Danny Ainge calls Jazz trading Mitchell part of plan to build championship team

Among more casual Jazz fans in Salt Lake City, there is a legitimate question: Why break this team up?

The Jazz had won 101 games across the last two seasons and had tentpole players in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert who were good in the community. So why not tweak the team around them? Why tear it down and set up years of losing to rebuild?

Danny Ainge, the Jazz CEO of Basketball Operations — the guy with the hammer who made the call to tear this team down to the foundation — started to address that in the official statement announcing the Donovan Mitchell trade to Cleveland.

“It was clear that in order to optimize our opportunity to create a team that could truly contend and establish sustained success, we needed to transition our roster,” Ainge said in a statement. “In trading Rudy and now Donovan, it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to get quality talent and picks to best position us moving forward. We have a plan in place to help us assemble the championship team our fans deserve. It will take time to craft our roster. We all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”

That’s a fancy way of saying the Jazz had a good team, but not a championship-level team, and that wasn’t good enough for ownership. Utah internally also felt there was an expiration date with this era of Jazz basketball, fitting with a sense around the league that Mitchell would bolt in three years when his contract was up. While one can argue that having a strong team that will win around 50 every season and is popular with fans is respectable — a franchise doesn’t have to be “rings or bust” — it’s obviously not what new owner Ryan Smith wanted. It’s why he brought in Ainge. This was a tear down in their eyes.

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Ainge’s championship plan is to draft well, develop players (which is what the Jazz had done with Gobert and Mitchell), and hope that the basketball gods smile on them in the NBA Draft Lottery. There are years of losing ahead of this team as it rebuilds, how many years will depend on the lottery and if they can find a franchise cornerstone. Utah is not New York or Los Angeles, it is not getting a top-10 player to walk through the door as a free agent. The Jazz are going to have to get a little lucky and be smart about team building. Consider it the Milwaukee model. Or maybe the Memphis model.

It can work. It’s not going to be pretty the next few years, but get ready for the Jazz to start selling hope — right after they are done trading away the rest of the veterans on this roster.

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Danny Ainge calls Jazz trading Mitchell part of plan to build championship team originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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