To a certain extent, the Utah Jazz's second-round exit against the Golden State Warriors is a disappointment.
Many NBA observers expected more than a sweep from this young, up-and-coming team, but the Warriors were just too good. Still, the Jazz should hold their heads high. They battled through injuries in both the regular season and the playoffs to show why they had such lofty expectations in the first place.
Of course, the pressure will only increase moving forward. Now that Utah has been eliminated from the 2017 NBA playoffs, here are three steps they can take to reach the next level.
Re-sign your big free agents (hopefully)
Like the Los Angeles Clippers team they beat in the first round, the Jazz have several important free agents they'll try to re-sign this summer.
Unlike the Clippers, Utah has every reason to believe they'll bring their squad back intact next season. Gordon Hayward could decide to go join Brad Stevens in Boston, but the Jazz can offer a much more lucrative five-year deal, while the Celtics are limited to just a four-year offer.
Assuming Hayward comes back, Utah should be in play for George Hill. Re-signing the veteran point guard won't be easy. He has a history of injuries, as we saw this season, but reportedly is looking for a max-level contract.
That might give the Jazz pause, and it should. Committing max money to an injury-prone point guard on the downswing of his career is the kind of decision that can sink your franchise.
So if Hill insists on the max, the Jazz probably have to let him go. If the market is softer than he thinks, or if he's willing to take a discount to stay with a young, competitive team, then we can play ball.
Replacing Hill would be difficult, especially with Utah right up against the cap should Hayward return. But the Jazz can't panic. They're too promising to risk their future.
Understand that you don't have to solve all your questions in one offseason
Before Utah's front office makes any decision over the next three years, they should repeat the following fact out loud to themelves: "Rudy Gobert is only 24 years old."
Okay, fine; he'll be 25 in June. Either way, the Jazz center has a long way to go before he reaches his prime — yet he's already one of the best big men in the NBA. He can control the entire area below the 3-point line almost singlehandedly on defense, and he keeps adding tools to his offensive repertoire.
Really, he's the prototypical center for a team trying to take down the Warriors.
That could lead Utah down a dangerous path. You want to maximize your title window, after all, and the temptation is to try to win now.
But the Jazz need to be patient. If Hayward stays, they have a solid one-two punch locked up for the long-term (after Gobert signs his extension next summer). Add another wing scorer who can shoot 3s and a pass-first point guard (if Hill ends up elsewhere), and you have the foundation for something special.
That process can play out over the next few years, not just this offseason. Utah, unlike most teams, has the luxury of time.
Make a difficult decision when it comes to Derrick Favors
Favors is an outstanding, young big man in his own right. Unfortunately, his status as a reserve in Utah tells you everything you need to know. He's just redundant alongside Gobert in today's modern, 3-point-heavy NBA.
The Jazz need a power forward who can stretch the floor, and Favors doesn't fit the bill — particularly with a hefty pay day coming next summer. As difficult as it might be, Utah should be prepared to part ways with Favors after this coming season.
Joe Ingles could be the answer moving forward, depending on how much he commands in free agency this offseason. If so, Favors' departure could clear room to add those aforementioned necessary wings. If Ingles moves on instead, Utah will have to work in the margins to add a third core member along with Hayward and Gobert, and that's okay.
So long as the Jazz remain patient, they should be in fine shape through the end of the decade, at the very worst.