By John Hooper
Since Gordon Hayward's decision to sign with the Celtics as a free agent, I've spent way too much time thinking about the future of the Utah Jazz, especially for someone who's neither part of their organization nor a long-time fan of the club. There was something particularly gut-wrenching about watching the blueprint of a team that's built its roster patiently and thoughtfully being ripped to shreds by a single Player's Tribune article.
In this most recent season, the Jazz finally broke through and reached the playoffs after a four year drought. After an impressive postseason performance to cap off the year, Utah seemed on the verge of a period of sustained success behind their two homegrown cornerstones, Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Despite winning over 50 games for the first time since 2010, this past season could've been even better if they hadn't been bit so severely by the injury bug. Simply put, last year was a great year for Utah and all signs indicated that the future was even brighter, as long as their core was kept intact.
The good news for Jazz fans is that I'm here to help out, which is almost as good as watching Dwight Howard stop giving all fucks and troll fourteen year olds online. Basically, I like seeing small market teams compete despite the disadvantages they have when it comes to acquiring and keeping talent on their rosters, and I like seeing the teams that have front offices that make smart decisions succeed. So juuuuuust in case Dennis Lindsey and the gang are looking for a hand, I've crafted a 15 step plan to get them back on track.
Step 1: Reassess and redefine the franchise direction
One of the most surefire ways to become a perennial lottery participant is to make each roster move within a vacuum, without considering how it meshes with any previous or planned personnel moves, all while ignoring the overarching franchise strategy. Practicing this style of roster management is how you end up like Orlando, Sacramento (hopefully not for much longer), and Detroit - never good company.
With the Sixers finally beginning to realize the fruits of their labor thanks to the one true prophet, Sam Hinkie, and the Rockets on the verge of adding Carmelo Anthony and creating another super team, the league has become obsessed with an all of nothing philosophy. While I certainly see the merits of full tear-downs with hopes of landing a superstar for many franchises, I actually believe that the Jazz would be best served by zigging while the rest of the league zags and instead aiming to become a mainstay at the 3-5 seeds in the Western Conference.
Why such a modest goal? First off, there's no sense in dancing around the fact that Utah is one of the lowest ranking destinations for free agents despite having a good coach in Quin Snyder and being a respected organization. And if a team is unlikely to land a star through free agency, the only other options are to find one through the draft or by trade. The problem here is that with Utah's free agency challenges in mind, any assets that would be sent in a trade for a star would mostly likely have to come through the draft. Yes, the Utah front office has done a solid job in the last few drafts, so theoretically it's possible that they could find enough gems to swing a deal for a star. But the reality is barring any major changes or significant injuries, the Jazz will be too good to have the high lottery picks that give you a chance to draft or trade for elite talent.
And the reason they'll be too good is mostly because of one man, Rudy Gobert. Gobert came into his own last season, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and blocks on his way to a 2nd Team All-NBA nod and runner-up finish for Defensive Player of the Year. He's also a favorite of the advanced analytics community, finishing the year second in total Win Shares, eighth in Value Over Replacement Player, and third in True Shooting Percentage. With a player as good as Gobert anchoring your team and especially your defense, it isn't possible to drop low enough in the standings to have a chance to take the Markelle Fultzes of the world. Plus, the whole goal of having a top three pick is to hopefully end up with a player of Gobert's caliber anyway, so by already having Gobert, the Jazz may already be closer to being back in the top eight of the West than many would expect.
Finally, and this is total conjecture, but I think Jazz fans would be happy without true title aspirations as long as they have a consistently good team to root for. I think having a winning team that's been built the right way, a la Memphis this decade, has become underrated at this point, plus the Warriors and the rest of the teams taking part in the current super team arms race make it highly unlikely the Jazz could make the leap into the championship conversation in the next 3-5 years anyway.
With that reasoning as our north star, instead of of bottoming out and rebuilding, our goal is to get Utah to a 50-55 wins a year level within the next 3 seasons, all while keeping one of the best fan bases in the league excited about their future. Here are few of the main focuses that we're going to use in building out a team to do just that:
Optimizing for Gobert
The Jazz have one of the best ten players in the league who just turned 25 and is under contract at a reasonable rate until 2021. If Bill Simmons still wrote his trade value articles, I'd have to imagine that Rudy would be in his top five considering his existing body of work, youth, and favorable contract. If Utah wants to build a sustainably successful roster, they need to surround him with players who augment his strengths and cover for his weaknesses.
