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An awkward offseason looms for the Jazz as they try to avoid rebuild

An awkward offseason looms for the Jazz as they try to avoid rebuild

Wholesale organizational changes are already on the way in Utah.

Following another disappointingly quick postseason exit, the Jazz are facing massive decisions this offseason. One domino has already fallen that’s sent reverberations throughout Salt Lake City, as head coach Quin Snyder resigned last Sunday. An elite tactician, Snyder’s loss is going to be felt immensely for the Jazz in the short-term, but this makeover was long overdue.

Utah’s roster is extremely top-heavy with inconsistent depth behind its starting unit. A regular-season juggernaut, the Jazz routinely rolled through the Western Conference to a top seed. When the playoffs arrived, Utah’s system would routinely get picked apart, while also having no reliable bench pieces outside of Jordan Clarkson.

Also, the chemistry issues between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert continue to fester under the surface. What exactly is going on between the two star players in Utah? With the exit of Snyder, who was a big proponent of Gobert, it feels like the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year is a likely candidate to get traded this summer. However, with a massive contract that could cripple many salary books around the league, finding fair value in return may be very difficult for Utah.

Are the Jazz ready to do whatever it takes to appease Mitchell, their face of the franchise who's been an All-Star since 2020? In order to keep him in Salt Lake City, it’s probably what needs to be done.

It wasn’t an accident that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski immediately reported that Mitchell was “unsettled,” “unnerved,” and “disappointed” the moment Snyder left the Jazz. Mitchell wants to know what’s next for Utah, and the organization will risk losing him if their plans don't align with his vision. There are already rumors surfacing that Mitchell wants Utah to hire New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, who was previously with the Jazz from 2014-to-2020.

Bryant is interviewing for the Jazz job alongside the following names: Terry Stotts (former Portland Trail Blazers head coach), Frank Vogel (former Los Angeles Lakers head coach), Kevin Young (Phoenix Suns assistant), Adrian Griffin (Toronto Raptors assistant), Charles Lee (Milwaukee Bucks assistant), Will Hardy (Boston Celtics assistant) and Joe Mazuzulla (Celtics assistant). There will be even more candidates added to the list, as Utah will conduct an expansive search for the next lead voice to replace Snyder.

Jazz executive Danny Ainge has his work cut out for him to retool this roster on the fly while mending the star’s relationship with the organization. If Mitchell went to Ainge and said, "It’s either me or Gobert," what would happen? Pandora’s box is just waiting to be opened in Salt Lake City. The Jazz could go just about any route and it wouldn’t be surprising.

Outside of the looming Mitchell/Gobert decision, it could be most realistic for Utah to tweak the roster along the edges. Bojan Bogdanovic, a 33-year-old sharpshooter who is now on an expiring contract, makes a lot of sense as a player who could be on the move. Royce O’Neale and Clarkson also make sense as potential trade pieces the Jazz can float out there to extract some value. Mike Conley is another name to keep an eye on, but it’s going to be tough to find any takers on two more years of his $22-plus-million contract, especially after his porous postseason performance at age-34.

If Utah is willing to move Bogdanovic, O’Neale and Clarkson, this could bring back some interesting returns for the Jazz. The Jazz inquired about Jerami Grant prior to the trade deadline, so could they pursue him again for added defensive versatility? Those are the types of transactions to monitor for Utah, regardless of what happens next with Mitchell and Gobert.

“I’ve always believed in player involvement,” Ainge said this week on the Jazz’s YouTube channel. “I was always appreciative when Red Auerbach would ask me a question about things going on with our team, a potential trade he was contemplating. I’ve involved my players. Some of it is you would like to know what they have to say, because they may know somebody. They may have played with somebody. So, in our situation, if there’s been a particular player that has an association or sort with a specific coach, I absolutely would be mistaken if I’m not going to spend time with that player.

"And then, there’s times you just want them to feel included, want to make them aware of the process that you’re going through. But I felt as a coach or executive with players that you have to sell them on what you’re doing, whatever it is, making a trade they may not like; you have to be able to sell why you’re doing it, and ultimately that’s just to get them into the right frame of mind so they can give that change an opportunity to succeed. I believe players are partners in this thing too, so, yes, I think player involvement is important.”

Doesn’t that sound like Ainge is speaking directly about the ongoing situation with Mitchell, potentially alluding to why they requested an interview with his preferred head coaching choice in Bryant? It certainly feels that way, with how Ainge explained player involvement in a coaching search.

The current state of this Utah franchise reeks of awkward dynamics. Is Mitchell going to force his way out if the Jazz don’t hire Bryant? Even if Mitchell stays put for the 2022-23 campaign, who else is surrounding him on the Jazz’s roster? It seems unlikely that Gobert sticks around, especially with his large super-max contract. Plus, key pieces such as Bogdanovic and Clarkson could net an interesting return that allows the Jazz to tweak the top of the rotation.

The pressure is on this offseason to fix the Jazz and prevent a painful full-scale rebuild. When opening night comes around, it's very possible that the Jazz will be completely unrecognizable.

Following Snyder's resignation, everyone around the NBA is waiting to see what domino falls next.

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