Utah Jazz: Top 10 Moments Of The Decade
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz decade is coming to an end, and it’s safe to say the last 10 years have been the most tumultuous for the franchise since the ’80s. That decade saw Larry H. Miller and Gail Miller take ownership of the team, Frank Layden both assume head coaching duties and resign to hand the reigns over to Jerry Sloan, all while drafting John Stockton and Karl Malone who each would have statues built for them at the end of their Hall of Fame careers.
Between 2010 and 2019, the Jazz traded away one All-Star, acquired two future All-Stars, had two different general managers and three different head coaches. Meanwhile, the team made five trips to the postseason but won just three playoff series.
As the Jazz get set for 2020, these are the 10 biggest moments from the Jazz this past decade.
10. Sundiata Gaines Beats LeBron and the Cavaliers at Buzzer – January 14, 2010
LeBron James had one of the stranger steaks of his career while playing in the state of Utah. Over a nine-year period, James lost 10 trips to Salt Lake City with three different teams. Though James’ performances were usually prolific, his team found new ways to lose games in the state, often in painful fashion.
None was more painful than the first loss of the streak, just 15 days into the new decade.
After Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko suffered in-game injuries, the Jazz were forced to turn to little known 10-day contract signee Sundiata Gaines just to have enough bodies to finish the game.
With the Jazz trailing 96-94 in the final seconds of the game, Gaines would up with the ball in his hands after Kyle Korver and Ronnie Price were unable to get a clean look at the basket. The rookie launched a fallaway three-point jumper that fell perfectly through the net with no time remaining.
The Jazz beat the Cavaliers 97-96 and ushered in a decade to forget for James in Utah.
9. Donovan Mitchell Wins The NBA Dunk Contest – February 17, 2018.
Winning the NBA Dunk Contest doesn’t necessarily guarantee you any success in the NBA. Names like Jeremy Evans, Harold Minor, and Fred Jones have won the contest, and gone on to have less than memorable NBA careers.
However, for the best of the best, the Dunk Contest can serve as a coming-out party to establish yourself as a star on the rise in the basketball world. Michael Jordan did it in 1987. Kobe Bryant did it in 1997, and the Jazz are hoping Donovan Mitchell will mirror their success after winning the contest in 2018.
Mitchell wowed NBA onlookers in Los Angeles as he beat out Larry Nance Jr, Dennis Smith Jr, and Victor Oladipo en route to the Dunk Contest trophy.
Paying homage to future Hall of Famer, Mitchell donned a Vince Carter Toronto Raptors jerseys and completed his infamous reverse 360 windmill dunk to seal the victory. But it was Mitchell’s two hoop alley-oop that let All-Star Weekend viewers know Mitchell was the best dunker in the building.
8. Paul Millsap Stuns Miami Heat – November 12, 2010
Perhaps the most improbable moment of the Jazz decade came from fan-favorite Paul Millsap, who single-handedly knocked off the LeBron James led Miami Heat to forever earn his spot in team lore.
The Jazz trailed the Heat by eight points with 29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when Millsap went supernova.
Over the final half-minute of regulation, Millsap hit three three-pointers and added a buzzer-beating putback off of a C.J. Miles miss that sent the game to overtime tied at 104. The three made three-pointers were just the third, fourth, and fifth made threes of his career to that point.
The Jazz would outscore the Heat 12-10 in the overtime period, and leave Miami with one of the team’s all-time most improbable victories.
Millsap finished the game with a career-high 46 points and let the NBA world know just how diverse his skillset actually was.
Four All-Star appearances with the Atlanta Hawks later, it’s easy to see where Millsap’s diverse offensive game blossomed, and it made for the one best moments of the Jazz past decade.
7. Jazz Trade Deron Williams for Derrick Favors & Devin Harris – February 23, 2011
In the post Karl Malone and John Stockton era, Deron Williams was the star the team desperately needed to modernize and reenergize a stagnant fanbase. However, after four consecutive trips to the postseason, it was obvious there was discontent between Williams and the team.
After a postgame spat that led to the resignation of legendary head coach Jerry Sloan, the Jazz traded Williams to the New Jersey Nets for rookie Derrick Favors, All-Star guard Devin Harris and two future draft picks. While neither draft pick turned into long term pieces for the team, and Harris never regained his All-Star caliber play, Favors was a constant for the Jazz for the better part of the decade.
Williams would make two All-Star games in a Nets uniform, but never became the superstar they needed. Favors never realized the promise of his high draft selection, but did become a long time fan favorite, and was the best back up center in the NBA over the last four seasons. The Jazz traded Favor to New Orleans in July of 2019.
6. Miller Family Puts Jazz In Legacy Trust – January 23, 2017
Inarguably, no story that came out of the last decade will have a bigger impact on the organization over the next several generations than team owner Gail Miller placing the Jazz organization into a Legacy Trust.
The move ensured the family will maintain control over the organization but places the ownership of the team in the care of the Trust, rather than one individual owner.
