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Utah: The Best Offseason in the NBA

It’s probably not often you would consider the team that lost their successful coach, traded two all-stars, including a 26-year-old one, as having the best offseason. I don’t care, think they did even as a team dismantling and clearly tanking now. I’m not even a person that values draft picks as much as most do. (Here is why). That said, when you get this stupid of an amount of 1st Rounders, and the kind of hauls they did in the Gobert, and Mitchell Trades it’s a no-brainer. (Trade Details and Grades here Gobert, Mitchell). Ainge crafted those deals like a boss, and executed them, but any GM would have been a fool not to take them, in my opinion.

Ainge could easily flip all these assets now and remake a 50 win team one would think. He could tank hard now that he had Talen Horton-Tucker to captain the tank as well and sit on the scratch and just draft them while they wait as well. With the sheer number of chances, you pretty much have to hit a couple correct. He could try to consolidate some of them, to move up and get his preferred, targets there are many options he has now. I think it’s a huge win to move on from players who had hit their peak, and they aren’t even done either, you would think Bogdanivic, Conley, Clarkson and maybe even Markkanen & Beasley are all likely to net 1st round returns as well.

These picks aren’t even the entire reason I like what they have done. I actually think they have taken some misfit toys teams were ready to discard and rebuilt a team with young parts that could even develop into key parts of a playoff team

Collin Sexton

AgeppgrpgapgspgPERTS%
Collin Sexton6-1, 1902224.33.14.41180.57%
Donovan Mitchell6-1, 2152223.84.14.21.417.20.54%
2525.94.25.31.521.60.57%

I think they bought really low on Sexton, and if he can regain health he could be a poor man Donovan Mitchell at nearly half price and 3 years younger. I think he is a great 23 year old flyer for Utah would can certainly be part of the future if he’s not leading it.

Walker Kessler

Kessler isn’t Gobert, but for as a late round flyer I think he has a lot of the same attributes and could develop into a similar type of defensive stalwart. He could be a poor mans Gobert as well in my opinion at 21 years old. I think he is one of the steals of last years draft. He’s 7-1, with a 31.4 PER and one fo the highest block rates to come out of college ever. 10 blocks per 100 possessions. I’m not making that up or exaggerating it. The number is actually 10.0 which I’ve never seen before even as someone that has looked at 1000’s of per 100’s. It fueled and 83 defensive ratings.

He had the recruiting pedigree as well as the measurables too. 7.425 wingspan, and a 9-5″ standing reach. I don’t even really care about the height, it’s the standing reach that really matters, and Kessler had an elite standing reach. It’s almost as elite as Gobert’s was at 9-7″ at the combine. He has the tools to anchor an incredible defense and clean up for Sexton in the same way as Gobert did. The core make up may be similar in restarting the clock with a 21 year old for a few million than a 31 year old, and getting a war chest of picks too.

Ochai Agbaji

I’m less high on Agbaji, but he is a lottery pick. It’s just another chance for a player to hit. He shot three’s well, and could do some things with the ball in his hands. Essentially as a throw in to get a lottery pick that still has new car smell and hasn’t done anything to make you not want him at this point it’s a good get. If nothing else I could see him as a nice role player, and he fits the Sexton(23), Kessler (21)timeline at 22 years old on a rookie contract with many years of team control.

Lauri Markkanen & Malik Beasley

Both are 25 years old (Beasley 26 Nov 26th) and on valuable contracts. I expect they will be moved to try to fully tank, but honestly, I’d probably keep Markkanen. I think they both have value, but Markkanen at only 25 years old allows your team some versatility. He could play all three frontcourt positions, as he’s proven. He’s also a nice fit beside of Kessler and should age well even if he were just 25 years old. Sexton, Markkanen and Kessler can all be part of whatever is next in Utah.

Jarred Vanderbilt has already proven he can be a decent role player at 23, he fits in the timeline and what they are doing. Especially if you keep Markkanen, he could even start and guard SF’s while Markkanen played there on offense, similar to how Markkanen did in Cleveland. Udoka Azubuike and Leandro Bolmaro aren’t likely to do much, (I’d give Azubuike some chance), but they are young players collected as well. Bolmaro I’d probably go ahead and cut, but for a tank, maybe you want him around so you can play him. Speaking of the Tank. Getting Talen Horton-Tucker to lead that was a sneaky, important move if that is the direction you are going. With what he makes, he gives Ainge and the coaches cover to play him and shoot them out of games. There isn’t much the league offices could say like they could with Bolmaro or Gleaguers they might bring in. Horton-Tucker is making money. There is always a chance he might improve as well as a young player. I don’t expect that, but there is that lottery ticket chance even while making the team worse.

Sneak Peak at Horton-Tucker driving the tank sideways this winter in Utah

The Grade

I think it’s been an A offseason for Utah. I would have given them an A+ if I believed in the coaching hire more. A 34 year old I’ve never heard of isn’t the direction I would have gone, but I think Ainge has earned the right to be trusted some on this one. He pulled Brad Stevens out of the college ranks, although that one was a lot more obvious he had coaching talent. Still he clearly see’s something. He’s also built this team so that he’s not going to be coaching guys 4 years younger than him. He’s going to be coaching a lot of players in their early 20’s like a college team. By the time Utah is ready to win he will have his experience and will have done enough to be respected as well I expect. If not they can moved on at that point so it’s not a big deal.

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