What a roller-coaster ride. Though this certainly was not the Jazz's finest hour, it was still an enjoyable season with plenty about which to be happy. It really hit me how much the Jazz had changed when I was listening to the national anthem at the Jazz – Nuggets game. The only Jazzman from last year suited up was Paul Millsap. Literally everyone else was a brand new face. Who would have guessed? I remember last year looking at the Bulls and being slightly of the envious that their roster turns over a lot simply because of the fact they get to see a lot of different players whereas the Jazz hardly ever budged. After such a dramatic turn, I realize how much I appreciate the stability the Jazz had. That is not to say that I am lamenting the new players in Jazz uniforms, but I hope we start back on the path we were on before. Anyway, I have some disjointed notes on the season and how it went.
Upon further ponderings and evaluations of the Deron Williams trade, I have come up with this rational for why was, in fact, a necessary trade. Or, at least, as a fan proudly blinded by his team pride, a justification for my team as why the trade was necessary. Let's look at it this way: the core of the Jazz from earlier this season was not going to win a championship, now or later. We could not chalk it up to youth because other than Hayward and Evans, our team is pretty old, or at least in their prime. Essentially, as time progressed, we were not going to get any better. Even after making some moves, such as getting Bell back or acquiring Al Jefferson, our team stayed more or less the same in terms of competitiveness. It also was apparent that we were not one good player away from championship; we were at least two good players away from even contention.
I can only imagine that the management saw this too. We were far too mediocre. We were a team destined to be in the playoffs year in and year out, exiting the playoffs after the first round, second at best. We would get drafts and trades just enough to stay in the same spot because we would not get high draft picks and Utah never was a free agent destination. Simply put, Deron Williams is not good enough to win a championship with the (good) role players that surrounded him. More than that, we were not going to acquire the pieces necessary to win a championship in the foreseeable future. As such, the management decided to try to put us in a position to win a championship the only way we really can: the draft.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, ESPN posted another story (ESPN.com) airing the same grievances I have.
I have both good and bad feelings about this trade. Let's start with the good. The Jazz were in a bad situation poised to get worse. We were going to be MeloDrama part II and it was not going to end up pretty. Deron has continually expressed his frustration with the coaching staff and front office. With no real prospects of improving the team on the horizon, it was all but sure that Deron was aiming to jump ship. When I saw Deron picked to play in the All-Star Game, I cringed a bit because it was just to remind him that Utah only has one star and is not going to attract any more. Just like Deron said, Utah just is not a destination where stars want to play. He tried to bring in some big names himself (I ask myself who, but I believe him) but was unsuccessful. The point is this: Utah was stuck in mediocrity. We did not have the supporting cast around Deron to win it all and yet we were not bad enough to get any of the impact players from the draft. We were stuck in rut where we were a perpetual low-seeded playoff team.
After I read the news that Portland had offered Wesley Matthews a ridiculous contract, I starting preparing for the long haul. I started preparing myself for .500 seasons and 7th seed playoffs and early exits. With Booze and Korver already hitting the road and the Jazz already strapped for cash in a quickly dwindling player market, I found myself less than thrilled with the prospects. As far as I could tell, we were quickly sinking back into the margins of the NBA.
Some of you may read the title and say, "Who says the NBA is ruined in the first place?" Well, the NBA of today certainly isn't the NBA of my childhood.
In my childhood, a player got drafted into the NBA and he just accepted he was going to be there. He tried to build the organization and in the process his image, his brand was built was along with it. Look at Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp, Glenn Robinson, and many, many others. They didn't seek (besides Malone one year masquerade as a Laker) to be international superstars; they became international superstars because they did well on their respective teams. Teams were built by drafting well, trading wisely, and developing young talent. This is what made the NBA (and frankly, American professional sports outside of baseball) entertaining. Every team every year was on relatively equal footing and thus everyone had an equal shot at the title. If your team wasn't good this year, you had hope for next year.