Here’s just a friendly reminder so everyone doesn’t get too nervous here.
With all the talk about the Utah Jazz’s two-star core of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell breaking up, in part because of the team’s failure in the playoffs, after doing decently in the regular season, it’s worth worth taking a look at what a two guys named Stockton and Malone did in their first seasons together.
Before I start here, there’s the recognition that John and Karl fit together in a way that Mitchell and Gobert don’t, or don’t seem to, and another that Stockton and Malone never let, at least not publicly, the differences between them splash through the minds of teammates, management and fans alike.
But…results are results, which are always worth considering when it comes to personnel considerations.
First, the achievements of Mitchell and Gobert in tandem.
2017-18 — regular season, 48-34, lost in the second round of the playoffs.
2018-19 — regular season, 50-32, lost in the first round.
2019-20 — regular season, 44-28, lost in the first round.
2020-21 — regular season, 52-20, lost in the second round.
2021-22 — regular season, 49-33, lost in the first round.
Now the achievements of Stockton and Malone in tandem on a slightly longer, but similar stretch.
1985-86 — regular season, 42-40, lost in the first round.
1986-87 — regular season, 44-38, lost in the first round.
1987-88 — regular season, 47-35, lost in the second round.
1988-89 — regular season, 51-31, lost in the first round, was swept away by the Warriors.
1989-90 — regular season, 55-27, lost in the first round.
1990-91 — regular season, 54-28, lost in the second round.
1991-92 — regular season, 55-27, lost in conference final.
1992-93 — regular season, 47-35, lost in the first round.
Those playoff numbers and struggles, with the exception of Malone and Stockton making it to the Western Conference Finals in 1992, are remarkably similar.
It may be a different game these days, and everyone is in a rush, showing much less patience than back then. But if the players and management were as anxious during Stockton and Malone’s early seasons as they seem to be now, the later successes of these two Hall of Fame players might never have happened.
Sure, they never won an NBA title, and there were later disappointments, but they came so close. Only Michael Jordan stood between them and that Larry O’Brien trophy.
Considering this, is it worth combing through the idea, once again, that Gobert and Mitchell should be separated in the pursuit of the ultimate goal, because of past difficulties?
Not so sure about that.
It is obvious to almost everyone that the Jazz, to move forward, needs an injection of change. And they’re wedded to the realm of luxury, limiting their options when it comes to appealing to a few more differentiators. If that requires losing one of their stars, which together add up to astronomical hundreds of millions, so be it.
But there could be other ways to twist the thing.
Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik know this. They also know – or at least are busy finding out – what the possibilities are and not to move the other pieces.
But for fans clamoring to get rid of Gobert, it’s worth reconsidering the idea that this is an automatic fix. Even with his offensive limitations, he is a rare talent, a man without whom the Jazz last season could have been constantly destroyed on the defensive end.
On the other hand, the Jazz’s perimeter defense has been a weakness for a long time now, with a shortage of athletes on hand. When Royce O’Neale is your go-to goalscorer, you need help.
Ainge and Zanik are smart executives who understand this.
But unless the Jazz can get a top star or stars in exchange for Gobert, a guy who can clearly move them forward, the common understanding that the team that trades a top star for something else, even in multiples, usually loses. in the exchange.
And if that actually happens, the once impatient folks will ruin the day the Jazz offloaded Rudy Gobert, the best rim protector, best defender and one of the best rebounders on the planet, and a player who really loves playing in Utah.
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