Last Nov. 18, Jazz management spent the night watching a disappointing home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, finishing up their 13th game of the regular season. It was an early indication that, while this Jazz team was good, they perhaps weren’t good enough to achieve their lofty goals.
2020′s schedule is a little different.
This year on that date, the Jazz will be taking part in the NBA draft, picking No. 23 again in an effort to add one more piece that might allow them to get over that hump from good to great.
In the past, the Jazz have found some success with the No. 23 pick, taking players that all became longtime NBA role players, but perhaps fell short of franchise changers. Rodney Hood — who declined his player option on Tuesday to become an unrestricted free agent this summer — was selected in 2014 at No. 23. So, too, were Kosta Koufos (2008) and DeShawn Stevenson (2000); both of them had careers in the NBA longer than a decade. Given that most picks in the 20s turn out to have very short NBA careers, it’s been a winning spot for the Jazz.
There are some promising role-player prospects for the Jazz at No. 23 this year, too. While the lottery of this draft is one of the worst ever, it’s generally regarded to have relatively good talent in the middle of the order that figure to fill NBA rosters.
Among the highlights: TCU’s Desmond Bane is one of the draft’s best outside shooters while also showing defensive toughness, Arizona’s Josh Green is a menace on the wing while flashing the shooting and athleticism to be much more, Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard has the muscular, long frame to help defensively immediately, and Tyrell Terry, Tyrese Maxey and Theo Maledon all figure to be at least good backup guards in the NBA.
There is another wildcard to consider, though: the possibility of the Jazz trading up, trading down, or trading out of the draft.
Trading up has played a part in some of the best draft outcomes in Jazz draft history. All three of the Jazz’s best players of the last 20 years — Deron Williams, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert — were the result of the Jazz adding an asset to a draft pick they already had and moving up to get the guy they wanted. (Of course, there have been disappointments, most notably the trade to get Trey Burke in 2013.)
And not to be too generalist, but trading down might make some sense in such a flat draft, as could acquiring a second-round pick by trade. The Jazz like multiple prospects that are slated to go in the second round right now, and it would be a waste of draft capital to take a lowly-rated prospect at No. 23. If they trade down, they could take a guy they like and add an asset to be used either now or in the future.
Regardless, Jazz vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey says the team is looking for a “unique, competitive mental make-up profile.”
“And some guys or you think all competitive athletes would stand out in that area. But some stand out within that player population.” Lindsey also noted that he’s looking for players who can work within their defensive scheme, the one that orients around Gobert. If a player can’t work within that framework, they might make more sense with another organization.
Regardless of what happens, it figures to be a fluid night in the NBA, with multiple trades already taking place this week ahead of draft night. There could be up to 10 more on the night itself, according to those who know the market best.
So in the NBA draft, it pays to stay flexible, even with the date of the draft itself.