How the Jazz came out of Nowhere

How the Jazz came out of Nowhere

by Nico Fiscella

When looking at the eighteen men who suit up in the Utah Jazz uniforms, you have to applaud general manager Dennis Lindsey for the work he has done for this team. Of the eighteen players on the roster, only one has been drafted by Utah with their pick. How have the other seventeen players found themselves playing in Salt Lake City?

Thank You, Denver

Donovan Mitchell, the leader of this Jazz team, was selected 13th overall in the 2017 NBA draft, however, he was not seen walking up the stage in a Utah Jazz hat. The Denver Nuggets owned the pick and selected Mitchell, only for Dennis Lindsey to swoop in and acquire the future franchise shooting guard for Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles. 

Mitchell has been outstanding since coming to Utah. Meanwhile, Lydon and Lyles are both off of the Denver Nuggets roster. Lydon was waived by the Sacramento Kings in 2019-2020 and has not been seen on a team since. His NBA career has only lasted twenty-six games. For Lyles, he spent two years primarily coming off the bench for Denver. He then left for the San Antonio Spurs in which he is a solid rotational piece.

Ironically, this was not the first draft night trade Utah has made with Denver to acquire an all-star. 

Just like Mitchell, Rudy Gobert walked up the stage and shook hands with Adam Silver in a Denver Nuggets cap. Gobert was selected with the 27th overall pick in 2013, and the 7’1” French center brought more to the table than people believed. The future Defensive Player of the Year was shipped to Utah for cash considerations and a second-round pick.

That second-round pick turned into Erick Green, a point guard out of Virginia tech. Green saw the majority of his NBA career in his first season. He appeared in 42 games on nine minutes a night. Unfortunately, Green’s NBA career would end the next season, as he appeared in only nine games and saw his last NBA minutes on the Jazz. The Nuggets waived the second-year point guard in November, and Utah signed Green to two consecutive ten-day contracts.

Rudy Gobert has been the perfect wingman to Donovan Mitchell. Gobert found himself in his second career NBA All-Star game. This year he is averaging over 14 points, 13.5 rebounds, and exactly three blocks per night.

The Power of Trading

Within the last two seasons, the Jazz has traded for two large contributors on the offensive side of the ball. Both Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson were brought in from a trade, and it has looked like Utah has received the better end of the deal from each trade.

On July 6, 2019, the Utah Jazz sent Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 protected first-round pick for Mike Conley. The lifetime Memphis Grizzlies player was moving on from a Memphis team heading into a rebuild.

For Memphis, the only remaining player still on the roster from that trade is Grayson Allen, while the first-round pick has moved to a 2021 protected first-round pick. Allen is averaging just under ten points this season, as he is playing nearly twenty-five minutes per game. 

After a disappointing first season, Conley has been a pleasant surprise for Utah. He has made his first NBA All-Star game this season, and has been a big reason as to why Utah is the one seed.

Later that season, the Jazz acquired Jordan Clarkson from the Cavaliers. The Jazz let go of Dante Exum, a 2022 second-round pick, and a 2023 third-round pick for the third-highest scorer on the Jazz. Exum, a former fifth overall pick, has only played in six games this season and has averaged twenty minutes of action for each of those contests. Exum, now a member of the Houston Rockets, only provided the Cavs with three points per game before being traded. Clarkson, on the other hand, has been another great surprise for Utah.

Clarkson is having a career year for himself, as his 17 points off the bench is a career high for the 28-year-old. Clarkson is one of the front-runners for Sixth Man of The Year and has been a spark off the bench for Utah.

The Wings of Utah

It was hard were to categorize Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Georges Niang, so I decided to group them all. While many know Derrick Favors as a long-time Utah Jazz, his career did not start in Utah. 

Favors was selected third overall by the New Jersey Nets back in 2010 and spent the majority of his rookie season with the Nets before being traded to Utah. The Jazz sent away Deron Williams and received Devin Harris, cash, a 2011 first-round pick (turned into Enes Kanter), and a 2013 first-round pick (turned into Gorgui Deng). 

Williams was an NBA All-Star his first two seasons in New Jersey. however, he began to regress and a great career ended a lot sooner than expected. Devin Harris spent two injury-riddled years with Utah and was later traded to the Hawks for Marvin Williams.

While Bogdanovic’s play has been exciting to watch, he came to Utah in a very basic way. Bogdanovic signed with the Jazz in July of 2019 on a four-year 73 million dollar contract. Now, two years into his contract, Bogdanovic scoring has been another outstanding secondary piece to the Jazz.

Ingles found his way to the NBA in 2014 with the Los Angeles Clippers. After being with the Clippers for less than a month, he was claimed off waivers by Utah. In his age 33 season, Ingles has provided the Jazz with 12 points per game, while both starting and coming off the bench for Utah. Ingles has the most made threes in Jazz history, and this season he is splashing nearly half of his threes per game at 49 percent.

As for O’Neale and Niang, both of these forwards have had to put in the effort to maintain a roster spot. O’Neale went undrafted in 2015, and after playing overseas, found himself with the Salt Lake City Stars. O’Neale has turned his hard work into a four year 36 million dollar contract through 2023.

As for Niang, the second-round pick was waived in 2017 by the Indiana Pacers. After spending a couple of months with the Golden State Warriors, Niang was signed by the Jazz in January of 2018 with a two-way contract. 

The Bench Depth

Of the eighteen men on Utah’s roster, eight of them see most of the game from the bench instead of on the court. Everyone listed below is averaging under three points per game and is not seen often in Utah’s rotation during games. However, each one of these players was not drafted by the Jazz.

Matt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova were both acquired during the trade deadline. Ilyasova was signed as a free agent while Thomas was acquired by the Toronto Raptors. Ilyasova is joining his seventh team in his age 33 season, where he could provide some shooting off the bench for Utah. Thomas was acquired for two future second-round picks. Thomas has only appeared in two games for Utah and gives them some more depth as they head into their playoff run.

Of these eight players, Miye Oni has played the most games for Utah this season. Oni has appeared in 32 games for Utah. He was selected by the Warriors in 2019 (58th overall pick) and was traded to Utah for 2 million dollars.

Juwan Morgan is one of two players left who are not on two-way contracts. Morgan signed a ten-day contract with Utah back in August of 2019 and has since found his way onto the Utah roster. After signing a multi-year contract before the 2020 season, Morgan is hopeful for a return next season.

The Jazz currently has three men rostered as apart of the two-way contract system. Jarrell Brantley, Shaquille Harrison and Trent Forest are all splitting time between the Jazz and their G-League affiliate. While the three have not been a major impact on the team, they have only been able to watch as the big guns have been taking over the Western Conference.

Elijah Hughes is the second closest player to almost count as being drafted from the Jazz. Hughes was selected in the second round of last year’s draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz sent New Orleans cash and a future second-round pick for the rights to Hughes. 

The Lone Utah Draftee

Finally, Udoka Azubuike is the only rostered player to be selected by Utah with their pick. Ironically, this draft pick was almost sent to Memphis. However, it fell between 15-30 so it went back to Utah per their agreement. Azubuike has not seen much action in his rookie season, but he has a lot of potential to be like Rudy Gobert one day if given the chance to shine. Both Azubuike and Gobert were taken with the 27th pick. The jury is still out on what the future holds for Azubuike.

With every player having a slightly different journey to Utah, this team has expressed one of the best styles of team basketball this season. With Utah sitting at the top of the Western Conference, could this oddly acquired bunch bring Utah its first-ever championship? Only time will tell.

Featured image courtesy Salt Lake Tribune

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