“As a family, we have always considered the Utah Jazz a community asset and it has been our privilege to serve as stewards of this team for more than 30 years,” said Miller, “There have been many opportunities to sell and move the franchise, but from the day Larry and I purchased the Jazz our goal was to keep the team in Utah. The Legacy Trust will help to ensure this commitment is kept for generations to come.”
5. Jazz Upset The Oklahoma City Thunder In Postseason – April 21, 2018
After breaking through the four-year postseason drought and winning a playoff series against the Clippers, Gordon Hayward stunned Jazz fans by leaving Utah for the Boston Celtics. Any momentum the team had built over the past seven years growing with the Butler product was instantly dashed on one painful Fourth of July.
However, after a 48 win season led by Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz found themselves matched up with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. The results of the series quickly made fans forget about Hayward’s bitter departure.
After losing narrowly in game one, the Jazz won games two, three, and four, before closing out the Thunder in front of a home crowd in game six.
It wasn’t just that the Jazz won the series that made it special, it’s how the Jazz won that left fans buzzing. Between Ricky Rubio’s game-three 26 point, 11 rebound, 10 assist triple-double, his best outing in a Jazz uniform, and Donovan Mitchell’s 38 points in the closeout game, it was clear the Jazz were a force to be reckoned with in the West for the foreseeable future.
4. Jazz hire Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder
One thing the Jazz organization isn’t used to is turnover, especially in the front office, which is what made the moves to hire Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey and Head Coach Quin Snyder stand out.
Lindsey was hired away from the San Antonio Spurs organization while Kevin O’Connor was still calling the shots in Utah, understanding his tenure in Utah was reaching its end. After taking over as general manager in 2012, Lindsey made a series of front office moves, including replacing standing Head Coach Tyrone Corbin with Snyder.
With the two leading the way, the Jazz have a 55 percent win rate, have made the postseason in three of their five seasons together which included two playoff series wins.
Lindsey’s roster-building moves netted the Jazz both Gobert and Mitchell in savvy draft-night trades, while acquiring both Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic in one off-season put the Jazz on the map as a potential destination location for high-level NBA players.
Snyder’s commitment to defense has unlocked the massive potential of Gobert, while opening up the offensive side of the floor for Mitchell. Snyder’s ability to turn little known basketball role-players like Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles into highly paid starters has made the Jazz an attractive destination for players trying to prove they belong.
3. Jazz Trade For Mike Conley, Sign Bojan Bogdanovic – July 27, 2019
Though one successful decade is coming to an end, Dennis Lindsey ensured the next decade will start out on the right foot during the summer of 2019.
Shortly before June’s NBA draft, Lindsey traded Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, and Kyle Korver, plus two first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Mike Conley. Then, in early July, Lindsey signed forward Bojan Bogdanovic to a four-year contract, surrounding Mitchell and Gobert with the high-level talent they need to take the next step in the postseason.
Though Conley has struggled with injuries to begin his Jazz career, Bogdanovic has quietly been one of the best summer additions in Jazz history. Nearly two and a half months into his Jazz career, Bogdanovic is averaging more than 20 points per game, giving the Jazz two prolific scorers for the first time since the early ’90s, and reliable floor spacer next to Gobert.
Bogdanovic has been one of the league’s best clutch players since his days in Indiana and has proven it again in a Jazz uniform.
2. Joe Johnson beats the Clippers – Jazz win series – April 15, 2017
The Utah Jazz had been held out of the postseason for four consecutive years before a 51 win season earned the team the fifth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs and a matchup against the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz had dropped three of the four regular-season meetings with the Clippers and had to start the series on the road in game one. To make matters worse, Rudy Gobert would suffer a knee contusion after bumping knees with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the opening play of the series and was sidelined until game four.
With all hope seemingly lost, the Jazz hung tough with the Lob-City Clippers, led by Joe Johnson who the Jazz had signed during the previous summer. Johnson, dubbed Iso-Joe, lived up to his nickname, repeatedly bullying Clippers defenders to get into the paint and finish with ease.
The highlight of the game and the series came on the final play of game-one when Johnson, matched up with defender Jamal Crawford, casually dribbled into the paint and hit a three-foot floater as time expired.
The Jazz would go on to win games four, five, and seven in the series to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
1. Jazz acquire Rudy Gobert & Donovan Mitchell from Nuggets
When your team doesn’t reside in a high-profile city, it’s tough to build a roster through free agency. As a result, teams like the Jazz are forced to build through the draft or through making trades. In the case of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz did both on the same night, trading for their two franchise cornerstones on draft nights four years apart.
In 2013, the Jazz sent the draft rights to Erick Green the 46th pick, and cash considerations to Denver Nuggets for Gobert.
In 2017, the Jazz sent rookie Trey Lyles and the draft rights to Tyler Lydon to Denver for Mitchell.
The rest they say is history. Mitchell made the All-Rookie team in 2018 and is one of only three players in the modern era of basketball to average at least 20 points per game as a rookie and lead his team to the playoffs.
Gobert is the twice reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has received three All-Defensive First team selections, and has been named to the All-NBA second and third team.
The decade hasn’t been painless for the Jazz, but acquiring two star-level players without tanking seasons to draft them has made the last 10 years far more enjoyable, and set the Jazz up for a successful 2020.
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