His first official comment since then Trade All-Star Donovan Mitchell He made clear what each person had already envisioned their thinking. But a cloud of cumulus intrigue – doubt? Hanging all over the Utah Jazz, still.
Let’s break down what he said in his explanatory statement on Thursday sentence by sentence and go from there.
1) “It was clear that in order to improve our chance of creating a team that could truly compete and achieve sustainable success, we needed to move our roster. …”
What Ainge is saying here is that jazz was stuck. They’ve been in that dreaded NBA purgatory meant for teams that are good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to win the title. Jazz lovers know all about this space.
It is a rare air that Ainge seeks to breathe. Some bands, like jazz, blast and skate on those bottom lines almost endlessly.
The irony is intense there because winning the championship is what Mitchell and Rudy Gobert Used for underscores and circles in bold red ink before and during most seasons. Joubert insisted over and over again: “We can win the championship.” Mitchell said he agreed.
Ainge disagreed, having seen from afar and then up close the jazz flaws in the playoffs. This team was neither good nor big enough to climb to the top.
This means the team can stay the way it is and sell tickets and keep hitting its head against a brick wall, over and over again, and suffer the same outcome or it can throw everything to the wind and build again.
To make matters worse, the Jazz had so few options, both financially and personally, that they saw that they had spoiled their future drafts on previous deals and bank accounts on their superstars and huddled in a few extras that weren’t cheap, but not talented enough to make a difference in the progress to the required level.
Management drafted and prepared coaches for these superstars, and then the team unloaded huge deals on Joubert and Mitchell, steps the team must get right to grow to championship level. Not only does the aforementioned sanitizer get stuck in the middle, it gets stuck in the middle with suddenly empty pockets, limiting flexibility for future moves.
The Jazz Department, as mentioned, added role players, and also paid them, but…
2) “…in trading Rudy and now Donovan,” Ainge continued, “it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to source quality talent and choose our best position going forward. …”
Because the Jazz had those stellar assets, which they couldn’t capitalize on competitively, and couldn’t find a way to stick together to steer the team to the top, they believed that they individually were more valuable to other teams, and therefore, in asset return, to themselves.
They deal with draft picks, quality picks, and unprotected first rounds. And that’s all they got. The Jazz now has 13 first-round picks over the next seven years. They can mostly use these picks in whatever way they like, either holding it or trading it to experienced players to bolster their efforts going forward. They have choices to do whatever they want, although based on the mountain slide of choices they got for Mitchell and Goubert, they likely underestimated those choices as currency to get, if they so chose, a difference maker they had their eyes on.
The unanswered question is, can jazz pull at least two players with their picks that would be better than Joubert and Mitchell?
Also, the Jazz team got some respected NBA players in their deals, not just in the picks. That’s a blessing and a curse because the team now wants to develop its guys, already well-established guys, and especially the 2022 first-round picks – Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji – that they’ve received in their deals, but basically they want the jazz that sucks in the near future because they’re in tank mode. They want to be bad enough to be great in the end.
3) “…we have a plan in place to help us put together the championship team our fans deserve….”
A signal to fans that jazz doesn’t do all this of its own free will. They obviously can’t be sure what potential future stars will be available to them, but, God knows, the numbers favor them. Even if they missed some shots. They want you to know that they have a basic blueprint for what they need and what they want. And don’t forget that you all deserve something better than what was there before.
4) “…it will take time to prepare our list.”
Ainge is begging the fans to be patient, not to turn their back on the team because it wasn’t designed to be good for some time, and it never will be.
5) “…we all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”
This is important because, first, it’s better that vision be crystal clear, better insight, and second, Ainge is the one who will take responsibility for whatever the outcome of all this may be. Perhaps he has enough professional pride to care deeply about this because the “work” would be too heavy to lift.
Essentially, what Ainge has done by making these trades, and there will be more jazz players yet to deal, is to throw the responsibility squarely on his head and shoulders. A Jazz insider told me that Ainge is one of the few NBA executives with the smarts and acumen to get this kind of deal-making done, but his skill revealed so far leaves less than half the job done.
He has a lot to do, and the most encouraging part for jazz and their fans is this: he seems to know it.