After trading for point guard Ricky Rubio, the Utah Jazz were confident that they could convince Gordon Hayward to return to the team, as the new point guard, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood traveled to the meeting between Hayward and Utah’s front office.
But, by now you know the story: Hayward decided to leave and join the Boston Celtics.
That left the Jazz in an awkward position. Since the Western Conference has seen an influx in All-Star talent this summer, Utah now has to deal with losing their All-Star forward to the Eastern Conference contender.
But, according to Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, the team is planning to take a very clear path and will now rely on a new leader to take the reigns.
"We feel like we can build defensively around Rudy Gobert," Lindsey told Tony Jones of The Salt LakeTribune. "We look at him, and he's a top 10 player and unique defender. So we wanted to build a team around his talents.”
In other words, the team isn’t giving up on their current roster.
In fact, Lindsey already signed veterans Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh in an effort to fill the void that Hayward left. Rodney Hood is also expected to take on more of a role on the offensive side of the ball, as he now will become a primary option.
It also places a major emphasis on the development of Gobert, who made major strides as one of the best interior big men in the NBA last year. Over 81 regular-season games, the 7’1”, 245 pounder averaged 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over 33.9 minutes per contest, all of which were career-highs.
In nine playoff games, Gobert’s numbers slipped slightly, as he averaged 11.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over 27.3 minutes per contest. But, part of the reason was that four of those games came against the Golden State Warriors.
"We have the chance to be very good defensively," rookie guard Donovan Mitchell said. "With Rudy in the middle, that allows the guards on the perimeter to pressure their men. If we get beat, we have the big guy to erase our mistakes and challenge in the paint. It's a nice luxury to have.”
The general manager went so far as to basically call the Jazz Gobert’s team moving forward.
"We just felt like we had too much talent to tear it down to the foundation," Lindsey noted. "The main thing with Quin and Rudy is what do we stand for? We feel like we have a great player in Rudy, and we want to showcase his ability.”
As expected, the center is optimistic about the upcoming season. "People are going to be surprised by how we do this year," Gobert said. "We just have to keep getting better."
Losing Hayward will hurt, but it seems as though the Jazz won't be feeling sorry for themselves anytime soon.