Stability is an asset many franchises lack in today’s NBA. Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder have established a system and qualities in players they gravitate to. We probably could have seen this draft coming.
One of the best assets the Utah Jazz had all season long was their flexibility and versatility as they navigated injuries to most of their roster. The number of games lost by starters was well documented and often commented on how well Quin Snyder was playing with a revolving door of players in a varying degree of health.
Yes, Snyder should get the credit for preparing the players to fill in as well as they had. Joe Ingles was told he was an emergency player and shouldn’t anticipate many minutes. Flash forward to him starting in the playoffs and guarding everyone from Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. The reason Ingles was on the roster in the first place was because of the strategy set in place by Dennis Lindsey.
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In the modern NBA the future is interchangeable wing players that can switch on D and shoot 3’s. Jalen Rose often refers to the Milwaukee Bucks as Team Futuristic due to all of their players being interchangeable. The Utah Jazz have a very similar philosophy with the difference being they have the best young center for the modern NBA in Rudy Gobert.
Utah succeeded in establishing great wing defenders surrounding Rudy that can over pursue ball handlers, forcing them to pass through hopefully congested passing lanes or drive to the rim in the waiting arms of the best rim defender in the league. Dennis Lindsey built a roster of interchangeable parts that enabled him to maintain the offense no matter who missed time due to injury.
Seven months ago I wrote about this exact thing and how Lindsey sought out players with bigger wingspans in order to collapse passing lanes. Utah had an amazing run playing big with Derrick Favors and Rudy the year before but wanted to be able to play small as well. Snyder talked about the ability to play small, but with long players, which results in a pretty big team that is able to play fast but also not give up rebounds or really be physically that small.
I made this chart last year to illustrate this point:
You can see the theme.
Which brings us to the move Thursday night. Donovan Mitchell was a great in college just by the work he put in on the court. His measurable were off the charts coming out of the draft combine.
He’s a freak athlete, coming in at first in standing vertical leap and first at 3/4 court sprint. The first part of being a contributor to an NBA is standing out physically and obviously he checks those boxes. I’m no Louisville insider but as I’ve started reading up on him it looks like Mitchell was a late bloomer. We already know Utah has a few of those themselves (Hayward, Hood, Hill, Ingles).
Utah’s base system is focused on perimeter defense, rim protection and shooting. Mitchell can contribute to all three. He seems to be a perfect system player for Utah. Think a younger, more athletic Joe Ingles.
As a shooting guard with ball handling ability he can possibly make the transition to point, but in Utah it doesn’t matter. Utah uses a ball motion offense and with an athlete like Mitchell he can take amazing advantage of slashing and backdoor dunks. I mean…
Throw in how excited he was to even work out for Utah and we should have seen this coming.
Dennis Lindsey and Co. got their man. The pipeline of interchangeable players continues to plug holes. Thursday night was just another reminder that the Utah Jazz are in great hands.