This is the story of how a GQ model, a towering Frenchman and flashy yet soft-spoken Brazilian gave throngs of Jazz fans hope, and how a soft-spoken southern gentleman with an endearing Texas twang brought them together.
Prior to the night that was filled with the awkward Simmons-Rivers brouhaha, David Stern reveling in the crowd’s booing as if he were some sort of senior Jewish superhero who drew strength from audible discontent and a half-dozen surprising draft choices, Utah’s future was as uncertain as ever. An abundance of cap space and a slew of free agents pointed towards marked cosmetic changes to the Jazz roster, but did not give any hints if the alterations would be in an effort to continue the playoff push immediately or to go through the painful rebuilding process. Simply put, we had no idea what to expect for next season.
When things were at their most uncertain, Dennis Lindsey swooped in and emphatically stamped his name on the team, putting his moxie and chutzpah on full display by acquiring Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert and Raul Neto in three separate draft night trades. Oh, did I mention Lindsey pulled all this off without giving up any current players or future assets, aside from a 2015 2nd-round pick acquired from New Jersey? The man deserves a medal (or at least an unlimited gift card to Red Iguana)!
For the first time since Gordon Hayward rejected Deron Williams’ shot on March 30th, the Jazz twittersphere was united in assessing the situation. The reactions ranged from surprised to excited to 14-year-old-girl-front-row-at-a-Justin-Bieber-concert-level giddy. If there was a negative reaction to the Utah Jazz draft, it was certainly nowhere to be found on my timeline. By showing the fortitude to wheel and deal more than an over-caffeinated Wall Street professional as well as the savvy to give as little up as he did, Lindsey caused an enormous contingent of Jazz fans to do a complete 180 on their opinion of the team’s direction.
Ironically, Utah’s front office hasn’t definitively shown what course they will be taking next year. The drafting of such a high profile and mature point guard like Trey Burke certainly seems to point in the direction of a full-fledged youth movement, as do Lindsey’s comments that mentioned Rudy Gobert will be playing for the Jazz next season. It’s certainly an opportune time for Utah to give the young’uns a heaping helping of experience, even if it all but guarantees significant growing pains and considerably more losses than wins. The 2014 draft could possibly be the most talent-laden draft since the 2003 draft that netted LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a slew of other quality players. Canadian and future Kansas Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins, who appears to be the frontrunner for the number one pick, has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and would immediately elevate any team lucky enough to land him. While Utah would obviously not turn Wiggins down, soon-to-be-Blue Devil Jabari Parker could be an even better fit and would instantly become a cult hero in Salt Lake City, as he is a member of the LDS church.
All the good reasons for rebuilding aside, there is the small matter of the cap room the Jazz have, as well as the fact that there is now a minimum they are required to spend. With both enough cash to overpay for a coveted free agent as well as enough financial flexibility to absorb large contracts for the price of picking up quality players, would it really be shocking to see the Jazz attempt to simultaneously develop their young players and make a playoff push?
Regardless of the direction Utah chooses to go, Dennis Lindsey has already achieved resounding success. If this is a sign of things to come, we’d better start passing around the shades now, because the future is exceedingly bright.