SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz fully intend on keeping Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert on the roster.
As part of the annual end-of-season media sessions, executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik spoke with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday, covering a wide range of topics, including the future of Mitchell and Gobert with the team.
In attempting not to violate any of the NBA’s tampering rules, Lindsey didn’t outright say that extensions would be offered to Mitchell and Gobert, but in as many words as he could, he insinuated that the Jazz would pursue locking down contracts to keep both players on the Jazz roster as soon as the window is open.
“I’m limited on what I can say in regards to extensions and renegotiations per NBA rules. With that said, we’re extremely pleased at who both of those players are as people,” Lindsey said. “It’s really, really hard to get core franchise-level talent in any market, big or small, but it’s exponentially hard to get that level of talent that has a high level of character and competitiveness. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re working to add players of Rudy and Donovan’s physical talent and competitive makeup and so by definition we’re going to want to keep those type of players moving forward.”
Both Lindsey and Zanik added that they would be exhausting all options to try to improve the team during the course of the offseason, including through the draft, free agency, trade opportunities and with internal development, but noted that the unique circumstances that the league is dealing with make planning a little difficult without definitive knowledge of when key dates through the offseason will occur and what the salary cap for next season looks like.
Here are the highlights of the rest of the interview with Lindsey and Zanik:
- The Jazz know that while they improved in shooting and offensive production this year, leading the league in 3-point efficiency through the regular season, they lost their defensive edge. The Jazz went from having the second-best defensive rating in the NBA in the 2018-19 season to 13th for the 2019-20 season. Changing that is going to be a high priority this offseason.
“Anybody who could obviously have defensive integrity at their position, can be an active, athletic defender will be someone that would be of interest to us, especially if they don’t compromise the spacing,” Lindsey said.
- Roster evaluation is ongoing and so are draft, free agency and offseason preparations. But those plans can only move so far until the league sets in stone some cap numbers and dates for the 2020-21 season.
“The NBA is working hard with the players association to get those things figured out,” Zanik said. “Hopefully we’ll have more guidance sooner rather than later and then once those dates are in place we’ll get to work on specific things.”
- Head coach Quin Snyder’s main objective and goal when the NBA reconvened in Orlando was to reconnect the team in a way that would be promising for the future. In that respect, the Jazz front office is pleased with where the team stands and the togetherness of the group.
- There is a level of understanding regarding the Jazz roster in Orlando and the fact that missing Bojan Bogdanovic for the postseason and Mike Conley for the first two games of the series against the Denver Nuggets was a blow to continuity.
That’s not to say there is satisfaction in the way that the Jazz’s season ended in the bubble. The front office felt that the team had the ability to beat the Nuggets in the first round and the defeat was disappointing all around.
“There was going to be increased usage (for Mitchell) with Bojan being hurt and with Mike missing the first two games, that’s just the way things happened,” Lindsey said. “No excuses. Those aren’t excuses as to why we lost the series. We had more than enough to compete with.”
- The evolution of Mitchell’s game, especially on the offensive end, and what he was able to accomplish in the playoffs this season is an incredibly positive thing to look to as far as the Jazz’s future is concerned.
“He made huge strides during the bubble,” Zanik said.
- The bubble experience has led to a lot of interesting data, but none so interesting to the Jazz front office as the physical fitness and well-being of the players when travel is reduced. Lindsey noted that using that information for the future and moving toward an MLB-series style of play, where teams stay in one market to play multiple games, could be beneficial.
“The players feel better and, frankly, we need to listen to the players at every turn,” he said.