The beginning of a new Jazz age is upon us.
The Jazz have been very active over the last two weeks and in so doing, the direction of the franchise (and it’s make up) is completely different. They made three draft night trades that landed the team some very solid players, one of which (Trey Burke) could be a franchise cornerstone. The Jazz didn’t have to give up a single player on draft night as they had stockpiled “assets” over the years that allowed them to make those moves and be flexible.
On Wednesday the Jazz were involved in a three-team trade with the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets. The Jazz traded for Brandon Rush, Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, all of whom have one year remaining on their contracts – contracts that total 24 million next season. The players are all serviceable and will fill roles on the team next season but the Jazz made the trade for…yes, assets. In the form of five draft picks. The Jazz will receive two unprotected first round picks (2014 and 2017) and two second round picks (2016 and 2017) from Golden State a second round pick (2018) from Denver.
It’s not necessarily about the teams whose picks we now own but more that we own them. You never know what will happen over the course of a season let alone four years down the road when it comes to health of a team. The Jazz could be patting themselves on the back if one of these picks ends up being better than expected, and at the very least have flexibility when making future moves.
So, the Jazz net five draft picks just to fill holes in their roster that they would have filled via free agency anyway. If we had signed the trio coming from Oakland as free agents instead of trading for them, would there be any negative feelings from fans? We were never players in the Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and probably not even in the Al Jefferson sweepstakes. Besides, the summer of 2014 is when all this flexibility will come into play. The draft class is loaded and there’s a ton of marquee free agents available, and the Jazz will be one of the few teams standing with a large amount of cap space.
Assets. The new currency of the NBA.
Talented young players, multiple draft picks and salary cap space is how a team builds. I understand that’s not how Miami built their championship team but they are the exception. Over the last 30 seasons, the only championship team I can find that “built” their team strictly on free agency was the current iteration of the Heat. Go ahead and look. All previous teams were built with draft picks and key trades. Furthermore, with the new collective bargaining agreement it’ll be tougher for teams to be like the Heat and overspend on players.
It’s a way of life that was adopted a long time ago in the NFL that allows teams to be flexible and not be held hostage by a player(s) whim. Think of the New England Patriots as they have mastered this philosophy. They’ve said goodbye time and time again to productive players who had reached the apex of their careers and refuse to get into bad contracts that could hinder them later on. They accumulate draft picks so that each and every year they have flexibility to make moves.
The keys to the franchise will be given to the young core of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Trey Burke. The Jazz owe it to themselves to see just what they have in this core and need to see if they are indeed the future.
The Jazz don’t have an eye to the future, but their whole body is looking ahead. With their youngsters, future picks and cap space the future is blindingly bright for the Jazz. As a fan, you can’t allow yourself to get caught up in immediate success but need to look at the big picture.