I’ve had the Utah Jazz on my mind this season.
No, I’m not developing an aversion to carbonated beverages or a predilection to getting a couple more wives. I’m just curious as to why the Jazz have succeeded while the Sonics have floundered.
In 2004-05, the Sonics were the kings of the Northwest Division while Utah sputtered to a 26-56 mark, their worst season since the days of Adrian Dantley. Darrell Griffith, and Rickey Green.
Since then, though, it’s a complete reversal of fortune. The Jazz went 41-41 last year and are on pace to finish 56-26 this year, an amazing turnaround from two years ago. The Sonics, meanwhile, have plummeted from first to worst, seeing their win totals go from 52 to 35 to maybe 33 or 34 this year.
So what gives? What the hell happened that made the Jazz so good and the Sonics so, well, not so good?
Well, maybe it’s a good idea to compare the moves made by Kevin O’Connor and Rick Sund in the last two years, just so we can see what went wrong in Seattle and right in SLC.
1. Trade #6 (Martell Webster) and #27 (Linas Kleiza) pick to the Blazers for the #3 pick (Deron Williams). Jazz draft CJ Miles and Robert Whaley in the 2nd round.
2. Trade Raul Lopez to Memphis, Curtis Borchardt to Boston, and Kirk Snyder to New Orleans for Greg Ostertag.
3. Re-signed Keith McLeod.
4. Re-signed Jerry Sloan
1. Hire Bob Weiss
2. Draft Johan Petro, Mickael Gelabale and Lawrence Roberts (later traded to Memphis for cash)
3. Re-sign Ray Allen to long-term deal.
4. Sign Rick Brunson, Vitaly Potapenko, Damien Wilkins, Mikki Moore, Vlad Radmanovic, Flip Murray, and Mateen Cleaves to one-year deals.
5. Extend Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour through 06-07.
1. Trade Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley for Rafael Araujo.
1. Fire Bob Weiss; hire Bob Hill
2. Waive Mateen Cleaves, re-sign Cleaves, waive Cleaves, etc.
3. Trade Radmanovic for Chris Wilcox
3. Trade Evans and Potapenko for Earl Watson, Bryon Russell, ’08 2nd-round pick, and cash.
4. Trade Flip Murray for Mike Wilks
5. Waive Brunson; sign Marcus Fizer, waive Fizer; sign Noel Felix, waive Felix.
6. Extend Bob Hill’s deal through 07-08.
1. Draft Ronnie Brewer, Paul Milsap, and Dee Brown.
2. Extend Keith McLeod’s deal.
3. Trade Andre Owens, McLeod, and Devin Brown for Derek Fisher
4. Re-sign Matt Harpring
5. Re-sign Jarron Collins
1. Re-sign Chris Wilcox
2. Draft Mohamed Sene, Denham Brown, and Yotam Halperin
3. Trade Mikki Moore for a 2nd-round pick in 09 (NJ)
4. Sign Ridnour and Collison to contract extensions
1. Swap 2nd-round picks with Philly in exchange for Alan Henderson’s contract and cash.
2. Waive Alan Henderson.
1. Sign Andre Brown
It’s a lot to digest, especially on the Sonics’ side of things. Does anyone know if Rick Sund’s being paid on a per-transaction basis?
I’ll be honest, wasn’t as down on Sund as most folks coming into the season. His draft record – while abysmal the last couple of years – has been solid taken as a whole. Still, O’Connor has eaten his lunch the past two years, and you can’t blame it all on the new ownership putting a hold on everything.
Just look at the acquisitions: O’Connor looked at his team, saw he needed a point guard and some veteran depth and acquired Deron Williams (17 ppg) and Derek Fisher (10 ppg). Sund looked at his team, saw he needed a veteran back up big man, a backup shooting guard, and a older player to spell Ridnour ... and he picked up a 19-year-old Senegalese center, a 20-year-old French center, and Earl Watson. In other words, he took a lousy situation and made it infinitely worse. When faced with a decision on what coach to hire, he bailed on the decision and asked his players. When he needed to fix his mistake, he hired yet another Sonic assistant (Hill) as a band-aid solution ... then punted on making a serious decision by just renewing Hill’s contract and forcing the team to play for this season, even though the smarter thing would have been to play for next year.
In reviewing both of the GM’s records the past couple of years, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that Sund seems to be constantly putting out fires without really getting to the bottom of why there’s a fire in the first place. Not sure of what to do with all your free agents? Just sign them all to one year deals! Not sure which coach to hire? Promote an assistant!
Can you believe the Sonics have not gone outside the organization for a head coach since Paul Westphal? First Nate, then Weiss, now Hill – all assistants who got promoted because they happened to be in the building.
It’s utterly frustrating, especially when you look at how desperately the Sonics needed someone like Dale Davis to help the young big men, but instead we get Andreas Glyniadakis. The team cries out for someone to come off the bench to spell Ray Allen, but instead we get two SG/SFs who either can’t shoot 3’s or won’t.
The essence of the difference between the two boils down to how the Jazz went after Deron Williams two years ago. O’Connor knew that the #6 and 27 picks weren’t going to make his team a contender, so he dumped them and got the best or second-best young point guard in the league. The Sonics, rather than looking at moving up and getting someone who can help now, have settled on projects in the draft; first Swift, then Petro, then Sene. That’s great if you’re the 1994 Bulls, but the Sonics are a team that needs help now, not 5 years from now.
Not surprisingly, Sund is polishing his resume now, and it’s inconceivable to me that Clay Bennett won’t can him this summer.
Quite frankly, he’d be crazy not to.