Building a Finals Team

June 21st, 2013 | by Geoff Beckstrom

Much is made about how Miami bought built their “Big 3″ that now has 2 titles and will make a run at a third in 4 years. Not so long ago, though, the Jazz had their own Finals team. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to remember how the Utah Jazz built the team that would go to the 1997 and 1998 finals.

It might surprise you to know that the Jazz turned over their entire roster outside of Stockton and Malone in only 3 years prior to the 1997 finals. Everyone knows Stockton was selected 16th and Malone 13th in back to back years.  But how was the rest of the team put together? (You can view all of the Jazz’s rosters from 1984 to 1998 here).

  • Bryon Russell would start all but 1 game for the 1997 and 1998 seasons and was the team’s 4th leading scorer. He was a second round draft pick, the 45th pick overall in the 1993 draft.
  • Jeff Hornacek was traded for Jeff Malone and a 1st round draft pick in February 1994. The string of this trade can actually be traced to the pre-Stockton and Malone era: Jeff Malone was acquired in 1990 for Bob Hansen, Eric Leckner and 3 picks. In turn, Leckner was drafted 17th in 1988, and Bob Hansen was drafted 54th in 1983.
  • Adam Keefe was traded for Ty Corbin and a 2nd round draft pick in September 1994.
  • Antoine Carr was signed as a free agent after 3 years with the Spurs and 7 years in the league in October 1994.
  • Greg Foster was signed as a free agent in October 1995. In 1995, waived by the Chicago Bulls and playing 61 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves before being released at the end of the 1995 season.
  • Chris Morris was signed as a free agent in October 1995 on the same day as Greg Foster, after 6 years with the New Jersey Nets.
  • Howard Eisley was signed as a free agent in December 1995 away from the Rockford Lightning of the CBA to replace an injured Jamie Watson (ankle). Eisley had been the last man cut from Jazz training camp only 5 weeks earlier.
  • Greg Ostertag was drafted 28th in 1995.
  • Shandon Anderson was drafted 54th in 1996.
  • Jacque Vaughn was drafted 27th in 1997 in between the two trips to the Finals. 

Who left the team that was on the 1993 roster?  That was a team that finished a disappointing 47-35 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle, just a year after winning 55 games and going to the franchise’s first ever Western Conference Finals.

  • Mike Brown was traded for Felton Spencer (6/93)
  • Felton Spencer was traded to Orlando for Kenny Gattison, Brooks Thompson and the pick that would be Andrei Kirilenko(8/96)
  • Larry Krystkowiak left the Jazz as a free agent to the Orlando Magic (9/93)
  • Ike Austin was waived (11/93)
  • Jeff Malone was traded for Jeff Hornacek (2/94)
  • Ty Corbin was traded for Adam Keefe (9/94)
  • Mark Eaton retired (9/94)
  • Jay Humphries was traded for Blue Edwards (2/95)
  • Blue Edwards was drafted by Vancouver in the expansion draft (6/95)
  • John Crotty left the Jazz as a free agent to the Cleveland Cavaliers (10/95)
  • David Benoit left the Jazz as a free agent to the New Jersey Nets (8/96)
  • Stephen Howard was waived (10/96)

So there you have it. The Jazz built a team around two of the greatest players in NBA history in only 4 years with:

  • 2 Trades (Jeff Hornacek and Adam Keefe)
  • 4 Free Agents (Antoine Carr, Greg Foster, Chris Morris, and Howard Eisley)
  • 4 Draft Picks including two late first rounders and two second round picks (Bryon Russell, Greg Ostertag, Shandon Anderson, and Jacque Vaughn)

How might the current Jazz build a contending team moving forward? Does the team have the pieces in place with Kanter, Favors and Hayward to build around or is Utah still searching for a real core?

Geoff Beckstrom

Geoff Beckstrom

Geoff lives in Las Vegas with his wife and four children. He spent 5 years in the US Army as a counterintelligence agent and today works as a software producer for GarageGames specializing in educational game products and is also a regular contributor and editor for GarageGames' EdBlog.
Geoff Beckstrom
Geoff Beckstrom

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One Comment

  1. Clint Johnson says:

    Multiple draft picks and the Hornacek trade were key, netting the team three starters. I think the same formula will need to apply now: assume most of your pieces will need to be drafted and try to bring in a difference making near star level player through a trade.

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