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SALT LAKE CITY — As the Jazz continue to blow up the roster after a string of disappointing playoff outings, the clear goal is to retool talent by acquiring draft picks.
The philosophy follows the formula used by previous management for decades in an effort to build a championship contender. Hopefully for the Jazz, with Danny Ainge as GM, the final try will yield the desired results.
But, make no mistake, this comes at a cost that may be particular to teams in smaller markets. In places like Utah, dedicated fans have intense and personal, if one-sided, relationships with their NBA heroes.
For jazz fans, especially when the players are at home, it’s almost like a family member moving away. To date, the team has traded three fan favorites – Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale and Rudy Gobert.
Social media reactions indicated that fans took the transactions personal. The Jazz discovered the three players, all of whom have only played for one NBA team.
In a story every fan can recite in detail, the Jazz snatched the gangly Gobert out of France in an overnight trade with the Denver Nuggets and saw him become an All-Star and the most dominant defensive center in the game. Along the way, he has pledged allegiance to the Jazz at every turn.
O’Neale and Ingles came as unadvertised, undrafted free agents after spending several years working overseas. O’Neale became a dependable defender on the wing while Ingles left as the franchise’s most accomplished 3-point shooter.
An Australian, Ingles lived as if he were a native of Utah during his nearly eight years with the organization. Ingles, who did a weekly radio segment on The Zone for an unprecedented eight years, and his wife set the standard for involvement in various causes in the community.
For the fans, the players were one of them. Saying goodbye is often difficult.
But none of that matters in the world of NBA basketball. The team needs change to improve.
Give Ainge and owner Ryan Smith credit for being willing to take a gigantic risk rather than stay the course. Instead of keeping a likely playoff slate mostly intact, the management group is dumping the core.
The blockbuster deal saw the Jazz send Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for four first-round picks through 2029, five players and trade first-round picks in 2026. Immediately the trade was compared to the deal which Ainge concluded nine years ago in which the Boston Celtics sent several aging players for draft picks that ultimately helped select All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The moves give the Jazz much-needed draft picks, some of which have been traded in prior deals, and greater salary flexibility. Speaking on his Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said NBA executives believe Ainge fired a quick one on the Timberwolves, setting the standard for future compensation for other deals.
“What he got for Gobert, which everyone in the league (complains) about like, ‘Can you believe it? How could they do that?’ I mean, I’ve spoken to 10 different people who have (complained) to me about this business.”
Windhorst went on to say, “Not only did they get all of that – four picks, three unprotected and one lightly protected – and they unloaded $140 million in salary. … So now Danny Ainge has moved the game again.”
Not that it’s even close to being finished. More trades are expected before training camp opens in two months and could stretch into the season until the February trade deadline.
Next is likely Donovan Mitchell, who has been the subject of widespread trade speculation over the past two weeks. As with Gobert, the Jazz acquired Mitchell in an overnight trade with the Nuggets and saw him become an All-Star.