SALT LAKE CITY – One franchise has won 16 championships, appearing in the NBA Finals 31 times during a 61-year span. The other has come close only twice, falling short both times.
Yet, the far-less heralded organization is in a substantially better situation than the traditional powerhouse. Yes, despite falling far short in reputation and historical results, the Utah Jazz exceed the current situation of the Los Angeles Lakers.
What’s it all mean? Well, if NBA players and their agents are paying any attention, the Jazz should be in better position to improve their team this summer.
By any metric, the Lakers are the standard by which all teams in the Western Conference have measure themselves. But as presently constituted, having missed playoffs the last six consecutive seasons, the organization is a mess.
Too bad the Lakers are not the only competition the Jazz face in trying to sign free agents this summer. Several teams, every one of which has money available to spend, are all vying with the Jazz in trying to lure the services of top players.
But with the exception of a few top-tier players, the caliber of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, most other free agents should seriously consider what the Jazz can offer. The organization has what players should want, specifically salary and stability.
Assuming they clear cap space by not re-signing most of their free agents, Jazz could have enough money to make at least one significant addition. Accounting for ownership, management and coaching, the team can rank with any NBA organization in terms of consistency.
Consider what the Lakers are going through.
Longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote: “Why, indeed would anyone want to forge a lengthy business partnership in the prime of their career with a franchise owned by a confused Jeanie Buss, abandoned by a frustrated Magic Johnson, run by a domineering LeBron James, and operated under the heavy hand of a distrusted Rob Pelinka?”
Plaschke continued: “Superstars want a championship culture. Not happening here.
“Superstars want a stable front office. Not even close.
“Superstars want distraction-free basketball. Not a chance.”
The Jazz, basically the opposite of these Lakers, check all the boxes. Somebody has got to notice.
And the time is now. With the Jazz coming off three consecutive playoff appearances and reaching the 50-win plateau twice, management has to approach the upcoming free agency period with boldness, willing to take the necessary risks to improve.
“We have a very good team,” Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey said in April after the season ended, “But while we have a very good team, we don’t have a great team.”
But they have attractive assets build around. In addition to the organizational stability, they also have Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, two budding All-Stars under age 27 who deserve a better roster to augment their individual games and help the Jazz move up the Western Conference pecking order.
Only 22, Mitchell has vowed to recruit talent to the team. His dynamic personality, combined with incredible ability, also should add to the attractiveness of the franchise.
If the recent report from Spain is accurate, Ricky Rubio’s tenure as the starting point guard in Utah is over. That report indicated the Jazz already have told the free agent he’s not a top priority, a comment the team has not confirmed.
It is obvious, though, the Jazz need more scoring to take the pressure off of Mitchell, who is the only player able to create his own shot. Nine years of NBA history has proven Rubio is not a reliable perimeter shooter.
A three-point shooting big man also is a necessity, which likely means Derrick Favors’ run with the Jazz has ended. Given other needs, the team probably cannot afford to pay more than $16 million for essentially a backup center.
Whatever happens, expect an improved product when the Jazz convene next season.