Utah Jazz execs Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik were their typically cagey, elusive selves Friday morning, speaking for nearly 22 minutes to local media via Zoom about the coming unlike-any-other NBA draft without ever giving much actual insight into what they might do with the 23rd overall pick this coming Wednesday night.
Is there a specific position they’re targeting?
“With this draft in particular, there are a variety of prospects at all three positions — guards, wings, and bigs — that are good kids who we like,” said Lindsey, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations.
After two straight years of being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, do they maybe have a preference for a player who could maybe contribute from Day 1 as opposed to a player who’s a bit more of a project?
“The draft is one of our many tools to continue to move forward, so we’ve always tried to do ‘best player available,’” added Zanik, the general manager.
How about the possibility of moving up if a guy they like slips?
“There’s obviously the context of moving up in the draft, staying where we’re at, moving out, moving back,” Lindsey said.
We can at least — after the team’s defensive slippage this past season, and your stated goal of adding players who can viably defend their positions without sacrificing spacing on the other end — presume that whoever you select will need to be defensively inclined, correct?
“We made a conscious decision when we were eliminated by more talented offensive clubs in Golden State and Houston three years running that we wanted to increase the skill. Do we need to dial that back a little bit with someone with a physicality profile? That would be a value add,” Lindsey said. “With that said, there’s a chance we could just take more offensive skill because we deem that so valuable, just the fit.”
Crystal clear, right?
To be fair, the session wasn’t completely devoid of useful information.
One of the rare questions to get an insightful and telling response was whether there are certain traits or characteristics that the team looks for when drafting a player in the latter third of the first round.
The simple answer, according to Lindsey?
“I think one word would be ‘unique,’” he replied. “We’re looking for a unique, competitive mental makeup profile. … Just a unique mindset towards their work can separate. Obviously, unique physical characteristics are a little bit easier to identify. You get someone with an athletic profile like Donovan [Mitchell] — that’s unique. Rodney Hood, [who] we took at 23 a few years back, he had a very unique pick-and-roll and isolation profile, especially as it related to his pull-up, and we felt like that would carry over very well. So that one aspect really kind of carried the decision. You know, Rudy Gobert, 9-7 standing reach. Unique profile. So sometimes it’s a little bit of you don’t miss the obvious.”
In the meantime, the work goes on.
The Jazz’s front office members are still in the process of chasing down physicals from some players. They’re still conducting Zoom interviews with prospects. They’ve saved up a few of their 10 allotted in-person workouts in case they decide there’s someone they need to get in-person eyeballs on at the last minute. And they’re still meeting with coach Quin Snyder and his position- and skill-oriented assistants to get their input.
So while Lindsey and Zanik made it a point to bob and weave and duck and dodge and elude and obfuscate, it’s also true that, with the draft still days away yet, there are simply too many variables in play for anything to be concrete anyway.
“If you were to ask Justin or I today who we’d be taking, we couldn’t tell you the truth because we honestly don’t know,” Lindsey said.