This article was first published as the Jazz Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Friday.
At the NBA combine in May, I had a conversation with Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, discussing various young prospects. It wasn’t a groundbreaking conversation — more casual than anything else.
But, as we started talking about potential prospects, strengths, weaknesses and team philosophy, there was a sentiment I got from Ainge in that conversation that I’ve been thinking about ever since.
His general point was that anyone the Jazz were going to pick in the draft was going to come in as either a teenager, or a young adult who was just barely scratching their 20s. They still have so much growing up to do. And while the scouts and analytics teams and the entirety of the front office can have all of the intel on a particular player, there’s just no way to know if they’ll grow into being an NBA player. It’s truly a guess, and you just hope you’re right.
Nestled in that overarching point, Ainge also noted that there is no rookie growth blueprint. Every player has a different path and it could take years for them to actually start to become the NBA player that they’ll grow into.
I think that sometimes people on the outside of these teams think that NBA executives believe themselves to be otherworldly holders of knowledge beyond what us mere mortals know. To be fair, when a team drafts a player, they almost know that player better than the player knows himself. But that doesn’t mean that they expect for all of the future variables to line up perfectly.
Of course they hope for that. Of course they hope that they draft the next superstar and that they strike gold on players that can lead to that elusive hoisting of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. But they also know that it takes a lot of luck and a lot of time and a lot of investment from everyone.
For rookies to truly realize all of their potential, it takes a lot of time and investment from the player, from coaches, from front offices, from ownership, from families and friends and fans and teammates.
So, as we get ready to watch another rookie class take on the 2023-24 season, let’s remember that Keyonte George, Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh are all 19-year-olds. They are literal teenagers. With time and investment, the hope is that they become reliable NBA players. With luck, they could be even more than that. But no one knows right now, not even Danny Ainge.
Programming note: The Jazz Insiders newsletter is taking an offseason hiatus beginning next week. The newsletter will return to its regularly scheduled programming in your inbox on Sept. 1.
New with the Jazz
How to pass the offseason
It is so very easy to get wrapped up in daily life: Figuring out dinner, picking up dry cleaning, going to the post office, returning Amazon orders, work, family, vacuuming, reorganizing the garage, doctors appointments. (In case you were wondering how I’m spending the offseason, that pretty much sums it up.)
It is very easy to pay attention to all sorts of little things and neglect our friendships. So I just want to give you all a reminder to foster your friendships. Even if that means a text message in between all the other stuff you have to do that says, “Hey, I’m thinking about you and love you.”
Or, if you’re like my friends, and you roast each other to show love, your text message might say, “Hey, remember that time you fell down that hill in high school and rolled a million times and everyone saw? You looked so stupid. Hahahaha. I love you.”
If you have the time, spend some with your friends. That’s what I’m doing this weekend.
From the archives
As Luka Samanic plays for his NBA life, here’s who he’s trying to emulate (Deseret News)
Meet the Finnish coach that was on the Jazz’s Summer League staff (Deseret News)
Jazz assistant soaking up opportunity to lead Summer League squad (Deseret News)
Keyonte George comes out on top after Summer League showcases (ESPN)