Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, right, cheers center Rudy Gobert up after a play in Game 3 of an NBA first round playoff series at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Both players were traded during the offseason.
Mengshin Lin, Deseret News
It’s hard to pare down and recap the last six months for the Utah Jazz, much less the last year. Though, in trying to do so the one word that I keep coming back to is change.
Everything that’s happened to the Jazz in 2022, every change that the team has gone through, has been the result of the successes and failures, trials and tribulations and the wins and losses of many years.
Obviously there’s been personnel changes, with new faces from top to bottom. There are new members of the front office, a new head coach, and many new players. But there are also new jerseys, a new approach, different goals, different expectations and the evolution of those things is still ongoing.
Change is almost always difficult and nearly impossible to avoid. But the changes that the Jazz have gone through in the last year have had an impact not only on their own present and future, but that of the NBA as well.
That’s why, when deciding what the top story from 2022 was, it couldn’t be anything other than the first big domino to fall in an offseason that will forever be remembered by the entire basketball world.
1) Rudy Gobert trade
When the Jazz traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves on July 1, it not only rocked the Jazz world, but upended trade discussions for the rest of the league.
The Jazz traded Gobert to Minnesota for Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, the 2022 22nd overall draft pick Walker Kessler, unprotected first-round picks from the Wolves in 2023, 2025 and 2027, a top-five protected pick in 2029 and the option for a pick-swap with Minnesota in 2026. To call it a blockbuster trade would be an understatement.
There had been rumblings that the Jazz were in trade talks with multiple teams and for multiple players on the Jazz roster. But when news broke that the Jazz were moving away from Gobert, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year who had spent the first eight years of his NBA career in Utah, it was only a matter of time before the Jazz started to make more moves.
2) Donovan Mitchell trade
Even after the Gobert trade, there was a chance that the Jazz could use the assets they got from Minnesota to retool around Donovan Mitchell. But, the Jazz had a lot of salary tied up and it was going to be difficult to build the right team around Mitchell to remain realistically competitive in the West. There was an even greater chance that the Jazz were going to commit fully to rebuilding the roster, and that commitment was cemented on Sept. 1, when the Jazz traded Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers (despite everyone believing Mitchell would end up in New York) in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, the 2022 No. 14 overall pick Ochai Agbaji, unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and two unprotected pick swaps in 2026 and 2028.
3) Quin Snyder steps down
Hindsight is always 20-20. Looking back, the departure of Quin Snyder should have been a bigger indication that the Jazz, as we’d come to know them, were not going to be the same moving forward.
Former Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks about his decision to resign after eight seasons at a press conference in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 6, 2022, as Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge look on.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
After multiple years of mediocre playoff runs and feeling like everything had plateaued, Snyder decided that he was not the right voice for whatever the next era of Jazz basketball would look like.
On June 5, Snyder stepped down as head coach of the Utah Jazz, making way for a new face to enter the NBA coaching ranks.
4) Will Hardy named head coach
The Jazz went through a pretty extensive initial round of interviews when the search for a new head coach began.
They interviewed people who had tons of NBA head coaching experience, like Terry Stotts. They interviewed coaches who had ties to the organization, like former Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant. They interviewed people who already had institutional knowledge, like current assistant coach Alex Jensen.
But in the end, the Jazz surprised everyone by hiring 34-year-old, first-time head coach Will Hardy.
Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy coaches during game against Houston at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Hardy has made quite a splash during his first season as the Jazz’s head coach.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
After spending more than a decade in the San Antonio Spurs organization, starting as an intern and then working his way up through positions as video coordinator, development coach and then ending up as one of Gregg Popovich’s assistant coaches, Hardy had just come off a run to the NBA Finals as the lead assistant with the Boston Celtics and he stood out early in the Jazz’s interview process.
In his introductory press conference, Hardy committed to building a new culture that would embrace “toughness, sacrifice and passion” as the Jazz navigated whatever was going to happen in the near and distant future.
Within a week of being named head coach, the Jazz traded Gobert, setting up an offseason that eventually saw the Jazz trade four of their five starters and bring in 14 new players. Hardy would have his work cut out for him.
5) Trading Bojan Bogdanovic
Though the Jazz traded away two All-Stars and the dual faces of the franchise in Gobert and Mitchell, the final move the team made before training camp began was trading Bojan Bogdanovic to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Saben Lee and cash considerations.
Bogdanovic had endeared himself to Jazz fans in his short time in Utah and had been one of the most consistent and reliable players on the roster. Jazz fans had already accepted the fact that the 2022-23 team was going to be different and weren’t shocked that the Jazz were trading Bogdanovic, the return the Jazz got for him was a bit of a surprise.
Surely one of the best shooters and most consistent players on the team was worth more than a 31-year-old player whose career had seemingly run its course and a player who probably wouldn’t make the regular-season roster, right?
Well, even though Lee was waived and turned out to be a nonfactor, Olynyk has been incredible for the Jazz since the trade and has proven that his career is far from over and that he has a lot more to give than many thought.
