Jake’s Take: Best Rebuilding Teams

As of about 11:40 p.m. on Sept. 15, the Chicago Cubs are the champions of the National League Central by virtue of a 17-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. This is just the latest evidence of the spectacular rebuilding job that Theo Epstein has headed for the Cubs over the past five years, which prompts this writer to ponder the best rebuilding jobs in the major American leagues: the NBA, the MLB and the NFL.

I will not, however, be writing about the teams that have already seen the results of their rebuilds. Nay, it is much more interesting to point out those that are perched on the brink of success but have not yet dipped their toes into the winners’ pool.

These teams are all just one or two pieces away from contending for a championship, and I will be freely soliciting advice to them from my stance as a 17-year-old high schooler with little professional experience and strong opinions.

NBA- Utah Jazz

Beginning in basketball, I love what Dennis Lindsey has done with the Jazz. As a general rule, I am a fan of small-market teams, and there aren’t a lot of markets smaller than that of Utah. A small market usually means a worse team with less revenue, meaning that teams like the Jazz or the Memphis Grizzlies or the Minnesota Timberwolves have to rebuild through the draft. This is where the Jazz have excelled.

Since 2010, the Jazz have had nine first round draft selections, including players like Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum and Trey Lyles, who are all still with the team. They’ve also garnered key trading chips like Enes Kanter, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who have given Utah first- and second-round draft picks in 2017 and Trey Burke (who was traded this offseason for a 2021 second-round draft pick). Utah knows how to run the draft, and they are following an excellent model when it comes to making trades.

As for the current incarnation of the Jazz roster, the team is in a very good place. Recent acquisitions like George Hill and Joe Johnson have bolstered a roster that was already one of the deepest in the conference. The one thing that worries me about Utah is their chemistry as a unit. Hill and Johnson were both picked up this summer, giving the team not much time to play together. In addition, they have two great young big men in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors that expect to see the ball a lot every night, and the signing of Johnson could detract from their force in the paint. If the Jazz can find a way to work the offense inside out, they will be a scary team in the West.

MLB- Seattle Mariners

Next, we have Major League Baseball. As stated above, I am a fan of small markets, and Seattle falls into that category. While most smaller-market teams are forced to rebuild through the draft, the Mariners have made a series of offseason signings and trades that have put them in a great position to contend for a spot in the playoffs. In the acquisition of players like Adam Lind, Steve Cishek and Robinson Cano over the past few years, the Mariners have proved that they are committed to shoring up the holes in their roster in an attempt to contend now.

They have not quite, though, perfected their starting rotation. They have a very effective one-two punch at the top of the rotation with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but the following string of James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Ariel Miranda have a combined 4.45 ERA on the season. It is not likely that the Mariners will sneak into the playoffs this year, but if they want a shot at the postseason in 2017, they’re going to have to fix the back half of their starting rotation.

NFL- Oakland Raiders

Lastly, we have the only team on this list that I have predicted to make the postseason this year, the Oakland Raiders. Like the Jazz, the Raiders have done extremely well for themselves in the draft, picking up now-centerpieces like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack. They have also made a few key signings in the offseason, acquiring the likes of Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Malcolm Smith, making for a fearsome defense. Not only has their defense unified around the schemes of head coach Jack Del Rio and the leadership of Khalil Mack, but Bill Musgrave has turned their offense into a scoring time bomb, ready to point points on the board at any moment.

The biggest concern for Oakland is the apparent quantity-over-quality strategy in the backfield. Currently on the roster, the Raiders have six running backs- Latavius Murray, Taiwan Jones, Jamize Olawale, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard- and just 11 years of experience between them, Washington and Richard being rookies.

The way I see the Raiders’ backfield is that Murray is the back of the present, Richard and Washington are the backs of the future, Olawale is the blocking back and Jones is a veteran that can catch the ball. I can understand a team wanting two solid running backs to compliment each other, but five is simply too many to be able to utilize any one of them effectively.

One Comment

  1. Tim Helmick (Emily's dad)

    September 21, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Hey Jake! Cool article with some interesting facts. My critiques: Tell us who Theo Epstein is, probably their GM? How do the Cardinals match up against the small market comparatively speaking? “Great Young Big Men”, doesn’t flow very well….jus sayin’. If the Raiders were to unload 2 of those backs, what do they need and who could they get for them?
    Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *