The Utah Jazz may not have won an Executive of the Year award in decades, but their quality of the front office personnel is manifesting itself in recent weeks
If you’re a die hard Utah Jazz fan, then you probably know how the front office works in contrast to other NBA teams.
They are typically very tight-lipped, conservative in making smart trades, and consistent with holding on to the same employees for decades at a time.
They never divulge much of their thought-process for who they are targeting, whether that be around NBA draft time, free agency, or mid-season when the trade deadline is approaching.
The success of this stable front office starts and ends with the incredible ownership the Jazz have had for 35 years, that being the Miller family of course.
They empower the executive to make the moves they need to improve the team, while also making it clear they want to avoid paying the luxury tax if possible.
For other NBA fanbases though, I’m sure the Jazz’s awesome front office is the league’s best kept secret.
When most basketball fans think of a solid front office, they think of the shrewd executives that are able to pull off blockbuster trades and signings. For example, Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics for always looking to accumulate assets and never lose an asset for nothing.
They think of Jerry West, and Pat Riley, who have quickly assembled super teams in the span of one summer.
They think of Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets, who has embraced analytics and is so number-driven in his transactions that it has left the team with no rotation player standing over 6-foot-8.
And as always, they think of the San Antonio Spurs who were able to keep the same core of players intact for about 15 years, and win four championships spaced out through the decade and a half.
History is written by the winners, and winners of championships especially in the NBA, which the Jazz have yet to accomplish.
Having said that though, the Jazz may be the best front office to never win a championship and perhaps are the most underrated group of executives in the All-Time history of basketball.
This has manifested itself true with the attention Justin Zanik has been getting from other NBA teams and being a finalist on several general manager jobs.
He was a finalist to be the Philadelphia 76ers GM in 2018, and most recently was a top-two finalist for a prestigious, high-paying job with the Chicago Bulls, not too far from his hometown routes.
Thankfully the Jazz have been able to not only hold on to Zanik but give him a small promotion and more control of the team’s day-to-day transactions. I suspect he played a large part in getting Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to become Jazzmen last summer.
And then just yesterday, it was announced that Walt Perrin will be leaving the Jazz for a bigger role with the New York Knicks.
Perrin served mainly as a scout for the Jazz, and we’d usually only hear from him when it was time for pre-draft workouts in April, May, and June leading up to the NBA draft.
Walt has done some incredible work in his time in Utah, being a first-hand witness to the draft workouts Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert performed in front of the Jazz.
Word is that Perrin and the rest of the Jazz were wildly impressed by what they saw Rudy and Donovan achieve in literally just minutes of the workout they went through, which explains the aggressiveness of Dennis Lindsey in trading up to draft both of them.
While I am excited for Perrin to see what he does with his new opportunity in New York City, he will have his work cut out for him.
The Knicks have been one of the worst teams in the league for the past 20 years, except for a small era of Carmelo Anthony and Ama’re Stoudemire. They have whiffed on countless draft picks, and traded away one of their best ones (Kristaps Porzingis) for cap space in 2019.
They ended up not using the cap space on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who spurned them for the inner-city rival Brooklyn Nets just across town.
RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are both interesting prospects in the NBA game, and perhaps they may be the saving grace of the current Knicks roster.
If Perrin can come in and do what he does best – that is, scouting talent for the particular draft position his team has – he can help the Knicks finally escape the cellar of the league they’ve been dwelling in for far too long.
It stings a little to lose such a long-tenured member of the Utah Jazz, but at least the Jazz now have a personal connection with the front office in New York, making it easier to navigate trades between the two franchises.
If you don’t believe in those relationships making a difference, just look at the past three seasons and what the Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers have done. They have taken on Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum in consecutive years.
It so happens that Justin Zanik was at one point close to working for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was going to work under Chauncey Billups in their front office if Billups was hired for the main executive job, but they ended up hiring Koby Altman instead.
Of course, there also is the possibility that this connection between the Jazz and Knicks organization comes back to haunt the Jazz, if New York happens to poach any of our players.
The most obvious candidate is Donovan Mitchell, who plenty of Knicks fans on social media have been dreaming of him returning to his home-state to play in the Madison Square Garden for quite some time now.
I seriously doubt that will happen any time soon though as Mitchell will be offered a max-extension from the Jazz this summer, meaning he can’t enter unrestricted free agency for up to five years if he signs the extension.
Whatever does happen in the future between the Jazz and Knicks, I wish Walt Perrin the best as he starts this new chapter of his career in the Big Apple!