With Donovan Mitchell gone, the Jazz rebuild is underway. But how long will it take?
In a move that was very expected, the Jazz dealt their All-Star guard on Thursday, paving the way for the franchise’s rebuild to begin in earnest
We knew that this was coming.
As soon as the Utah Jazz sent Rudy Gobert to Minnesota, it was only a matter of time before Donovan Mitchell would also be traded away. There are still more dominos to fall, but the Jazz rebuild is officially underway.
The Jazz entered the offseason with an aging roster, two All-Stars who clearly weren’t going to be able to win the Jazz a title, few young players with upside for the future, and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to draft assets.
After finalizing a deal to trade Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers, trading Gobert to the Timberwolves, Royce O’Neale to the Brooklyn Nets and Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz have already amassed a wild amount of youth and draft capital.
Through those three deals, the Jazz have acquired six players who are 25 or younger (Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Talen Horton-Tucker), the 2022 No. 14 and No. 22 overall draft picks (Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler), eight future first-round picks and three future pick swaps.
That is the foundation on which the Jazz’s future rests.
There are more building blocks to come. Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson are all still valuable trade assets that could net more youth and more picks, and the Jazz have plenty of interested parties who are looking for the services of solid, reliable and proven role players.
But any trade that involves the remainder of the Jazz’s playoff squad will only serve to bolster what has already begun.
After six straight years of playoff appearances the Jazz are tearing it all down in hopes of building it back better. Though the playoff berths showed promise, that promise never materialized into anything more, and the Jazz became a team that was bound for the middle of the playoff pack without a chance to really be in contention for an NBA title.
A full NBA rebuild is not easy on a fanbase. The Jazz will be racking up more losses than anything else over the course of the season in an attempt to increase the odds of turning their own 2023 draft pick into a top selection.
There are going to be young players who go through growing pains and develop on the court, in front of everyone, under the lights, rather than behind the scenes with the player development coaches.
Newly minted head coach Will Hardy will be tested. Not only will his job require him to find talent that is sustainable for the future and develop that talent, but he’ll have to find ways to keep a young, losing team motivated and hopeful for what could be.
The Jazz front office will have to navigate the 2022-23 season and seasons to come with a sense of patience and balance before choosing the perfect moment to push back into the fold. Timing will be everything.
There are going to be fans whose support wavers through the rebuilding process, but the players never forget the fans who stand behind them when things aren’t easy and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Every game can be viewed as a scheduled loss, but there are also going to be games where a young player shines brighter than expected and puts on a show that gives a glimpse of what could be down the road.
Progress is going to be measured differently. For years the Mitchell and Gobert-led Jazz were trying to make the leap from good to great, but this won’t be that team anymore. The NBA playoffs can’t be used to measure improvement for this team anymore.
Instead progress will have to be based on if a player can cut down on their turnovers, if another can improve their passing, can learn to defend without fouling. Learning to celebrate small and moral victories will be absolutely necessary.
This is the beginning of a new era of Jazz basketball. Under the new ownership of Ryan Smith, with Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik at the helm of the front office, with Will Hardy in charge of the development of the team, the Jazz rebuild is officially underway.