Little Clarity In Future As Jazz Enter Offseason
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz front office was careful not to set specific expectations for what will be a critical offseason for the franchise.
While Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert will see their five-year max contract extensions kick in this summer, All-Star guard Mike Conley will be a free agent, and his future with the team will likely dictate their ceiling.
Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey and General Manager Justin Zanik spoke together about the team’s future, while coach Quin Snyder reflected on the successes and failures of the past year in their final media availability of the season.
Lindsey, Zanik Speak On Conley, Jazz Offseason
The two biggest questions facing the Jazz this offseason will be the ability to hold onto Conley in free agency, and how to diversify the team’s defense to combat the small lineups that have doomed them in the past several postseasons.
While the team is limited in what it can say as Conley is now a free agent, it’s clear the front office would prefer to see him back in a Jazz uniform.
“The speed, skill, experience, intelligence, character, poise that he adds to the group, we just pinch ourselves, it’s an honor to have him part of the program,” Lindsey said.
“We have good relationships there we’ll have just a real honest conversation and see, you know if he can make a marriage work.”
The guard will be one of the most high-profile free agents on the open market as he proved he can help lead a good playoff seed to the top team in the West even when appearing in limited games.
It would take a significant financial investment from the Jazz to retain Conley as they will enter free agency near the luxury tax before the guard makes his decision. The Jazz would face a penalty for each dollar they spend over the tax by re-signing Conley, but losing him for nothing would leave a massive hole on the roster, and greatly reduce the team’s talent and asset base.
If the Jazz were to lose Conley, they could attempt to even the loss of offense by upping their defensive attack. Rudy Gobert’s immense defensive skillset was overwhelmed in the loss to the Clippers as he was asked to defender shooters on the perimeter, while also being the last option rim protector when the team’s wings were beaten off the dribble.
“There’s no question when the Clippers went small and more skilled that our containment needed to be at a higher level,” Lindsey said. “It created a trigger inside of which we gave up a lot of corner threes and that’s not something that we typically do or believe in.”
The issue for the Jazz will be how to maintain their offensive identity as a three-point shooting team while finding more length and athleticism on the perimeter. Zanik summed up the difficultly of finding those players at the end of their conversation.
“Two-way players are very very important to NBA clubs. That’s why they come at really high premiums.”
Snyder Reflects On Season
Rather than look to the future, something in which Quin Snyder has less input on the team than the front office, the Jazz coach chose to reflect on the season of highs and lows.
Snyder opened his availability by thanking his players and recognizing their individual accomplishments.
“I think what was in many ways, not just a successful year but tremendously successful one with respect to what our team was able to do collectively,” Snyder said.
“Right now, my heart really goes out to them, knowing not just the work that they put in, which was substantial, but even more so, given the circumstances of the season, the investment that they made both physically and mentally.”
Snyder discussed how grateful he was for his players and the time they spent together, including Conley, rather than focusing solely on the team’s early dismissal.
“On a personal level as much as anything,” Snyder said, “the appreciation that I have for him not only is he a great player, but he’s one of the best human beings that I’ve ever had an opportunity to be with on a daily basis.”
Conley’s injury, teamed with Donovan Mitchell’s sprained ankle, left the Jazz shorthanded against the more resilient Clippers, resulting in the team elimination from the playoffs.
After the loss, Snyder acknowledged the disappointment of reflecting on a season that ended too soon after having built high expectations throughout the year and into the final game.
“The enthusiasm and emotion that we felt in the first half, in particular, compared to where the second half went makes this even more difficult to accept and process,” Snyder said. “But that’s that’s the reality of where we are.”
The Jazz offseason begins as Lindsey and Zanik will now travel to Chicago to attend the NBA Draft combine before July’s NBA Draft.
Utah Jazz Scoreboard
Utah Jazz Team Leaders
Utah Jazz Standings