Gobert is a high-efficiency (68.1% true shooting percentage last year), low usage player (294th in usage rate) who has zero range (1.0% of all shots outside 10 feet) on offense. Creating an offense that's tailored to him is straightforward - place shooters all around him, use him in pick and rolls, and have at least one other player who can be your team's main bucket getter. The caveat is that everyone else in the league is also looking for more shooting, so we'll have to be creative when surrounding Rudy with marksmen.
On defense, Gobert's the premier rim protector in the league today. He's also an elite rebounder. He's so good at both facets of the game that his skills can be used to mitigate some of his teammates' deficiencies there. His only defensive weakness is that his impact can be reduced by having to guard players that are perimeter threats, so ideally we'll still want to have players around him who can play the ball handler on pick and rolls well. The good news is that Mitchell and Exum should both be strong there.
With all of this in mind, a priority for us to implement asap is to pair Gobert with a 4 who can shoot well from deep. If the new 4's a good defender, great! If not, we're placing placing less importance on that player's rebounding and defensive skills because opening things up in the middle for Rudy is our top priority.
Developing Exum and Mitchell
In Dante Exum and Donovan Mitchell, Utah has two young, talented players with all-star ceilings. Similar to Gobert, Mitchell especially is type of player that teams are tanking to find. It's easy to imagine the two guards acting as interchangeable creators and scorers for the Jazz when they're running wild in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas against the competition in Summer League.
We loved Mitchell coming into this year's draft, ranking him seventh amongst this talented group of prospects in our final pre-draft rankings. His early returns in Summer League have only heightened our bullish stance on his future.
Exum is the greater enigma of the two players. He has even more potential that Mitchell with his 6'6" frame, 6'9" wingspan, and great athleticism. During his brief career, he's already shown flashes of every tool in the toolbox that you could ask for in a guard. At this point, it's about increasing his consistency and improving his defensive awareness so that he can harness his talent and help the team win ballgames. Watching him average 20/4/6 in his three games at SLC Summer League doesn't hurt our excitement for him either.
The first two focuses are admittedly pretty standard - of course you want to put your best youngsters in positions to succeed. It is a bit more unorthodox to purposefully target players who are lower ceiling, high floor types, but that's exactly why I think the Jazz should take this approach. While most organizations are obsessed with acquiring a top five player or someone with the potential to be one, great value can be found on quality role players who've slipped through the cracks. This means drafting experienced college players who have lost their new car smell, so less prospects like Thon Maker and more like Patrick McCaw. Don't get me wrong, I like Thon (age ain't nothing but a number!), but there was and still is a much higher chance of him having zero positive impact on a team than someone like McCaw who posted an elite steal rate (6th nationally in steals per game as a sophomore) and solid shooting and assist numbers while playing in a above average conference.
In free agency, this means avoiding bidding wars for middling talent, plus not paying anyone a premium as a bribe to get them to come to Utah. The Jazz should be more active in mid July once some teams have tied up their cap space and bargains can be had amongst the players whose pools of suitors have dried up. Basically, Utah should offer less contracts like Jeff Teague's and more like the one Sam Presti and the Thunder inked Patrick Patterson to earlier this summer. With the cap expected to increase only moderately over the next few years, it should be much easier to start signing players to reasonable deals again.
With our guiding principles now established, it's time to make some moves!
Step 2: Trade Derrick Favors
Derrick Favors has been a really nice player for the Jazz over the past seven seasons since coming over in the Deron Williams trade. He's averaged over 16 and 8 for them twice, and is still only 26 years old. The problem with Favors on the team that we're trying to build is that he's the antithesis of who we want to play next to Gobert. Going back to our plan to play a good shooter next to Rudy, last season Favors reached a career high in the proportion of his shot attempts coming from outside 16 feet, at 22.0%. It's nice to see him try to extend his range, but unfortunately he only shot 33.7% on the long 2s he took and 3/10 from three. The chances of Favors making a drastic improvement here are slim, and with his contract concluding at the end of the year, we may as well get something in return for him instead of letting him walk for nothing.
Favors' trade value rests in the eye of the beholder. It's lower to organizations looking for a long-term roster piece since they'd only have him under control for one season. On the other hand, his value is raised by virtue of being an expiring contract to teams that want to slash salary at the end of the year. He's also a rental option to other teams who are looking to add depth to their big man rotation without clogging their books.
