaps a second-round pick most people forgot about for an NBA champion. Is Boris Diaw an A? Probably not, but the deal most certainly is. Diaw fills another need for the Jazz, a floor-stretching big man. Most indications point to Trey Lyles being the primary big man off the bench this coming season — and what a start to the Utah Jazz Summer League. Diaw can drop some knowledge on the young Canadian (not French though, right?) and drop some French on his countrymate Rudy Gobert. Diaw has 40 starts in the playoffs. And you never complain when you get a Spurs guy — now we have four! Four counting Dennis Lindsey, without whom none of this would be possible, and Quin Snyder, who should finish top five in coach of the year voting next season.
After analyzing last season, there were three things Dennis Lindsey needed to address: adding a point guard to give Dante Exum a soft landing, depth and more veterans.
With the additions of George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw, the Jazz checked off every box on their list. All these players can play more than one position. This will help Utah be able to switch on every possession defensively and have the ability to play multiple lineups depending on the matchup.
These additions also give the Jazz a ton of depth. Coach Quin Snyder will be able to play a 10-man rotation during the year if he wants to help keep players fresh and healthy. If injuries do plague the team again, it is much better equipped to handle them. Utah also added veteran and playoff experience (298 games combined) with these guys.
Lindsey addressed all these needs and only sacrificed this season’s 12th pick in the draft and last season’s second rounder, Olivier Hanlan. He also didn’t put the Jazz in salary cap purgatory while doing this. Utah still has roughly $10 million to use on a contract extension for Derrick Favors and will have no long-term money tied up when the rest of its young core’s extensions are due, which will be in the next 2-4 years.