What if the Jazz threw a draft party on Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena and nobody came? Not the least of whom would be, you know, real â¦ live â¦ actual â¦ meaningful â¦ draft picks?
That's basically the predicament now facing the Jazz. On account of the particulars of previous deals, they have no first-round selection, furthered by a good-bad combination this past season: They made the playoffs by way of a solid run over the closing weeks and Golden State made like the grand benefactor of the NBA, giving away games over that same stretch to recapture from Utah its own protected lottery pick.
All of which left the Jazz now with virtually nothing, except a lot of ground to cover for possible scenarios and a seat at the draft from which they can watch their rivals select the top 46 prospects, straight through to the second round, before finally reaching for their single lonely grab at No. 47. What's that worth?
If Paul Millsap is your answer, you're living in the Hundred Acre Wood. His selection at the 47th spot in 2006 was an outlier. While it is true the Jazz have had some success C.J. Miles was a success, right? late in drafts, they won't span the talent gap between themselves and Oklahoma City from there. It's a bridge too far.
Jazz management knows this.
They also know, theoretically speaking, that a strong move in the draft is their best way to make up the difference. Kevin O'Connor has indicated in the past that the chances of a small-market club like the Jazz hauling in a huge free agent, if there were one to be had, are at subterranean levels. This just in: Dwight Howard isn't coming to Utah. That doesn't make Salt Lake City a bad place to live and it shouldn't affect anybody's communal self-esteem. It simply means there are a lot of young millionaires in the league who find city lights more compelling and lucrative than mountain heights.
Maybe one day there will be a backlash to the kind of NBA All-Star attraction to destinations like South Beach. Today, especially in the aftermath of LeBron's joy of winning a championship with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, is not that day.
The Jazz could trade for more talent. They have redundancy along their front line and have to make more space for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, raising the possibility of Millsap or Al Jefferson being swapped out. Jefferson is a fine scoring big man, but his presence in the Jazz's offense bogs it down and his defense sucks. His fat paycheck will be a hurdle, but the fact that he has only one year left on his deal is a bonus. Millsap, also in the last year of his contract, is attractive compensation for other teams because of his favorable deal. He's undersized at power forward, and loses some value because of that, but he's a hard worker who could help change the jumpy attitude of a team's young players who have yet to master the nuances of being a pro.
The Jazz need upgrades at point guard and in perimeter shooting. The Jerry Sloan days of considering the three-point shot some kind of contrived, newfangled distraction are over. Any team in these modern times that wants to be taken seriously, especially one that likes to get the ball inside to a low-post scorer, has to have multiple consistent outside threats. It's not optional. Last time anybody checked, three points are worth more than two. And if you want two, having that perimeter presence clears major space down low.
Finding either of those assets in the draft is a crapshoot. That's one way of looking at it. The other is that O'Connor and his scouts are professionals who are paid to correctly evaluate talent. Not saying it's easy, just that it's what they are paid to do. Somewhere in this draft is a player who could help at least one of the Jazz's deficiencies.
Here's the charge, then, for them: Identify that player and go get him, even if it means giving up a valued asset. Sometimes it's worth it to take a flyer on a player in whom value is seen. Remember the large talent gap from here to OKC. If you see no value, then either the draft is a complete dog, which some years might be true, or you're not getting the job done.
If the former is the case, it's bad luck for the Jazz. If the latter is the case, it's a missed opportunity.
There are teams in this draft that have more than one first-round pick, teams that want to trade out of one of those picks. Perhaps the Jazz will yet make their move so far, O'Connor isn't saying and capitalize on it.
If they do, a real party can yet be had. If they don't, Thursday night's party at ESA slumber, anyone? will be a snooze.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM The Zone, stations owned or operated by the LHM Group. LHM has no editorial control over his show.