The loss of two of the greatest stars in Utah Jazz history has fans wondering, what now? Coming out of the 2022 off season, it’s pretty apparent that a lot of Jazz nation aren’t feeling very optimistic for this upcoming 2022-2023 season. Having lost both Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, both perennial all-stars for the Jazz, definitely stings.
Mitchell and Gobert both have been a part of the team’s success for over five years, bringing national attention to Utah in a way that hasn’t been seen since the John Stockton and Karl Malone era in the 90s, and reigniting that excitement into the hearts of each fan extending from Logan down to St. George and every city in between.
It was an excitement that should not have been there in the first place because the Jazz had just lost Gordon Hayward, their first all-star in over six years, to the Boston Celtics and were looking to rebuild for a few years. But after Mitchell had a borderline superstar rookie season and led the Jazz to a playoff appearance, the expectations were high for the Jazz in the following years. And with star center Rudy Gobert winning the coveted Defensive Player of the Year award three years in a row, it seemed that nothing could slow the Jazz team down.
Yet in the years following Mitchell’s breakout year, Utah had a rough time making it past the second round of the playoffs despite amazing performances by both Gobert and Mitchell. So what was the issue? A lot of people speculate some friction in the locker room was the root cause of the Jazz having a rough time on the court. Countless rumors floated around that Mitchell and Gobert did not get along and this caused terrible team chemistry both on and off the court. Both players were quick to dispel any and all rumors that one or both of them wanted out of the franchise.
Mitchell stated in a recent interview, “…let’s try and do this as a group and make changes if need be, but not myself or big fella. Let’s run it back” And although we may never know what the problem actually was, there is one thing that’s almost certain–the future for the Jazz is looking bright.
In the midst of the 2022 season Danny Ainge, one of basketball’s brightest CEOs, joined the Jazz franchise to oversee player operations. In Ainge’s previous tenure with the Boston Celtics, he took some of the most beloved and fan favorite players and traded them away seemingly without a second thought.
At the time, the basketball world questioned his methods and thought he was crazy for trading a questionably championship-level squad to other markets. But as the Celtics failed to make an extended playoff run, he felt it was time to move on to newer and better things. In the years following Boston had tremendous success throughout the regular season and the playoffs. And in more recent years, those assets that Ainge brought to Boston have translated into a championship caliber team.
What does this mean for the Utah Jazz? It means that although they’ve lost a few of the NBA’s best, there is a method to the madness. Having acquired countless draft picks and young talent from across the NBA, the Jazz are now in position to rebuild and create one of the best teams for years to come.