In 10 months on the job, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has proven himself to be a portrait of calm. Always surveying, he never sat in the stands at Jazz games like his fiery predecessor, Kevin O’Connor, preferring instead to stand in the tunnel behind the bench, keeping careful notes.
In that time he was preparing carefully for the inevitable overhaul of the roster. When’s February’s trade deadline came, he opted to let it pass without acting. Thursday marks Lindsey’s first draft as an NBA GM and his first real opportunity to put his stamp on a Jazz team that, over the next several weeks, will be sorting out its identity.
Armed with the 14th, 21st and 46th picks in the NBA Draft, Lindsey will make his first outward contributions to the makeup of the Jazz. Those who have worked with him since he replaced O’Connor in August, as well as his former boss in San Antonio, described the 44-year-old executive as fastidious, a voracious student of player film, and dedicated to collaboration. Several Jazz employees pointed to Lindsey’s thoroughness evaluating every player, watching film on each of the 67 the Jazz brought in for workouts, and then having detailed conversations with employees throughout the organization.
“That’s what I believe in,” Lindsey said, “and I shared that vision prior to taking the job. Kevin’s been very open to that and so I’ve had a real partner with him.”
Lindsey said that kind of cooperation and thoroughness was demanded by his bosses in San Antonio, GM R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich, as well as earlier in his career with Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston.
“I think he’s systematic,” Buford said. “I think he has a great understanding of issues that are important to the draft.”
In five seasons as San Antonio’s assistant GM, Lindsey oversaw five years of drafts — and draft-day trades — that yielded players such as Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, eventual starters for a Spurs team that pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the NBA Finals.
O’Connor, now the team’s executive vice president for basketball operations, said that history was key to his hiring.
“I think anytime that you can exceed expectations in the draft — the value becomes better than the pick you have — that’s one of the areas that certainly is very, very, very public,” O’Connor said.
“I would say that everything that he was involved in had his fingerprints all over it,” Buford said.
Lindsey said last week that under his stewardship the Jazz would be “very aggressive” in the draft, whether that be by moving up, down or out of the draft, or simply making bold choices.
Asked if he felt any different going into the draft in the lead seat, Lindsey said no.
“I wish I could say that I did,” he said, “but it gets back to a level of participation. In San Antonio and Houston I’ve been the person on the phone to consummate deals. I’ve been the lead in drafts and decisions and I’ve been [in a supporting role].”
The most visible change Lindsey brought to the Jazz’s pre-draft preparation, which he has spearheaded in tandem with O’Connor and Walt Perrin, the team’s vice president of player personnel, was the number of players to work out for the team. Sixty-seven draft hopefuls visited the Jazz practice facility, although Perrin said that was also a product of the Jazz having three picks, as well.
“I challenged Walt to bring in more players and the Millers have made that financial commitment,” Lindsey said. “And I think we’ve used our time wisely.”
When Lindsey was hired, part of the plan he sold the Jazz on was a global expansion of scouting efforts, which may pay off either in the draft or in free agency or even in later years.
“He said we can get better if we have this,” Jazz CEO Greg Miller said. “We’ll have a broader reach and we’ll be able to analyze more talent and it’s likely to help us sign better players.”