For months, Dennis Lindsey has said he was going to sell what the Jazz have to offer.
They have more to offer now than they ever have before.
And buyers are buying in.
The Utah Jazz have continued their best-ever offseason by signing free agent Jeff Green to the veteran’s minimum — $2.5 million — for the coming season, a real value, and they will sign 23-year-old point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, a former seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, as well.
There are reasons these deals came to be. Different reasons for each, but reasons that led to the same result — more depth for a team that many are predicting will contend for an NBA title in 2019-20.
Green had options. He could have gone a number of places, having spent 13 years in the NBA, including playing in six postseasons, scoring an average of 13 points and playing effective defense at multiple positions, but chose Utah at least in part because of … Mike Conley.
Although Green has spent time with seven different franchises, he grew close to Conley while in Memphis, and why wouldn’t he. NBA players voted Conley the league’s best teammate.
Moreover, who doesn’t want to play for a substantial winner, and the Jazz are well on their way to building that, led by Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Conley, and other newcomers Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, as well as the comfortable familiars, such as Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale.
In addition, there are the facilities in which the Jazz have invested, a noticeable commitment that has less to do with creature comforts for players and more to do with Jazz priorities. And those priorities go far beyond nice practice courts and locker rooms and lounges and hot tubs and cryotherapy chambers and fireplaces and gourmet food.
They speak to the Jazz’s ability — and now, reputation — for getting the most out of their players. That’s a big part of why Mudiay is coming to Utah.
The raw point guard was highly regarded, though he had his detractors — and still does around the league — in the 2015 draft, where he was taken by Denver. That didn’t work out so well, and he bounced from the Nuggets to Toronto to New York, never having fulfilled the full measure of what some think him capable.
So, what does a young point guard do when his career has as much lurch in it as love? He comes to Quin Snyder, the player whisperer, to fill out his form. He comes to the Jazz’s developmental staff to heal his basketball soul.
That sounds a bit over the top, but … it’s not, as long as said player has some talent, and has the willingness to listen to coaches who know how to improve his game.
Gordon Hayward got a lot of credit — and a whole lot of cash from the Celtics — for working to get better. But there were coaches like Johnnie Bryant in the background who fed Hayward the information he needed and then spent time on the floor with him to make it happen. You think anybody on the outside hasn’t noted the advancement Gobert has made, all as Alex Jensen has guided him along?
Mitchell didn’t just grow out of the ground the way he is. Same with O’Neale and Ingles. Joe was a complete NBA afterthought — until the Jazz got him. Again, Snyder and his lieutenants did their work so the players could do theirs.
The progression of Mudiay’s career hangs in the balance, playing for a new team that will play basketball with a purpose that centers on unselfishness and, most significantly, winning.
On account of strong team leadership, Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik, along with Snyder, are selling this team all right. And players want the goods.
It’s not that the signings of Green and Mudiay are league-shifting, league-shaking moves, but their arrival fills out a roster where the only real weakness was depth. That weakness has now been significantly reduced.
Taken in total, in the Jazz’s Great Offseason of 2019, the front office’s aggression is building into a wave, a swell that, as many have concluded, is turning the Jazz into a problem for opponents in the West.
Gobert, Mitchell, Conley, Bogdanovic, Ingles, Green, Davis, O’Neale, Mudiay, Exum, Niang, Bradley, with the addition of a couple more.
Not only does that roster have talent, offensive and defensive, it has a combination of youth and savvy, and intrinsic mental toughness that will be required if the Jazz are to thrash into frontiers many of them individually have yet to see.
As long as serious injury stays away, it’s not that complicated to guess that not only will the Jazz have their best season in a couple of decades, but many of the players themselves will have the best season of their careers. That may not be reflected in individual scoring and rebounding totals, because shots and boards will have to be shared among the group. But efficiency and effectiveness will increase.
And so will the wins.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.