It's a team in the last category that we decide to deal Favors to, sending him to Denver for Darrell Arthur and Monte Morris. Denver does this deal because they need another center to play behind Jokic, they want to win now after adding Paul Millsap, plus Jokic's style is the rare one that Favors can play next to in a dual big look. He fills a need and can play around 28 minutes a night for them in various lineups, while not locking them into a long-term commitment. The Jazz do this deal because they get to roll the dice on a player in Darrell Arthur who may be finally finding his niche in the NBA, having shot 38.5% and 45.3% from three in the past two years. Arthur gets a chance to start with Utah, and if he stays healthy, he'll likely play his way out of accepting his $7.5M player option for the 2018-19 season. In that sense, the trade's a rental for a rental swap, but the Jazz also add depth here by acquiring Monte Morris. We may have been a bit overly ambitious in our ranking and projection of Morris, but he has the look of a steady hand as a backup point guard.
Here's our updated depth chart and minute distribution heading into this season:
Our focuses for during the season:
Step 3: Revive Alec Burks
I loved Alec Burks as a prospect. The algorithm loved Burks as a prospect. The whole league loved him as a blossoming young talent after averaging 14 points a game in his third year our of Colorado. My favorite player of all time is Eddie Jones, and I saw a lot of similarities in Burks to Jones' smooth slashing game during his first few years as a pro. My heart was open and ready to love.
It's been a shame that Burks hasn't played more than 42 games in a season since that promising third year because of the multitude of injuries that he's suffered. But, if we want to look at the glass as half full here, that recent high of 42 games did come in this past season... so you're telling me there's a chance! He had a few moments where he flashed on tape again this year, most notably against the Thunder in March, that give room for optimism that he can regain some of his earlier form and be a valuable contributor again.
The Jazz should spend significant time this season finding out if that's indeed the case, because he's going to be a major factor in how they manage their roster spots in the next few years. If Burks can somehow fully revert to the 22 year old version of his game, the Jazz just dusted off a guy who can hang 20 on you on any given night and look good doing it. If he reaches his previous heights on some nights but can't be counted on to do so all the time (the most likely scenario), the Jazz have someone worth inking to a moderate contract as their first or second player off the bench. If Burks sadly has no more bullets left in the chamber, then it's an unfortunate what-if tale for him and Utah, and he becomes an $11M trade asset whose deal expires in 2019.
The Jazz should be thinking about development and medium-term positioning this year, and starting Alec Burks is one of the best things they can do to clarify the circumstances around one of the most volatile variables they have in their organization. Having a solid understanding of what Burks has left will be a major step towards keeping their rudder of Utah's ship righted towards eventual playoff contention.
Step 4: Reinvent Joe Ingles as a stretch 4
The Jazz pretty much had to extend the 4 year / $52M offer to Ingles that they did, with Ingles being one of (at that point undecided) Gordon Hayward's favorite teammates and Orlando reportedly waiving an even richer contract at Ingles. I can also say that in my brief interaction with him in May (story at 34:45 into through episode 31), Ingles seems like an all around great dude. But as an objective non-Jazz fan, I feel obligated to say that Ingles is going to have to take his glue-guying to a never before seen level to earn his money. In his breakout year last season, his he only averaged 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, plus he's now on the wrong side of 30. I'd be remiss to not mention that he finished third in the league in three point percentage at 44.1%, however.
In this world, we're planning on sliding Rodney Hood to the 3 and starting Alec Burks at the 2 to maximize the minutes we can give to the young wings on the roster. With this lineup in mind and only Darrell Arthur and the Swedish Larry Bird on the depth chart at the 4, there's a clear opportunity for Ingles spend more time as a hybrid forward instead of the wing he's been in the NBA thus far (87% of his time at the 2 or 3). Ingles has the size to passably play the 4 at 6'8" and 225 pounds, he's a great complement next to Gobert as a high-level spot-up shooter, a plus passer for a 4, and his poor rebounding would be negated by Gobert's excellence there.
Frankly, I'm surprised Ingles has never played more than 19% of his minutes in a season as a stretch 4 considering his frame and mediocre athleticism. If he can expand his game and handle the ruggedness of the interior, his contract would become a lot more palatable since it would then be for a Ben Zobrist-type utility player.
Step 5: Trade Rodney Hood at the deadline
Rodney Hood has also been a really nice player for the Jazz. These are trades being made with the head and not the heart, since Hood and Favors both seem like they've been great pieces of the franchise.
