Three years ago, the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz made a blockbuster trade to send All-Star caliber point guard Mike Conley to Salt Lake City, in order to bolster the latter’s chances at winning a NBA championship.
Three years later, the goal was never achieved, and the dynamic has shifted within these two teams.
The Memphis Grizzlies expedited their rebuild through superstar point guard Ja Morant and strong player development around him. Now, they’re a team vying for a NBA championship.
After 3-straight disappointing playoff exits, the Jazz traded away cornerstones Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell for a truck load of picks — signaling a new era and a rebuild through the
Wembanyama sweepstakes draft.
Ahead of tonight’s game, I talk with James Hansen, Site Manager of SLC Dunk, about the Utah Jazz.
1) Everything is all torn down. What was the general mood around the media/fanbase with those moves?
For the fanbase it’s been pretty well understood why the Jazz are doing it, and a lot of them are embracing it. Our hashtag #takenote has now been adjusted to #tanknote for a lot of fans who are hoping the Jazz can get lucky in the lottery.
2) So, the tank for Wembanyama is off to an interesting start. Could you describe the conflicting feelings of wanting those odds but also appreciating early success?
I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the winning. Everyone expected losses, not for the Jazz to go 4-1. But after about 2 seasons of the Jazz playing disinterested, having an uninspired coach, and a general malaise with the entire team, to have a team that plays hard, is well coached and plays as a team is super refreshing. At some point the Jazz have to start losing because this collection of players definitely has a ceiling, but for now it’s almost a feeling of healing to have the Jazz be fun again.
3) The Jazz are a common rumored team for Westbrook. What would be the ideal framework for your team?
For the Jazz, they need to get worse to get a top 5 pick. The player that really makes things move right now is Mike Conley. He’s been fantastic running the offense this year. Will Hardy has been fantastic at giving him the reigns to the offense, and Conley has also looked like someone who embraces being a mentor to these young players.
If they move Mike Conley to the Lakers for Russell Westbrook, that will be a major hit to their ability to play efficiently on offense. That likely is the starting point for a trade, then it’s just a matter of what the Lakers are also wanting? Would they like Malik Beasley, or Jordan Clarkson? Whatever player they want, they need shooting and to match salaries, and the Jazz have a lot of players that they can send that would help the Lakers shooting problems. For Utah, it’s the same thing that held up the trade with the Knicks: it’s the unprotected picks. If the Lakers are willing to send their two future unprotected picks, I’m sure the Jazz would be willing to make a trade happen.
4) Which young player has fascinated you the most?
Walker Kessler. He’s been surprisingly good in his minutes on the floor. Around here his nickname has become Walker Kessler Ranger and it’s fun to see how comfortable he looks on an NBA floor. I’m not sure if he will ever be more than a starting caliber center, but it’s exciting to see how good he is right off the bat
5) Thoughts on Utah’s new jerseys
Pass. Just kidding, I think the biggest disappointment with them is that the colors are actually really good. The Jazz’s new black and yellow court really is beautiful. All offseason we knew the change was coming and it was disappointing that they didn’t do something cool with the logo and just went with ... nothing. I’m sure they’ll do something in the future, but for now we see a jersey that has the same feel as when Dwight at the office had a sign that said, “it is your birthday.”