Utah finished this season fighting for the eighth seed once again but ultimately fell short. They are now facing a titanic offseason that will undoubtedly bring seismic changes to the franchise.
The Jazz cannot be content with fighting for a low playoff seed next season only to either get swept entirely, or fall short with nothing more than a mid-first round draft pick.
Heading into an offseason with so much at stake, big changes are in store for this franchise. They have tons of money to spend and what they do with it will dictate the direction of this team for a long time.
This is probably not the most popular decision among avid Jazz fans, although it is one that has to be done.
And this is no disrespect to Al Jefferson. He is a phenomenal talent at center and a dominant threat in the low-post. However, he is a black hole on offense and has shown a pattern for putting up stellar numbers on average teams.
Jefferson will likely command a huge free-agent contract on the open market. It would be irresponsible for the Jazz to break the bank on a player that has brought them only marginal success since his arrival at Utah.
Additionally, Utah has invested too much in Enes Kanter as the former third-overall pick to see him wilt away on the bench. In limited playing time Kanter showed just how much of a force he can be. Kanter's per minute production is off the charts, averaging over seven points and four rebounds a game while only playing 15 minutes a night.
Still only 20 years old, Kanter projects as a beast in the middle for this team in the future. To speed up the process, Utah has to start the future now instead of bringing Jefferson back to lead the team to another .500 record.
The Paul Millsap conundrum very much resembles that of Al Jefferson.
Millsap has produced seven very solid seasons for the Jazz. He also is grouped largely with Jefferson in the sense that these two have not exactly taken this team to the promised land.
But what Millsap brings is well-known. He is a versatile offensive force and a brute on the boards with above average passing skills.
Led by him and Jefferson, this team has consistently fought for the eighth seed in the playoffs. Behind both players lies a super athletic big man once drafted third overall ready to break out.
But Derrick Favors put up monstrous numbers this year in his 23 minutes per game. Favors averaged nine points and seven rebounds as well as almost two blocks a game. He improved by leaps and bounds in his second full season with the Jazz.
Favors and Kanter are the future of this team. The money that Millsap will command on the open market is not worth Utah's cap space. Much like Jefferson, Utah needs to move on instead of wallowing in mediocrity.
Utah improved from the outside this season with the addition of Randy Foye (another free agent) and Mo Williams.
That being said, both of those guys are free agents as well. Four of this team's five starters are free agents in what will prove to be a defining offseason in Salt Lake City.
Utah will have only $25 million committed to the team's roster next season. Many dynamic wing players will be on the market just waiting to accept an offer from Utah.
Kanter and Favors will for the most part be able to alleviate the losses of Jefferson and Millsap, leaving this team free to spend on their backcourt. Kevin Martin, Tony Allen, Jeff Teague and O.J. Mayo are all free agents that would be perfect fits in the backcourt for Utah.
With the front court set in Kanter, Favors and Gordon Hayward, Utah needs to focus solely on their backcourt and their depth in free agency and the draft. Whether or not they resign Foye or Williams, the backcourt options in free agency are too bountiful to pass up.
Whether or not Mo Williams and Randy Foye resign with the team, neither is a cornerstone player.
Currently projected to pick 14th in the upcoming draft, the Jazz will likely have their choice between guys like Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse, C.J. McCollum from Lehigh and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia.
Any would be a wise selection for Utah. If they bring back their current starting veterans in the back court, the new youngster can come in and learn under their tutelage for a year or two before taking over.
And with the athletic big men down low in Kanter and Favors, this team desperately needs an exciting young guard to feed them and make the most out of their abilities.
The front court is good to go with three young foundational players. All that is missing is one or two dynamic back court players to get them going.
Utah needs to wipe its hands clean and move on. It's time.
Kanter at 20, Favors at 21 and Hayward at age 23 represent the core of this team going forward. They simply cannot afford to bring back Jefferson and Favors regardless of how much backlash they receive from fans.
Of the bevy of free agents, Foye is the one that needs to come back the most. He provided an outside shooting barrage all season that this team severely lacked in the past. Alec Burks at shooting guard represents another solid building block for the team's future.
The youth movement may not pay immediate dividends, but it must happen. Consistently being a .500 team will get this team nowhere. Every year they fight for the right to get thrown to the figurative wolves of Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
If Kanter and Favors can live up to their billing next season, this team should not experience growing pains as severe as one would think.