ESPN analyst and one-time NBA Coach of the Year Avery Johnson likes what he sees when it comes to the long-term potential of the Utah Jazz, and the strides the team’s young core has taken this year.
That’s one of the reasons he thinks it’s critical the Jazz bring back fourth-year swingman Gordon Hayward, a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
"He’s what I call a valuable asset. The worst thing you can do with a valuable asset is allow a valuable asset to walk without any compensation," Johnson told The Tribune this week. "The best thing to do is to retain their services. I’m hopeful that he and the Jazz can work something out contractually this summer. … It’s hard to allow [coaches] to put 3-4 years into a young man like that and just allow him to sign an offer sheet and leave. Look at what happened to Wes Matthews [who left Utah for Portland after one season]. I think if the Jazz could do that one over again, they probably wouldn’t allow Wes to leave."
Johnson, who played point guard in the league for 16 seasons, has also been impressed with the early play of Trey Burke and thinks the Jazz got a steal by trading up to grab the point guard out of Michigan at No. 9.
"If you redo the draft, that’s an easy one," Johnson said. "He would be a top-five pick. I thought he was going to be a top-five pick."
With a highly touted draft class expected this year, there’s been plenty of attention already on what might happen in June. But Johnson, for one, is not an advocate of "tanking."
"You can supposedly tank and still not get the first pick. We don’t have a system like football," he said. "The Spurs got Tim Duncan and they had the fourth-worst record in the NBA that year. … It’s really a crapshoot. You just never know. People said for a while the Houston Rockets should tank.
"Instead, they added valuable, marketable assets and they got James Harden and Dwight Howard."
Asked what the Jazz need to do to strengthen their roster in the offseason, Johnson turned his attention to the Bluegrass State.
"I think they can use more of a hybrid four, more like a Julius Randle type of player," Johnson said of the Kentucky freshman. "A four-man that can put the ball on the floor, create some offense, play outside and inside."
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