Here’s what the Utah Jazz general manager thinks of this year’s NBA Draft class

The front office exec also shared his thoughts on potentially trading one or more of the team’s three draft picks.

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik can predict what will happen in some NBA drafts.

But this year? No way.

“Last year, two days before the draft, I predicted the draft order through 10 exactly,” Zanik said in a Monday news conference. “This year, I’m not going to even try. I don’t know who’s going number one, two, three.”

That’s because last year’s draft had clear and nearly universally agreed-upon tiers of players: Victor Wembanyama, great; Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, very good; and so on. This time around?

“It’s just much more flat this year than other years,” Zanik said. “I think someone who could go at five could be there at 10 or 12 or 14 and you’re getting the same kind of player.”

Among the players most commonly selected at that No. 10 spot in mock drafts: Tennessee senior wing Dalton Knecht, Kentucky freshman guard Rob Dillingham, Serbian guard Nikola Topic, French forward Tidjane Salaun, and G League Ignite wing Ron Holland.

Zanik said the team separates players into tiers of projected future NBA value. He feels that there are about eight players in the tier that the Jazz will be drafting with the No. 10 pick — some who will be drafted above the Jazz’s selection, and some who will be drafted below.

The Jazz GM took issue with those who have been too critical of this year’s draft prospects.

“I guess only criticism fits into 140 characters because that’s what you see most times — like, ‘This guy can’t do this or that.’ I don’t think that’s fair,” Zanik said. “It’s very easy to just eliminate guys, but you have to pick somebody.”

But there’s no real doubt that this year’s prospects shine a little less brightly than in most NBA drafts. In that case, the Jazz’s front office feels it’s critical to be able to project a player’s potential and to find out which of a player’s weaknesses they think their player development staff can improve on.

Take shooting, for example. Approximately half of this year’s lottery picks shot 30% or worse from 3-point range last season. So how do the Jazz evaluate that? “I look at it as like there’s three buckets. One, don’t touch anything — it’s great, it goes in, don’t mess with it. Two, there are tweaks — whether it’s ball position, where the ball is in your hand or shooting across your face, or dip, or speeding it up. Just tweaks. And then third is the full rebuild,” Zanik explained. The team will watch film, use data points from a player’s high school career, and visual evidence from their in-person workouts to determine which bucket a player fits in.

Meanwhile, there continues to be buzz around the NBA about the Jazz trading their picks. ESPN’s Monday mock draft from Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo reported that “Utah is said to be active in trade talks, both with this pick and potentially looking to package the Nos. 29 and 32 picks to move into the late teens. The Jazz are being mentioned with center and point guard prospects and might be open to moving around some, depending on how the draft evolves.”

Zanik agreed that the team is looking to make moves in the draft — but said that the team’s most likely scenario is that they retain their three picks. “It always takes another team to agree,” he explained.

But when asked if the team had “reservations” about having six first- or second-year players on the roster next season, the Jazz general manager acknowledged that the team did.

“If that’s the case, you want to make sure you have enough veterans on the team. They can’t raise themselves, can’t raise each other,” Zanik said. “That will factor into some of the things we do in free agency or trades.”

This year’s NBA Draft has been split into two days — the first round takes place Wednesday evening, and the second round has been moved to Thursday. The Jazz can begin negotiating with free agents who played on other teams last year starting on Sunday at 2 p.m. MDT.