Too Much Youth? Integrating Rookies Into an Already-Young Lineup

June 17th, 2014 | by Denim Millward
With players like Trey Burke still developing, how will the Jazz handle adding even more youth? (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

With players like Trey Burke still developing, how will the Jazz handle adding even more youth? (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and his staff will have a unique problem to deal with when the Jazz are on the clock for the June 26th NBA Draft.  With five projected starters who are all still considered young up-and-comers as well as a few more basketball babies further down the bench and overseas, Utah has young talent at every position.  With an abundance of youth, and consequently potential, this “problem” is one many GMs in rebuilding situations would sell an internal organ or two to have.  However, there are plenty of challenges and complications involved in the task of balancing the egos, self-esteem levels and developmental needs of 7-10 young players, all of whom are hopefully not anywhere near hitting their respective ceilings.

With the Jazz currently slotted to pick at #5 in the upcoming draft, there is a reasonable chance they’ll be adding another player who is capable of starting (or perhaps even expects to start immediately).1 Again, this is an enviable problem, but with an early-to-mid-20s building block at every position, will the addition of another high draft pick crowd out an existing player or impede their development?  Will the apparent incumbent at the draftee’s position interpret the pick as a show of the front office’s lack of confidence? There are plenty of psychological ramifications the pick could have on the rest of the roster as Lindsey looks to add the best player.

There are a number of ways to handle the situation, two of which I’ll analyze in this post.

Option 1: Add more youth and let it play out

Borrowing from a gridiron colleague, Lindsey could adopt a Belichickian2 approach to the situation and simply choose the best player available, let the draftee and the existing players battle it out in training camp and preseason, and then start whoever performed better.

This tactic would allow the team to maintain its young depth and assets while they hang on to all of their proverbial lottery tickets to see which gambles pay out, giving the team more time to see if one or more of the players become All-Star caliber. The downside is the risk that a player who loses out on the starting gig doubts himself as a result and/or inwardly resents the team for it, both of which would likely result in worse play and possibly stunted development.

Even if the player who loses out on the starting spot is a consummate professional and takes his bench role in stride, the question would still stand as to whether or not the current construct of the roster is truly maximizing the value of the assets Lindsey and the Jazz have painstakingly acquired.  An entire year was essentially sacrificed when Lindsey made the decision last offseason to utilize nearly all of Utah’s cap space by taking on three contracts from Golden State, netting extra picks and rolling over that cap space to this offseason.  While this may be a bit presumptuous, it seems unlikely that a roster devoid of an All-Star-caliber player and supersaturated with youth was the reward Lindsey had in mind when he committed to the rebuild with that trade.

Option 2: Combine assets into a trade package and go for a star

Lindsey’s willingness to wheel and deal already well demonstrated, the second option to addressing the youth surplus would be to make another trade or two, this time with the goal of netting a higher-caliber player. An argument could be made that this is also the most likely course of action judging by Lindsey’s propensity for dealmaking, the current makeup of the Jazz roster and the challenges that small-market teams such as the Jazz face when attempting to attract marquee players.

With three potential franchise players headlining the 2014 draft3, the Jazz may have the option of trading up for the likes of Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins instead of targeting an established star player (such as the allegedly available Kevin Love or Rajon Rondo) should they believe that one of the three top-tier draftees can ultimately be a franchise player.  Many of the established stars who are rumored to be on the trading block have only a year or two remaining on their current deals, so their potential hesitance or even refusal to sign an extension with the Jazz makes trading up for a higher draft pick a more likely path at landing a star. The Jazz could go that path for their marquee talent, who can then be locked up for four years on a rookie contract4.

Of course, this is only a viable option to add a star if there’s a team willing to trade down. The rumor mill right now would indicate that everybody’s talking and nobody’s dealing quite yet. Still, if one of those guys with generational talent potential becomes available via trade, the Jazz could be at the front of the line with their stockpile of picks and talent.

Denim Millward

Denim Millward

Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
Denim Millward

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16 Comments

  1. Brent says:

    It does seem unlikely that the Jazz will add 3 more rookies, possibly 4 with Neto, to a team that added 3 rookies last year. I see a trade coming.
    Also, with the addition of the Idaho Stamped and a coach that has a strong track record with player development, we look poised to capitalize on developing players and having a true minor league team.

    • Mewko says:

      I see us having 2 rookies in addition to our “Fab Five” next year, but only for a year or two. We’ll let one or two young guys walk away in free agency because they want to play a bigger role. We might trade a couple to get a good player. Ultimately, we’ll have 3 reliable guys who can carry the team to win games night in and night out (a big3). Then we’ll have one or two more major players who can help, but not take over the game.
      For Example: Favors, Hayward, and Exum could be our big 3. Enes Kanter and Trey Burke would be the next important players who play major minutes. The rest of the team should be decent role players who are unselfish passers, can shoot from anywhere (if open) and defend whole-heartedly.
      That’s how you copy the Spurs and win rings.

