In what has now become a legendary workout, Utah fell in love with a kid from Louisville named Donovan Mitchell early in the pre-draft process, even knowing that he would be a lottery pick and acquiring him would mean parting with assets.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey did just that on draft night, sending Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick — which became little-used reserve Tyler Lydon — to the Denver Nuggets for Mitchell’s draft rights. One year later, that move looks like a stroke of genius.
On Thursday night, the Jazz will try their hand again at the NBA Draft, this time with the No. 21 pick. The circumstance is a bit different this season; the pool of good players is a lot deeper than last season. Still, if there is a player Lindsey likes who he doesn’t think will drop to No. 21, he won’t hesitate to wheel and deal.
“We certainly like the talent available where we are at,” Lindsey said. “But we will have conversations throughout the week, and those conversations, we anticipate will be more in-depth as the draft gets closer. We think where we’re at, there are gifted players. But, we are not aware of how high we can get on draft night.”
If Lindsey wants to move up on the board, doing so doesn’t project to be as easy as last season. In Lyles, the Jazz had a young, talented big man with many characteristics in his skill set that appeal to opposing teams. Even though Lyles had fallen out of the rotation in his second season, he still had value on the trade market.
The Jazz don’t have a similar asset to wield on draft night this year, which could make a move up difficult. Also, that Lindsey has stolen Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with trades on draft night makes his job harder on Thursday — the trade humiliated Denver in retrospect, and teams may not want to pick up the phone if the Jazz call.
“We will have conversations on whether a trade is the right thing to do,” Jazz VP of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “But, like a lot of things, it depends on what the cost is.”
Perrin told The Tribune — without naming names — that there are players on the board who the Jazz would try to make a move for, if available.
Projected lottery picks that could fall include Miles Bridges, the athletic forward from Michigan State. The Jazz have worked out Boston College’s Jerome Robinson and Oregon’s Troy Brown, but both have seen their stock rise to where the Jazz may have to pull a trade in order to draft them. Alabama’s Collin Sexton would fit well with Mitchell in a future backcourt because of his athleticism, but Sexton is projected to be drafted in the top 10.
Reports indicate the Washington Wizards, who hold the No. 15 pick, would trade down if a team took on one of their undesirable contracts. The Nuggets — yes, the Nuggets again — have been dangling their No. 14 pick, if a team took on Kenneth Faried’s contract. But the odds of Denver answering a phone call from Lindsey for a second draft night in a row seems low.
For Jazz fans, they have to be prepared for anything. Lindsey is among the most aggressive general managers in the league when it comes to the draft. In the past five years alone, he has made moves to bring in the likes of Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and George Hill.
Let the games begin.
• The Jazz have made draft week trades in each of the past two years, netting George Hill and Donovan Mitchell.
• Utah’s best asset may be a 2019 first-round pick which currently projects between 20 and 30.
• The Jazz worked out over 60 prospects in the pre-draft cycle.