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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Utah Jazz: From Contender to Pretender in Only One Year

It’s really quite incredible: the Utah Jazz lost their face of the franchise and best player in the franchise in a span of just two weeks. This is the same team that has been a Western Conference playoff mainstay since 1983, making the post-season in 24 of the 27 years since I was born. They’ve reached the Western Conference Finals six times and got Michael Jordaned twice. And now, a team that had won over 50 games in three of the previous four seasons is on a five-game losing streak, only four games over .500, and falling out of the playoff race.

It was only two weeks ago when longtime head coach Jerry Sloan “resigned” because he was tired of the coaching grind or something like that. It was clear that management was taking point guard Deron Williams’ side in the dispute between the two, so Sloan walked. The blame for Sloan’s departure fell on Williams, and Deron didn’t like that. A week later, it slipped out that Williams wanted to leave Utah when he became a free agent in 2012. And earlier this week, he was traded to New Jersey in a move that caught everyone off guard.

And just like that, the Jazz became a sub-par team for just the second time in 27 years.

With Williams and Sloan shockingly gone, a mass exodus process that began last year has been finalized. The team let Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Wes Matthews, and Kyle Korver all get away. Boozer became a free agent and the team elected to go with Paul Millsap at power forward instead. Brewer was traded last season to the Memphis Grizzlies and he signed with the Bulls as a free agent. Wes Matthews replaced Brewer in the starting lineup after the February trade, but the Jazz elected not to match the offer sheet he signed with Portland. Korver signed with the Bulls as a free agent, becoming the third Jazz player to join Chicago.

To be fair, the Jazz did acquire Al Jefferson from Minnesota, but they still lost several talented players over the past year. Utah did get back Devin Harris for Williams, so it’s not like they don’t have any players, but Williams is one of the best point guards in the game — Harris is not.

If you want to learn how to blow up a franchise, this is your model. The fans in Utah must still be stunned and wondering what the heck happened to their once contending basketball team.

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