SALT LAKE CITY – It took about 90 minutes before Dennis Lindsey moved. Not that he had just been sitting there. He had been working on this nights, days, lunchtimes and drive times.
Probably prayer time, too.
The Jazz general manager does these things. It’s hardly surprising he moved the Jazz up into lottery territory with a draft night trade on Thursday. This man is never off the clock. He makes algebraic geometry look relaxing. So when he triggered the trade that sent Trey Lyles and the 24th pick to Denver in exchange for Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell, it was no shock.
It was fulfillment.
For the fifth time in five years, Lindsey made at least one draft day transaction. He brought in a player who is not a great shooter, but a great specimen. At 6-foot-3, Mitchell has a 6-10 wingspan. That accounted for 70 steals and 17 blocks, earning him All-ACC first team and All-Defensive Team honors.
“His dimensions are unique,” Lindsey said.
Clearly, Lindsey plans to stick with his philosophy of grinding down opponents. With Rudy Gobert already snarling traffic, this will help ensure that opponents don’t range freely from the outside.
Meanwhile, Lindsey moved later by trading picks Nos. 30 and 42 to the Lakers for the 28th pick. That too was designed to make the Jazz more versatile. With that selection they gained Tony Bradley, from North Carolina, who has a 7-foot-5 wingspan.
If the two Jazz draftees aren’t good ballplayers, they can always work as pickpockets. Threading passes through them will take effort.
In trading Lyles and the 24th pick (Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon), Lindsey didn’t get away with larceny, but he clearly came out ahead. Lyles disappointed last year, after a promising rookie season. Lindsey jumped his team up in the draft to the 13th spot — 11 above where the Jazz were slotted. DraftExpress, Sports Illustrated and NBA.com had Mitchell going 11th in their mock drafts.
“I love that organization,” Mitchell said of the Jazz. “I didn’t know much about the city, but once I got there, it opened my eyes. It’s a beautiful city.”
He called the draft “one of the more nerve-wracking experiences of your life, but definitely a good type of nerve-wracking experience.”
This was far from the first time Lindsey made something happen on draft day. In 2013 he traded the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng to Minnesota for draft rights to the No. 9 pick, Trey Burke. That didn’t work out especially well. That same year he traded the rights to Erick Green and cash to Denver in exchange for the rights to Rudy Gobert.
That one worked out stifiliciously.
Last year Lindsey traded the rights to Taurean Prince to Atlanta in a three-team deal that got George Hill to Utah.
This is a considerable departure from the old Jazz. In the 1980s and ‘90s, they usually didn’t do more than make their picks and go home. How much movement did they need? They were a perennial contender.
While the current Jazz already have Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Dante Exum who can play shooting guard, all have had problems with injuries and/or reliability.
Early in the evening there wasn’t a sound from the Jazz. Minnesota made a trade for Jimmy Butler. Boston was reportedly close to trading for Paul George. That would actually help out the Jazz. Since George and Gordon Hayward are both small forwards, why have two?
Because two stars are better than one. And because small lineups are a nice option. And because George has said he’d like to play with Hayward. Boston wants to win a championship right now.
Still, such a deal wouldn’t hurt the Jazz’s chances of keeping Hayward.
Regardless, the Jazz improved by not waiting. They upgraded their defensive versatility by picking Mitchell, whose reach is so long he goes by the nickname “Spider,” and Bradley, who is the answer to the question, “Can you reach that for me?”
Now comes the hard part for Lindsey: preventing Hayward and Hill from leaving via free agency.
Trust me, he’s working on it.