Jazz disappointed to miss playoffs, but gain experience
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey refused to publicly set expectations on the eve of the 2015-16 season though others outside the team had labeled it a playoff contender. He admitted Thursday it was a reasonable expectation.
The Jazz (40-42) improved their record for the third consecutive season, but fell short of the postseason for the fourth straight year.
''This season was quite unique,'' Lindsey said. ''It's hard to say that we're disappointed when your point differential is better, your record's better. To a man all of our players improved individually.
''To a person on the plane last night home, there wasn't one person that's not upset that we're not playing in the second season. ... For a lot of different reasons, that didn't happen. We're not going to sit here and alibi. Every professional sports team has injuries and ultimately I'm most responsible.''
Lindsey and the organization made the decision last offseason to stand pat and let the youngest team in the league grow and develop together - which happened. However, the team was beset by injuries to Dante Exum, who missed the entire year after knee surgery, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks. That's four starters and the sixth man.
Still, the Jazz controlled their own destiny until a loss to the Mavericks in the 81st game. Some suggested the Jazz were one significant player away and that Lindsey should have spent in free agency or made a move for a bigger name at the trade deadline. Lindsey said there were two deals he agreed to that would have addressed that, but they fell through.
''It was definitely heartbreaking,'' Favors said.
Coach Quin Snyder said the playoffs are important for next year, but he doesn't want it to be the ''end-all, be-all.''
The organization is happy with the foundation it has built, but Lindsey is expected to use a surplus of $28 million in cap space and possibly draft picks to add at least one veteran so a young and growing roster evolves into a playoff roster looking to make noise.
BIGGEST NEED: Point guard. The Jazz struggled to guard point guards throughout the season and the loss to the Mavericks in the second-to-last game of the year was a stark example. Exum will allow Snyder to return to his unique defensive scheme revolving around a 6-foot-6 point guard and the 7-2 Gobert. Shooting is the other immediate need.
THE GOOD NEWS: Hood looked like a future All-Star at times and the steal of the 2014 draft. He scored 18-plus points 22 times, including 30 in a half against the Lakers. Snyder put the ball in Hood's hands late in games knowing that he can get to the rim, pull up from midrange, shoot from 3-point range or make the correct decision in pick and roll. Consistency is the next step for a player who also scored 12 or fewer points 32 times.
THE BAD NEWS: The development of Exum was delayed a year. He won't be cleared for contact until June, so he's been working on ball-handling, getting stronger and on his jump shot. But he hasn't played a true basketball game since last summer.
FITTING IN NICELY: Rookie Trey Lyles looks to be another fine pick by Lindsey. He'll always be compared to Suns guard Devin Booker, who finished the season strong as a knock down shooter, but Lyles is the kind of versatile player that Lindsey and Snyder covet. He scored double-digits 19 times and showed more range than he did in his lone season at Kentucky.
UNKNOWN FUTURE: Trey Burke is under contract for next season, but fell out of the rotation after the team traded for Shelvin Mack. He was the consummate professional while being buried down the depth chart. Burke plans to work on attacking the rim, his defense and putting on strength - and his confidence hasn't wavered. ''I'm over the point of trying to prove anything to anybody,'' Burke said. ''I just try to be the best version of myself I can be every day.''