30 Teams in 30 Days | 2023

30 teams in 30 days: Jazz keep adding assets, talent to burgeoning core

Utah has youth and rising players on its roster as it looks to continue its fast-track rebuild.

Jazz coach Will Hardy has a new addition in the mix for 2023-24 in former Hawks big man John Collins (right).

Key additions

  • F John Collins (trade), F Omer Yurtseven (free agency), F Taylor Hendricks (draft), G Keyonte George (draft), F Brice Sensabaugh (draft)

Key subtractions

  • None significant

Last season

The Jazz made the seismic decision to trade away the franchise’s two best players to reboot the team and, initially, tank the season for a chance to get a generational player in Victor Wembanyama.

That didn’t exactly go to plan. The Jazz didn’t sink to the bottom, mainly because the club — steered remarkably by first-year coach Will Hardy — remained competitive most nights and took itself out of the Wembanyama sweepstakes.

This wasn’t so bad. Lauri Markkanen delivered a career and All-Star season, becoming the focal point on offense in averaging 25.6 points — more than 10 ppg better than his 14.8 ppg with Cleveland in 2021-22. He posted 8.6 rebounds per game, too and, in one of the least surprising NBA postseason honors, was named Kia Most Improved Player.

Many of the Jazz’s rotation players elevated their games, too. Jordan Clarkson averaged a career-best 20.8 ppg, Collin Sexton battled injuries all season but still posted 14.3 ppg in a mostly reserve role and Talen Horton-Tucker (10.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.8 apg) was a pleasant surprise. In addition, rookie Walker Kessler provided rim protection (2.3 bpg) that folks thought Utah would miss after it dealt Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But Gobert was effectively replaced and Donovan Mitchell’s absence wasn’t a drastic let-down. Utah moved on from those two and toward what could be a solid future.

Summer summary

There’s a chance, a decent one actually, that the work done by GM Danny Ainge in 2022 when he traded away the team’s two franchise players will put him in the Haul Of Fame. The massive return for those two players was realized immediately when Markkanen (from the Mitchell trade to Cleveland) became an All-Star and Kessler (from the Gobert trade to Minnesota) made the All-Rookie First Team. Additionally, rookie guard Ochai Agbaji showed flashes, too, averaging 15.2 ppg over the final 19 games (he came over in the Mitchell trade).

Utah wants to keep some of this core together, signing Clarkson to a reported three-year, $55 million extension in the offseason. He has held down a variety of roles in Utah (he was a former Kia Sixth Man of the Year winner), but showed a newfound playmaking touch last season (career-best 4.4 apg).

And guess what? That’s just for starters. There’s more coming, in terms of picks (and tradable assets) over the next few years. A haul.

One of those picks was spent on Keyonte George, a playmaking point guard from Baylor. If his play in Summer League was any indication of what’s coming this season, he’ll produce for Utah right away — and could push for a starter’s role. That’s how high Utah is on George, who fulfills a positional need after Utah dealt Mike Conley to Minnesota at the trade deadline.

Jazz legend Jeff Hornacek joins the broadcast to discuss the team and his observations from the 2023 Salt Lake City Summer League.

The Draft produced more: Hendricks is an intriguing talent who shot up the draft board (taken at No. 9) based on pre-Draft workouts. He played on the same high school team in Fort Lauderdale with Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes and became the first one-and-done player from UCF.

Sensabaugh starred at Ohio State and could carve out rotational minutes as a rookie, although with the amount of emerging talent on the Jazz, there will be plenty of competition for minutes.

Finally, a trade brought in Collins, and the organization should be happy with him. Collins goes over well in the locker room and is a solid veteran who brings leadership and accountability. He’s not the talent of a few seasons ago, when he was a prime player for the Atlanta Hawks, but he’ll fit in the frontcourt somewhere and give balance with Markkanen.

That was an impressive amount of incoming goods the Jazz welcomed this offseason, and best news is, there’s surely more to come.

Up next: Minnesota Timberwolves | Previously: Chicago Bulls

> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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