  2. JazzNative says:

    What we are lacking right now is that final piece of “toughness” that sloan always had on his team. I would love for the jazz to draft somebody like Smart to bring that chip-i-ness to the Jazz. With a back court of Burke and Smart, we would have an explosive scorer and a great defender, with Smart matching up against the stronger/larger guards to make up for Burkes size. Smart is a rookie that can come in a play without taking lots of time to develop, and he is also the same age as Trey Burke (Smart would’ve been a rookie last year as well).

    By having a draft like that, the Jazz would have a very solid lineup of Burke, Smart, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter with two elite defenders (Favors/Smart), two great scorers (Burke/Kanter) and a do-it-all utility player in Hayward (who could be a Leonard type player… minus the elite defense). I love this possibility, as well as having Alec Burks come off of our bench to be a Jamal Crawford 2.0. Then, pick up an athletic wing player with our #23 pick (McDaniels comes to mind) and allow this core to play together for 2-3 years. Then we are officially out of the “draft a bunch of talent and let them develop stage” and become a team with an identity, (hopefully) chemistry, and experience.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I think both Marcus Smart and Julius Randle are more attractive to the Jazz because they are immediate contributors, where Gordon may not be and Vonleh almost certainly isn’t.

  3. Jason says:

    I like a sign and trade deal for Hayward and the 5th pick to move up in the draft and get Wiggins or Parker. Don’t like the idea of moving Burks or Kanter, the upside is too high on those guys. Hayward has maxed out his potential in my opinion.

    • JazzNative says:

      If I am correct… the Jazz cannot do a sign and trade with Hayward until July 1 due to the Free Agency period. Therefor… he is out of play :/

      • Clint Johnson says:

        Yup, Hayward is out of play on draft night. In theory, the Jazz could lay the foundation for a sign and trade with an interested team and then wait to execute it, but that is unlikely. They can’t negotiate with Hayward presently, which means any team looking to do the sign and trade would have to take it on faith that Hayward’s camp would fall into line. For a team looking to deal a high pick, they would certainly have other quality offers they’d have to pass up for in hopes the Hayward angle would work out. A team would have to LOVE Hayward to take the risk, and I just don’t see that happening.

      • Dee says:

        I’m pretty sure they can still trade his restricted free agency rights.

        • Brent says:

          You can’t trade a player that isn’t yours. Hayward is a free agent. Albeit a restricted one. You can’t trade his RFA rights either. The earliest you can trade Hayward is July 1st after the draft.

    • Aaron says:

      I like it too, but I doubt in this draft that gets the deal done.

  4. LKA says:

    First of all I will trust that Lindsey will make the best possible deals. Fans want several different options. So I will go with Lindseys plan. Everyone who played on last years team are now considered vets. So I would go with either plan of the Jazz brass. I would give up Kantor but not Burks.. But that is just me and it might take whatever to swing a deal for a higher pick. I would hope also that one of Smart, or Vonleh would move up into the top four picks. And if one of Smart, Vonleh, and Exum were to move up into the top three that would drop either Wiggins or Parker to five and the need to move up would not be there. I don’t think anyone was close to picking what Lindsey did last year in the draft last year so it will be interesting. And with more youth comming in that is what is called competition.. All these players have done that since they fist picked up a ball. They are all big boys now.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’m with you in regard to Kanter and Burks. All told, I think Burks may well end up being the better overall player and he’ll also be more affordable.

  5. Wayne Andrus says:

    The jazz need athletes. I would go with Arron Gordon with #5, then swap #23 and #35 with whoever picks Kyle Anderson for Kyle and a down the road pick. If you need to move an asset to make this happen go with kanter. I would put burks in an almost untouchable at least for this deal. I would then bring Tumac (spelling euros name is not my cup of tea) over from Europe to fill that slot. I would still try to resign Jefferson, but use marven as seed money for a deal that would bring in a solid vet with experienced leadership. I would also bring in Neto in to round out the guard rotation. Also the jazz must resign Hayward. These moves will make the jazz competitive. And if Quin is as good of a coach as I think he is, that jazz team could go for 45 wins. And with luck they might make the playoffs.

  6. John says:

    If you really want a championship team, you have to think outside the box and realize that you must have one or two franchise players; and this is the only year for years to come that the Jazz will have that opportunity. I love our young players and would give away as few as possible; but I would go after both the 1st and 2nd round picks and get Wiggins and Parker. Most people would say that is impossible but it is not impossible so hear me out. The Jazz may have to divide up the following assets with Cleveland and Milwaukee; namely, Favorfs, Hayward or 6th pick from Boston, Trey Burks, Alex Burks, Kanter, 2014 #5 pick, # 23 pick, and # 35 picks; 2015 1st and 2nd round pick. Iwould give up all these assets if I had to, to get Wiggins and Parker. This would leave the Jazz with Parker, Wiggins, Tomic, Neto, and a Free Agent, the best of the existing bench and other players picked up from thd 100 plus players that the Jazz invited in this year. This would certainly be a strong possible future champtionship team. It would not surprise me if Lindsey is thinking in this direction; why else would the Jazz have plus 100 players in for review; which is the most of any year and of any other team if they did not that they might to fill out the team with some of these players. .
    .

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