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News » Monson: Time for Jazz GM O'Connor to step up

Monson: Time for Jazz GM O'Connor to step up

Monson: Time for Jazz GM O'Connor to step up
Kevin O'Connor is piloting the Jazz into one of their most important offseasons ever. Half the team could leave, including many key players. Over the past three postseasons, the Jazz have regressed, from the Western Conference finals to the semifinals to first-round elimination this year, after an alarming collapse at the end of the regular season.

It's left to O'Connor, then, with considerable input from Jerry Sloan, who Larry Miller once said is actually more powerful than O'Connor, to make the right moves at a critical juncture.

The deals pulled by O'Connor on his watch have been mostly tepid, rarely dramatic, with the exception of one summer five years ago, when, by his standards, he went berserk. O'Connor showed up for an unscheduled visit at Miller's office -- which Larry said almost never happened -- and that surprise resulted in the Jazz landing Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur.

But let's look for hints about the Jazz's future in O'Connor's past -- chronologically.

? After he was named vice president of Basketball operations in August, 1999, the Jazz signed Olden Polynice, Pete Chilcutt, and Armen Gilliam.

? The following year, O'Connor selected prep star DeShawn Stevenson in the first round of the draft. He subsequently signed John Starks, John Crotty and Danny Manning, and acquired Donyell Marshall via trade.

? In 2001, O'Connor made a major mistake in drafting point guard Raul Lopez instead of Tony Parker, a decision driven by economics, considering Lopez would not immediately come from Spain to play. O'Connor followed that by signing John Amaechi to a four-year deal. Not good. He also signed Andrei Kirilenko, who was drafted by Scott Layden, to a three-year contract.

? The next offseason, O'Connor drafted Ryan Humphrey and Jamal Sampson and traded their rights to Orlando for the just drafted Curtis Borchardt. The Stanford big man was damaged goods, a wasted pick. O'Connor also signed Jarron Collins, Calbert Cheaney, Matt Harpring, Carlos Arroyo, Scott Padgett, Lopez, and Mark Jackson, Harpring becoming the only real success in that bunch.

? In 2003, O'Connor drafted Sasha Pavlovic and Mo Williams, each of whom became good players, especially Williams, but the Jazz subsequently let both get away -- Pavlovic left unprotected in an expansion draft and Williams signed by the Bucks. Big oops. Amid other minor deals, O'Connor signed Raja Bell and Mikki Moore. He acquired what could yet be a significant gain -- the Knicks' first-round pick in the 2010 draft. He also traded Stevenson for Gordan Giricek.

? O'Connor took a double-hit in 2004 when he drafted Kris Humphries with the 14th pick and Kirk Snyder with the 16th. Both were awful and neither lasted. He made it a quadruple-bad when he re-signed Arroyo and Giricek to four-year deals. He pulled off the aforementioned strong moves to sign Boozer and Okur, but followed with a max deal for Kirilenko, blowing the Jazz's stockpile of cash. The huge extension to Kirilenko has put the Jazz in a financial mess since.

? In 2005, O'Connor made his best move with the Jazz , and, yet, it ended up being controversial. He jumped up three spots in the draft, from No. 6 to No. 3, swinging a deal with Portland, to pick Deron Williams. In doing so, he left Chris Paul on the board, spawning an argument that persists, still. At least it was a bold, purposeful move, something that is rare in O'Connor's tenure. A stupid move, a move that underscored the Jazz's inept drafting, followed when the Jazz traded away three former first-round picks for a useless retread: Greg Ostertag.

? O'Connor had two draft success in 2006, taking Ronnie Brewer at 14 and Paul Millsap at 47. He also traded for Derek Fisher, a deal that worked out for the Jazz for one season -- until the guard asked to be released.

? Morris Almond was taken with the Jazz's first pick in the 2007 draft. The rights to Kyrylo Fesenko were also secured. Ronnie Price was signed, and O'Connor picked up Kyle Korver in a trade.

? Last year, O'Connor took Kosta Koufos in the first round, also signing Williams to an important extension. He got Brevin Knight in a trade, and matched restricted free agent C.J. Miles' offer from Oklahoma City, a move to forget.

And that's about it.

Evaluating and characterizing O'Connor's decisions could be done thusly: He's cautious. He's orchestrated a lot of moves that haven't made much of a difference. And he's made a few that have profoundly affected the franchise. He's thrown away money and he's squeezed nickels. He's drafted poorly and smartly.

Now, with the Jazz on the brink of significant transition, with opt-outs and free agents springing loose, with a need for a competitive boost against a conference growing stronger with talented, young teams, with the Jazz's cap crunched, O'Connor will have to be at his best. He'll have to step up and take risks. He cannot shrink away.

If he does shrink, if he embraces the status quo or fumbles around, and the record shows it could go either way, he'll do more than lose games and ground against the West. He'll lose credibility with the people who matter most --his customers, his team's fans.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 28, 2009


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