Hood shoots a good percentage on a high volume of attempts from three, and he plays solid defense at either wing position. He's epitomizes the 3&D role that so many teams are desperate to fill right now, and the Jazz were smart enough to nab him with the 23rd pick in the 2014 Draft after most of the league had already passed on him. Hood will also be only 25 when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season, and because of that, he'll be in line for a major payday. Expect him to end up signing a deal next offseason somewhere between Tim Hardaway Jr.'s and Otto Porter's recent contracts.
Even though I'm recommending that the Jazz trade Hood, it's not that I think that he's less valuable than Porter or Hardaway Jr., it's more that I think both of those deals are poor values (despite my love of Otto's efficiency) that were handed out out of desperation and insanity, respectively. The last thing a team like the Jazz should do is tie up the majority of its cap space on the supplemental talent that surrounds their actual difference makers (see Blazers, Trail). When that happens, you've locked yourself into a team and limiting your path to improvement to solely player development.
The truth of the matter is that Hood has shown no evidence of being able to become a go-to scorer since he's been at the pro level nor while he played at the college ranks. He's never posted a usage rate above 23.8% at either level and he rarely gets to the free throw line, two bad signs because those are two of the main data points we've found useful in projecting scoring potential. He contributes little as a rebounder (career average of 4.1 rebounds per 36 minutes) and is not someone who creates shots for others (2.7 assists per 36 minutes for his career). He'll deservedly get paid because his skills are in demand right now, but instead of tying up 20ish percent of their cap for the next four years on a high quality role player, Utah would be best served swapping him for a useful asset and maintaining financial flexibility.
If the Jazz float it out to the league that Hood's on the market, there will be no shortage of suitors looking to add some shooting for their playoff run. Yes, he'll be a half-season rental at his current rate of $2.4M, but Utah will still be able to net a worthwhile return for him, at least something that will be better than letting him walk. The deal that I think makes the most sense is sending Hood to Oklahoma City in exchange for the rookie Terrance Ferguson.
OKC makes this deal because they've already pushed all of their chips to the middle for this year by trading for Paul George. Adding Hood and turning Roberson into a defensive specialist off the bench makes the Thunder a much scarier team offensively, and thankfully reduces the chances of us having to watch Russell Westbrook kill Alex Abrines and/or Doug McDermitt on the court this year. The Thunder with Hood on the team become the second best team in the Western Conference this season. I've already let my feelings be known about the Thunder's questionable selection of Ferguson this year in a previous article, but long story short, losing him doesn't affect their on-court product this year or next (at least).
And despite the salt that I've thrown on the pick, I'm not blind to the fact that Ferguson possesses a ton of talent and probably even has a higher ceiling than Hood because of his athleticism and feel for the game. He has a lonnnnng way to go, but Utah is now in a position where they can take a lottery ticket and let him come along slowly since we're in year one of a three year plan.
Step 6: Trade or buy out Joe Johnson at the deadline
This move is more out of doing right by a respected veteran, which also has the side benefit of bolstering the Jazz's reputation as a place that takes care of its players.
Iso Joe will be getting buckets when he's fifty. He can still be a contributor in a minor role for a playoff team this year, plus he's also attractive as an expiring contract to those trying to clear space. The Jazz should look to pick up a second rounder for him, while making sure they don't take on any bad contracts in return.
...Or, if the Utah front office is feeling frisky, who says no to this deal with the Spurs (obviously made without the Favors for Arthur swap occurring)?
Bill Simmons talked about Utah's Ewing Theory potential on a recent podcast and there's certainly credence to Utah sneaking up on the league this year with suffocating defense, but those such as Tom Haberstroh who are predicting them to have a better record than last year should slow their roll. Now that the dust has started to settle and the final pieces on Utah's opening day roster are falling into place, we're forecasting that the Jazz will finish 38-44 and just shy of a playoff berth. This will give Utah a late lottery pick to work with and $30(ish)M to play with in cap room during the 2018 offseason.
Our strategy this offseason will follow our singles hitting corollary, and that starts with Utah's selection in the 2018 Draft. (note: I'm assuming Arthur opts out of his player option)
Step 7: Acquire a young, talented power forward
The main hole on this team is a modern 4. The recently acquired Jonas Jerebko temporarily fills that role, but the Jazz still need a player who can be Rudy Gobert's partner in crime for the long run. Based on that logic... with the 13th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select... Justin Jackson, sophomore forward from the University of Maryland!