6) Trading Royce O’Neale
While the Gobert trade was the first big domino to fall in the Jazz’s whirlwind of an offseason, the first move the team made was trading away Royce O’Neale in a deal that sparked one of the most viral moments of the NBA summer.
The Jazz quietly and unceremoniously sent O’Neale to the Brooklyn Nets for a first-round pick. Soon after, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst posited the question, “What’s going on in Utah?” That question, said with fingers wagging, became shorthand for what would eventually become a full tear down of the Jazz’s roster.
The Jazz would of course go on to make many more moves that would make huge waves through the NBA. But Windhorst was right to ask why the Jazz would be willing to trade away one of their best defenders for a draft pick if there wasn’t more on the horizon.
7) Jazz rebrand
Not everything that happened in the last year had to do with the on-court product or the players on the roster. The Jazz’s rebrand, moving to a color scheme that includes black, white and highlighter yellow, was without a doubt one of the biggest stories of the year.
When the Jazz unveiled their new jerseys for the 2022-23 season it came after photos and rumors about the rebrand had already been leaked. Jazz fans had already voiced their disdain for the new color scheme and the Jazz tried to soften the blow by focusing on the purple mountain jerseys that would accompany the new black, white and yellow uniforms. “Purple is back,” the Jazz said in promotional materials, shying away from the entirety of the rest of the rebrand.
After a ton of backlash, Jazz owner Ryan Smith admitted that he and his team probably made some mistakes in the initial rollout and promised that future iterations of the new jerseys would be better.
8) Bad vibes
For nearly the entire 2021-22 NBA season something felt off about the Jazz. They never truly recovered after the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2021 playoffs, and looking back, that was the beginning of the end. But the team was still together for another year and that whole year was lacking in the joy and good vibes the team previously had.
The players were passive-aggressive in interviews, there always seemed to be something missing when they were playing, Snyder was more combative than ever, and it just felt all year long like there was no way the team was going to be able to move forward in a positive and constructive way.
So the Jazz went from being the No. 1 team in the previous regular season, to a complete rebuild in the next offseason. They went from feeling like the sky was the limit, to knowing that they weren’t a team capable of making it to the next level.
The eventual fallout resulted in the stories listed above — Snyder stepping down, the roster being torn apart — but along the way it was a slow burn that never really felt right over the last year.
9) Lauri Markkanen
There was a lot of speculation about whether the Jazz were going to be a tanking team or whether they were going to retool quickly and try to be competitive. A lot of that was dependent on the return they got for some of their trade pieces and what kind of other deals would present themselves through the course of the current season.
Many of those questions are still unanswered and with the trade deadline in February, there might be more changes on the horizon.
But an unexpected breakout season from Lauri Markkanen might have changed the course that this team was set on.
Markkanen, acquired by the Jazz in the Mitchell trade, had been productive and unique in his previous stops in Chicago and Cleveland. But the Finnish player had never really lived up to his pre-NBA hype of being the next Dirk Nowitzki.
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen goes to the hoop against Indiana guard Buddy Hield during a game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. The Jazz newcomer has been sensational for the team since first arriving.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Now it seems that he might still have that potential. Markkanen has played so well for the Jazz since the trade that he’s got a real shot at being named an All-Star and representing the Jazz when they host the 2023 All-Star festivities.
Markkanen has been incredible on both sides of the floor and has proven to be a player that is at the very top of scouting reports as he posts career-highs across the board.
When the Jazz traded away Mitchell and Gobert, the future draft picks and the young players were the focus of the trades. No one could have predicted that the Jazz might not have to wait to see another All-Star on the roster.
10) Joe Ingles injury and departure
Before the Jazz lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 playoffs and before the Jazz’s turbulent and roller coaster of an offseason unfolded, the Jazz saw the end of another era, the Joe Ingles era.
In a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 30, Ingles tore his left ACL and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
The injury was devastating in its very nature because of the trauma and the hard recovery that would be down the road for Ingles, but it was also a hit to the Jazz’s season in more ways than one.
The Jazz had been planning to use Ingles in a trade package prior to the February trade deadline. There were multiple deals on the table that were quickly pulled when Ingles was injured. So then, rather than move forward with an injured Ingles, the Jazz had to make the most of the situation and traded Ingles away for Juancho Hernangomez and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Ingles was a Jazz success story of a player who entered the NBA ranks well into his 20s and was given a chance to prove himself with the Jazz after being waived by the Clippers. He grew into a role as one of the league’s best shooters, best trash talkers, and a sneaky good defender.
He made a life for himself in Utah and started a family in Salt Lake City, and his departure was difficult.
Though Ingles’ injury and the end of his tenure in Utah didn’t impact the rest of what happened to the team throughout the year, it was one of the biggest stories of year and was a huge deal for Ingles and for Jazz nation.
Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles reacts after his teammates missed a shot during an NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News