What Does the Perfect Off Season Look Like
Updated: Nov 21, 2018
May 2017 was a roller coaster month. Having just wrapped up an emotional April where the Jazz made the playoffs, were pitted against the LA Clippers, and escaped the First Round in dramatic fashion with a road Game 7 victory, the Utah Jazz community was ecstatic.
Not two weeks removed players and fans alike drifted down from Playoff Cloud Nine via a sweep from the league’s elite: The Golden State Warriors. The end of the season put a bookend on a successful season with a good roster who had potential for more. Only one problem: the offseason could change everything.
Fast forward to May of 2018. You need not be reminded of the offseason results (but it looks like you will be regardless). We experienced highs as fan favorite Joe Ingles committed to Utah long term and lows while George Hill, arguably the Jazz’s best point guard since Deron Williams, held out for a big payday and was rewarded elsewhere. Not to mention the unmentionable low in early July that came with our star player’s bitter exit to greener pastures. Despite the way we may still view last offseason, in all honesty, it was the perfect offseason. Not convinced? Stay tuned.
What is the perfect offseason? Let’s start with what it ISN’T. The perfect offseason isn’t signing the top dog free agent. It isn’t swinging the biggest and most talked about blockbuster trade of the year. It isn’t bringing back the entire roster just as constructed from last year.
Well, what is it then? The perfect offseason should check three boxes:
1) Fulfilling Needs
2) Maintaining Flexibility
3) Not Compromising Your Identity.
Let’s look at each individually, but first, a reminder of the Jazz’s offseason moves:
Ricky Rubio for the 2018 First Round Pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder
Joe Ingles resigns with the Jazz for 4 years / $52M
Jonas Jerebko sings with the Jazz for 2 years / $8.2M
Thabo Sefolosha signs with the Jazz for 2 years / 10.5M
Ekpe Udoh signs with the Jazz for 2 years / $6.6M
Royce O’Neal signs with the Jazz for 3 years / $3.8M
Other Two-Way Contracts signed including Nate Wolters, Erik McCree, Georges Niang
Donovan Mitchell drafted by and signs with the Jazz for 2 years / $5.6M
The Jazz were left with several voids following the departure of key starters and veterans. Primary among them was defense. Both Hill and Hayward were above average defenders and played starters minutes (at least when healthy…cough*Hill*cough…).
Experience was also missing as the new starters of the Jazz would have played fewer playoff games combined than any of the stars we’d be facing come playoff time.
Shooting was also a concern, one that was addressed by committee.
Each of these needs were filled by most (if not every) new coming Jazz man. Some had their specialties, such as Udoh and his defense or Ingles and his shooting. Others grew into roles such as Mitchell on offense and O’Neal as a defender. Sefolosha, Ekpe, Rubio, and others brought unique experiences that provided indispensable professionalism and leadership. The Utah Jazz scrapped together a committee of incoming players that filled all our needs.
We need outside shooting. The Utah Jazz hovered around the middle to upper half of the pack regarding three point attempts (13th) and three point percentage (11th). Quinn loves the three and he needs more weapons.
We need additional players who are comfortable and effective in isolation play. This is less valuable in the regular season than the playoffs, but if the Houston series tells us anything, the Jazz couldn’t take anyone off the dribble (besides Mitchell and Burks).
Finally, the Jazz need to find their missing piece at the four. The playoffs also showed us that the elite teams in the league are playing four or even five players out on the perimeter. We need someone who is more comfortable playing that far from the basket on defense and offense, regardless if they start or not.
Every contract the Jazz offered last offseason (with the exception of Joe Ingles’) has a team option halfway through. This means that the Utah Jazz can terminate the contract early and aren’t financially responsible for the canceled portion of the contract. This allows the Jazz to avoid committing long term to players until they find out which ones are long term fits.
In addition, Joe Ingles’ contract (the only long term contract signed in the offseason and the only contract without a team option) decreases on a per year basis as the contract moves forward. For example, this past year he made $14.1M while the last year of his deal will make him $10.8M. While subtle, this contract structure gives the Jazz more and more room as time goes on to make additional moves.
The Jazz are going to make changes. They see the potential of the team as it stands but the front office is very aware of our weaknesses and will be making moves. Moves in the draft give financial flexibility because you can receive average to above average performance on a low salary (by league standards). I expect a draft pick by the Jazz who has upside but can also contribute in some way relatively soon. I also expect additional contracts with team options and/or descending annual salaries. I don’t expect the Jazz to secure a $20M/year or more type player this offseason, but I do expect them to go after a free agent of that sort in 2019.If that’s the case, the Jazz will want as much flexibility on their side as possible. It could mean all the difference.
Not Compromising Your Identity:
Around the trade deadline of the 2016-17 season, a name that swirled around the Utah Jazz and the rumor mill was Lou Williams, a gifted offensive player who played for the LA Lakers. The Jazz never ended up pulling the trigger. I believe they stayed the course because trading for Lou would have compromised our identity. This team is built on defense; Lou Williams doesn’t play defense. For all of his offensive abilities, the most important abilities to Quinn and his staff are defensive.
Instead, Royce O’Neal, Ekpe Udoh, and Thabo Sefolosha were signed. They each played key defensive roles during the season. Udoh secured the second unit during Rudy’s stint with injury. Sefolosha played the four spot off the bench most of the season, usually marking the opposing team’s offensive weapon. Royce O’Neal was invaluable during the playoffs as he took successful turns guarding Paul George, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Chris Paul.
The Houston Rockets series taught us that we need better offense. The temptation will be to swap (figuratively, not literally) a great defensive player for a great offensive player, however, that would compromise our identity. We need to turn a roster spot from a good defensive player to a good offensive AND defensive player.
Right, easier said than done. How many good defensive and offensive players are there in the league? Hard to say, but most of them are premier, beaucoup bucks (ask Rudy what it means) type players. If the Jazz can upgrade their offense while not compromising their defense, they are on their way to a perfect offseason.
Still not convinced? Just remember that had Gordon stayed, we would have a money problem and Donovan wouldn’t be the same player he is today. Had we resigned George Hill, he’d likely continue to struggle with injuries and we’d have an even bigger money problem. We’d still have needs but with no way to fill them. We’d be good, but our current roster has the chance to be great.
Last year’s offseason sucked…and it looked like the season would suck. There’s no sugar coating it. Up until Joe Ingles’ heroics in Detroit (OT forcing layup and two threes in OT to secure the victory), it felt like it sucked. Good news? This offseason won’t suck, and neither will next year.
We have Rudy, we have Donovan, we have Joe. Who knows who we will have next year. So long as we fulfill our needs, stay flexible, and stay true to our identity, we’ll have a killer roster. Even if last year’s offseason history repeats itself, a seemingly lackluster collection of new players can turn out to be the perfect offseason and a near ideal season.