Why Jackson? For starters, he shot 44.1% percent from three (the same percentage as Ingles last year! Spooky!) in his freshman season in the Big Ten last year, showcasing a quick and accurate stroke from deep. He's a bit undersized as a 4 at 6'7" and is a mediocre rebounder, but his 7'3" wingspan and 20.2% usage rate last year are indicators that he could be the fourth or fifth best starter on a good team.
Will Jackson eventually be an all-star? I doubt it, but he does have a high floor because of his frame and shooting ability. He'll be more NBA ready than many other available prospects after receiving major minutes for two years in one of the better conferences in the NCAA, which is exactly what we're going for. Think of this like the Jazz drafting their Patrick Patterson.
Step 8: Re-sign Dante Exum for 4 years / $52M
With Dante Exum likely to reject his $6.6M qualifying offer this offseason, Utah would be wise to try and sign Exum early to an extension during the 2017-18 season so they don't have to worry about Brooklyn or Atlanta offering a near max deal that they may feel pressured to match. After a season where we're predicting an 8/3/3 line for him in 24 minutes a night as a 22 year old, we think the Jazz will be getting a bargain by locking in Exum for the Dion Waiters special at $13M a year.
Here is our updated depth chart and minute distribution heading into year 2 of this experiment:
And now, our focal points for the season:
Step 9: Start Donovan Mitchell
With the way that Mitchell's been lighting up the summer leagues in Salt Lake City and Vegas, there's a case to be made that he should start for the Jazz from day one. His development is one of the most important pieces of the plan to get the Jazz back to the playoffs, but starting him as a rookie will also reduce the amount of minutes available to Dante Exum and Alec Burks to make their own strides during the 2017-18 season. Instead, our plan is to begin his rookie year with him playing around 18 minutes a night as he acclimates to the pro game and ratcheting thing up until he's up to 30 minutes per game during the season's final stretch. In this version of the universe, expect him to put up a a 12/3/2 line in his 28 minutes per game and make the First-Team All-Rookie team.
After a strong finish to the 2017-18 season, Mitchell will be ready in his sophomore campaign to take over the starting 2 guard role and take on the challenge to become the spearhead of Utah's offense. There will be nights when he's inefficient from the field and turns the ball over too much, but the Jazz need to persist on prioritizing development over wins in the short term to build their foundation of young talent. A focal point for Mitchell during year two will be establishing chemistry on the pick and roll with Rudy Gobert. Stockton and Malone part two it's doubtful they will be, but their two-man game should become the bread and butter of Utah's offense for this season and the next 2-4 after that. In his new starting role and playing 30 minutes a night, look for Mitchell to average 16/4/3 with a few 30+ point eruptions that get Jazz fans giddy.
Step 10: Get Justin Jackson at least 20 mpg
Continuing our theme of placing importance on getting the youngsters reps, we want to let our new, shiny first round pick find his place in the league as a trial by fire. That means accepting that he'll make a few mistakes that may cost the Jazz games this year, and committing to allocate minutes to Jackson that could easily go to Jerebko or Ingles instead. Whether he's playing with Gobert or Tony Bradley at center, Jackson will be a great partner for either with his perimeter oriented game. Chances are it'll be a process getting him up to speed on the finer points of the Utah defensive scheme, but Jackson fits the bill as the type of player who can step in an begin to make an impact early in his career since he possesses a high value skill for his position. It's up to the Jazz to make room for him to thrive.
The 2018-19 Jazz were assembled as a deep team full of athletic, switchy players anchored in the middle by Rudy Gobert, who we're predicting will have received his first 1st Team All-NBA honor this year. The team's main warts will be its recklessness and its inconsistent scoring from the perimeter, but again, those are things that we're deciding to live with to facilitate maximal growth from the young core that's been assembled.
With this hypothetical composition of talent, the Jazz finish only one game better than last year at 39-43, and again just outside the playoff picture. With Mitchell and Exum now on track to become full time backcourt mates and Gobert reaching new heights, it's time to make moves to bring this team towards 50 wins.
Step 11: Let Rubio, Thabo, and Jonas walk as a Free Agents
The writing's been on the wall for Rubio as we've made Utah's desire to transition to Dante Exum as the point guard of the future transparent. Rubio will be 28 and in line for what will likely be his last major payday. The best move for him will be to find a home that will give him minutes and enough bread to feed his family, and the Jazz are no longer that team.
