SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It wasn’t like missing the playoffs was a shock to Jazz management.
“We thought that this season would be a journey, a season of discovery.” said Jazz general manager Justin Zanik at his postseason media availability Wednesday. “We got to find out a lot of different things about our players, things that we needed to know as we continue to open up a championship window.”
“The attitude of the players was fantastic,” said Jazz CEO Danny Ainge. “Staying ready and being professional, we really didn’t have too much pouting and whining over playing time.”
With 15 first round picks in the next six years, including three this year, the NBA Draft will be extremely important as this team continues to build its foundation.
“We’ll have a lot of draft workouts,” Ainge said. “With the ability to get more people in for workouts with multiple picks, getting to see them up close and personal is big in the draft process.”
With so much draft capital and salary cap space, the Jazz have the ability to go after big name free agents. It also sounds like they want Jordan Clarkson back, who has a player option next season.
“That’s going to be between the player and their agent to make that decision,” Zanik said. “Then we’ll deal with that accordingly. If he’s a free agent, then obviously we love Jordan and he’s contributed so much to this year.”
Ainge and Zanik were not surprised by Lauri Markkanen developing into an All-Star, but they didn’t expect rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji to develop so quickly.
“We were obviously pleasantly surprised,” Zanik said. “Most rookies are terrible. So, it’s a relative bar. But Walker was good and Ochai was good. It gave us something we could take forward and build.”
After trading Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt at the trade deadline, the Jazz now have a good idea about the pieces they want to surround Markkanen, Kessler and Agbaji with.
“Us freeing up some of those minutes after the trade deadline allowed us to get a really good look at Talen, Collin and all the other guys. So, we have a good picture of some of the pieces here that we can build around.”
So how many years away are the Jazz from becoming a championship caliber team again?
“You guys aren’t the only ones asking us when we’re going to be good,” Ainge said. “We get asked that question by Ryan all the time too. He’s anxious to spend his money, and we’re anxious to spend it.”