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Jazz Chose Skill Over Size In Constructing 2019 Team

Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts during free throws against the Atlanta Hawks at McCamish Pavilion on October 9, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz front office made significant changes to the team this offseason and a cornerstone of those changes was to boost the overall skill level of the team.

In David Bowie’s “Changes,” the rock heartthrob sings “turn to face the strange.” If he was singing about Utah’s playoff exits the past three years, you would change “strange” to “pain.”

In 2017, the Jazz were swept by the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. In 2018 and 2019, Utah bowed out to Houston in 5 games.

“(The results) told us the truth. That for whatever reason, we could not keep up with their skill level,” said Jazz executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey.

Tweaks to the lineup or rotation were not going to cut it anymore.

“We played lineups that were ‘modern.’ We didn’t make enough (shots) at important times that ultimately got us eliminated. When we made (shots) we beat the best teams in the league,” added Lindsey

Shooting Improvement

Last postseason, Utah shot only 40% from the field and 26.3% from the 3-point line in 5 games against the Rockets.

The change was inevitable. As Bowie sang, “there’s gonna have to be a different man,” – or maybe Lindsey would say there would have to be a different team.

Lindsey said the decision was unanimous between management and coaches that they needed to boost the skill level of the roster, especially when it comes to spacing the floor. They were willing to give up size and skill on the defensive end to do it.

“There is always going to be a give and take,” said Lindsey.

The take seems to be obvious. Mike Conley, who shot 43.8% from the floor and 36.4% from the 3-point line, replaces Ricky Rubio, who shot 40.4% and 31.1% from beyond the arc. Bojan Bogdanovic canned 42.5% of his shots from the 3-point line while Derrick Favors only connected on 21.8% of his deep shots.

Defensive Give

The give was that they would lose some good defenders, like Favors, but Lindsey intimated that D-Fav was a luxury to have on the team.

“Clearly there was some redundancy between Derrick and Rudy (Gobert) and Rudy is going to have to take on a little bit more,” said Lindsey, “but Rudy is…a defense unto himself.”

The hope, for Lindsey, is that the Jazz’s defensive DNA will rub off on the new squad.

“It can’t be an open gate run at Rudy. We’re going to have to be great with our stance, our body positions, our communications…all those things we have been great at, it’s just a few different players doing that. And we will have (Gobert) and a few other bigs back there protecting for us,” Lindsey said.

We will now see if Lindsey and the Jazz’s “ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” will push the Jazz past the NBA’s elite.

Listen to the full episode of the Jazz Notes podcast where Cleon Wall and Jeremiah Jensen discuss the Jazz’s offseason give and take.

For all the analysis of the Jazz and their Western Conference competitors subscribe to the podcasts wherever you find them or on