The Utah Jazz have enjoyed some success with their first-round picks in the draft. They build a consistent winner with their first rounders in back-to-back years in the mid 1980s.
As the NBA draft approaches, here’s our top five all-time first-round picks by the Utah Jazz. If you disagree with the rankings, don’t worry. You’ll have your chance to voice your opinion in a poll at the end of the story. <freeform>
Now let’s get to it, in reverse order:
No. 5 • Darrell Griffith
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The pick • Selected second overall in the 1980 draft out of Louisville
The skinny • Had Dr. Dunkenstein’s career not been derailed by injury, Griffith could’ve been one of the best shooting guards of the 1980s. As it is, he had a solid 10-year career. He was the NBA’s rookie of the year, scored 22.6 points a game in 1984 and participated in the 1985 slam dunk contest. His career fell short of its ceiling, but he was a class act on and off the floor, beloved by the legendary Frank Layden and still considered one of the greatest Jazzmen in history. His number, 35, has been retired by the franchise.
No. 4 • Deron Williams
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The pick • Selected third overall in the 2005 draft out of Illinois
The skinny • Yes, his stay in Utah ended in substantial acrimony. No, Williams won’t be receiving Christmas cards from Jazz fans any time soon. Still, Williams was without question one of the top two point guards in the league during his time with Utah. He led the Jazz to the Western Conference finals once, and he routinely took them to the playoffs. Ultimately, Williams’ volatile personality and infamous run-in with Jerry Sloan led to his 2011 trade to New Jersey. His career has taken a dive with the Nets. He’s not nearly the player he once was, and if Brooklyn can trade him tomorrow to get out from under his fat contract, the organization would do it in a second.
No. 3 • Dominique Wilkins
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The pick • Selected third overall in the 1982 draft out of Georgia
The skinny • Oh, what could’ve been. Wilkins’ reluctance to play for the Jazz, combined with Utah’s own money issues, led to one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. The Jazz recouped John Drew, Freeman Williams and a few bucks for one of the best small forwards of his generation. Wilkins would go on to stardom, mostly with the Atlanta Hawks. He was named the Human Highlight Film for his explosion around the rim. Imagine Wilkins, John Stockton and Karl Malone on the same team? Sorry to rub it in, Jazz fans.
No. 2 • Karl Malone
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The pick • Selected 13th overall in the 1985 draft out of Louisiana Tech
The skinny • The second half of the Stockton-to-Malone duo. Became a perfect pick-and-pop power forward before that kind of player became the vogue in the NBA. Could score whenever he wanted by hitting a jumper, posting up, or getting himself to the free-throw line. Reached three NBA Finals in his career — two with the Jazz, one with the Lakers. Became known as the Mailman for his ability to deliver. Is the second leading scorer in NBA history and holds the career record for most foul shots attempted and made. Behind Tim Duncan, he probably is the best power forward in NBA history.
No. 1 • John Stockton
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The pick • Selected 16th overall in the 1984 draft out of Gonzaga
The skinny • Is one of the top four point guards to ever play the game. He was a master at running the pick and roll, an underrated shooter and one of the best defenders at his position for more than a decade. Had a long NBA lifespan of 19 years, making 10 all-star teams and currently resides in the Hall of Fame. Stockton proved that pass-first point guards could thrive in the league at an all-time level. He averaged a double-double through his career and holds the all-time record for assists and steals.
And now it’s your turn to voice your opinion.
<noscript><a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/8085768/”>Who is the Utah Jazz’s best first-round pick of all time?</a></noscript>
Photos: Tribune file and The Associated Press </i>