I hadn't touched on it at all yet, so I may as well state here that I'm not a fan of the recent Sefolosha signing since it seems likely that he's going to consume some of the generous minutes allotments we've set aside for Burks, Exum, and Mitchell. Love you Thabo but you're fucking up the vision here, bud.
If the Jazz use Sefolosha as a mentor and a fill-in when there are injuries, then it's a great signing. If the Jazz are going to reduce the opportunities for players that should be part of their long-term future for a 1% better chance of making the playoffs this year, then I'm mad for you, Jazz fans. Either way, we're keeping the bridge signings of him and Jerekbo as only that and extending neither.
Step 12: Re-sign Alec Burks 3/$36M
As mentioned in the 2017-18 season section, we expect Burks to have moments where he looks like the same unstoppable slasher he was once on the path to becoming, but for him to only reach that level every couple of games. Expect a line of 12/3/2 in 24 minutes per game over the 2017-19 period for him based on the role we've given him.
Here, in the 2019 offseason, Burks will turn 28, taking him into what will likely be the twilight of his prime since much of his game is predicated on athleticism. Based on his performance and age, we're re-signing him to a three year deal for an average of $12M per year to backup both wing positions. If all goes according to plan (I mean, all of this is going to happen, right?), he'll be one of the better sixth men in the league for the duration of his new contract.
Step 13: Trade Tony Bradley
We haven't spoken much about Tony Bradley yet, but we were fans of his as a prospect, listing him as the 31st best prospect this year and predicting that he'll have a quietly successful 10 year career. He's also looked good in Summer League so far, for what that's worth, doing his thing in the 20 minutes a night he's been playing.
So why would the Jazz want to trade him if he will likely be a productive player? It comes back to the first rule of this article: they need to surround Rudy Gobert with players that accentuate his strengths. Bradley will be good, but because he can't play next to Gobert, he has less value for Utah than he may for other franchises since he'll always be in a limited role here.
One team in particular that will be a good fit for Bradley's services in the summer of 2019 is the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the summer that the Clippers will be handling DeAndre Jordan's free agency (assuming he opts in to his player option in 2018, which we think he will because of the consensus that there will be a small number of organizations with max cap room in the 2018 offseason), and with so much money allocated to Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari, Jerry West and Co. will have to think long and hard about letting DJ walk.
The mutually beneficial solution that we're proposing is to trade Tony Bradley to the Clippers for Sindarius Thornwell (yes, we have an irrational love for Sindarius so we'd probably be devising a trade for him in every 5,000 word hypothetical deep dive that we write. But stay with us here). The Clippers make this trade because it enables them to walk away from DJ with a young, respectable replacement for 1/10 of the price. They lose a player in Thornwell who we believe is going to have a PJ Tucker-like career, but has been stuck behind the recently signed Gallinari in a small role on the Clippers. Thornwell will be most valuable on a defensive minded team with playoff aspirations. The Clippers teams of the next few years may still be decent without Chris Paul, but they're not being crafted as a defense first squad.
By swapping Bradley for Thornwell, the Jazz will be acquiring a gritty small forward entering his prime. Thornwell fits Utah's ethos perfectly with his versatile defense. He'll be able to guard opposing 2-4's and give the Jazz another player who can create his own shot.
Here is our updated depth chart and minute distribution for year 3:
And our few last moves here on the homestretch:
Step 14: Move Justin Jackson to the starting lineup
The beauty of drafting players who have significant experience playing major college ball is that they need less time to pre-heat before being ready. Because of that NCAA experience and our plan to play Jackson 20+ minutes a night last year, he'll theoretically be ready to be a supporting piece in the starting lineup in his second year. Expect Jackson to still have his fair share of bumps in the road as he continues to grasp the sets and rotations of the club, but the positives of his presence next to Gobert will outweigh the negatives.
Step 15: Tighten up the rotation
Now that Utah has built a roster full of versatile, young players who can defend and knock down threes around prime Rudy Gobert, it's time for Quin Snyder to shift the goal of the franchise from learning to winning. This means increasing the minutes of all the starters and using the bench for breathers and specialists instead of learning opportunities. We still have Ingles to play Swiss Army knife and Burks to provide a scoring jolt at either wing spot, but the focus is now on All-NBA regular Rudy Gobert and first time all-star Donovan Mitchell.
Expect this team to compete with Denver and Minnesota for the 4 seed in the West, finishing the 2019-20 season twelve games better than last year at 51-31 and poised to make noise for the next few years to come.