Utah Jazz seem to be following Ainge’s model

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the dust settles on a crazy first few days of free agency and trades, the Utah Jazz have oddly found themselves at the center of the NBA landscape. After trading star Rudy Gobert for some players and a massive haul of picks, as well as adding one pick for Royce O’Neale, the Jazz are making a lot of noise.

What does it all mean? Well, Brian Windhorst suggested that Danny Ainge and the front office are making similar moves to what Boston did in the first year under Brad Stevens, where Ainge was also in the front office.

The similarities are uncanny. The Jazz have hired a young coach and signed him to a long contract, they traded away their star for future assets, and they appear to be at the center of the league. As Windhorst pointed out, “all eyes are on Utah.”

When was the last time that was the case?

It appears that the Jazz are firmly planting themselves as Donovan Mitchell’s team for the future. The best way to do that? Clean house of players you do not believe you can win a title with for future picks. Rudy Gobert tried to cut ties, and Royce O’Neale is simply a role player who was expendable.

The aftermath of the trade left Utah with a very clear future. They have role players, for now, a young player in Walker Kessler who could become a star, and a top-15 player in Mitchell. Their coach is here to stay, but the real asset is all their picks.

Their future is bright. Utah holds three first-round picks in 2023 via Utah, Brooklyn, and Minnesota. In 2024 they are again without picks, but in 2025 they have their own first and Minnesota’s. They have their own first in 2026 (plus the right to swap with MIN), theirs and the Timberwolves’ in 2027, their own in 2028, and a top-five protected pick in 2029 from Minnesota, as well as their own. Factor in their second-round picks and for the rest of the decade, the Jazz have 14 picks, a star who could still be productive, and several young players. If they move some contracts around, they could acquire even more picks or land a coveted free agent soon.

The end goal for the Jazz? They will be a good, competitive team next season. Definitely in the playoffs, although not a Finals team. They will never dip below mediocrity, and they have the assets to eventually build a long-standing championship team, perhaps a dynasty if they draft right.

Look at Boston. They have had two losing seasons since 2007, went through several identity changes from Pierce, to Garnett, then Tatum, and just landed a spot in the NBA Finals. Who knows how long they will stick around? They landed picks from other teams and used them to find talent. Danny Ainge knows the formula, and he might be repeating it in Salt Lake City.