The player the Jazz need is not in this year's draft.
From now until draft day and even leading up to the minutes before the NBA Draft on Thursday analysts, mock draft experts, scouts, GMs, and others will be adjusting their draft boards in order to make the best selections in this year's draft. The Utah Jazz are faced with a challenging test this year. Find future franchise players in a transitional year and fill holes at every position.
Point Guard? Need 3.
Shooting Guard? Could use another one.
Small Forward? One for injury security while Marvin Williams recovers.
Power Forward? The Jazz way is to carry 8 of these, right?
Center? Need a true 7 footer.
The Utah Jazz have the luxury of three draft picks this year. Two in the first round. One in the second. It was if the basketball gods knew the Jazz would need the depth for this upcoming year except there is one slight problem. This is projected to be one of the worst drafts in the past 20 years.
Even an anonymous NBA GM had this to say about this year's NBA Draft:
It’s a historically weak draft that, as a result, you’re going to see a lot more guys putting their name in knowing they’ll go higher in this draft, even though they may not be ready, just because next year’s class has such incredible depth that they could actually play better and improve and drop their draft status next year.
Normally I am not a fan of player comparisons, but for the sake of entertainment here are the player comparisons for the players that have been linked with the Jazz possibly drafting.
Shane Larkin - DJ Augustine
CJ McCollum - Juan Dixon
Michael Carter-Williams - Jerryl Sasser
Shabazz Muhammad - Nick Young
Dennis Schroeder - Darren Collison
Kelly Olynyk - Fabricio Oberto
Rudy Gobert - Shawn Bradley
Sergey Karasev - Eric Piatkowski
Courtesy of NBADraft.net
To reinforce the cringe effect, here is Chad Ford's Draft Tiers of 2013. I skipped Tiers 1-4 because Tiers 1-2 because there is not one player in this year's draft rated in the top two draft tiers. In case you are wondering Tier 1 is where a team can find a franchise changing player. Tier 2 is where a team can find a future all-star. Tier 3, regular starter. Tier 4, role players. Tier 5, guys you hope and pray can develop into a role player down the road. I omitted the Tiers 3 and 4 since that would require the Jazz to move up in a weak draft just to draft a guy who possibly could be a starter.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Glen Rice Jr.
Note: This next group is the largest Tier 5 I've ever had, and it shows where the strength of the draft is. There is incredible depth here, and it's not uncommon to hear teams say that the player drafted at No. 35 might be as good as the player at No. 15. There is a whopping 26 players in this group. At least eight of these players won't hear their names called in the first round.
A few teams had Antetokounmpo, Karasev, Muhammad and Nogueira in Tier 4, but not quite enough for them to make the cut. Interestingly, Ledo got two votes for Tier 4 and is a guy who clearly has been impressing people in workouts.
As you can see this draft is weak. Don't believe me? Here is Chad Ford's Fifth Tier in 2012.
Note: This next group looks like locks for the first round, but most likely won't make the lottery. A few teams had Harkless, Melo and Moultrie in Tier 4 but not quite enough for them to make the cut. Wroten and Miller were borderline picks here. Both players dropped out of the top 30 on at least one NBA team's draft board.
Tony Wroten Jr.
This is where it gets difficult but stay with me here. The Jazz need to
get better get needed depth. The Jazz also need a point guard of the future. But look at 2012's crop. Does anybody in their right mind believe Tony Wroten, Jr. or Marquis Teague have the potential to be a starting point guard on a Championship contending team? How about a playoff contending team? Didn't think so. Tier 5 is left for players that have potential. Potential gets you fired in the NBA. No GM wants to stake their career on a Tier 5 guy.
This is where Dennis Lindsey has been doing his homework. He has worked out
everything with a pulse close to every prospect in this year's draft. He's even held open tryouts for free agents before the draft just so he can be ready for any potential steals that don't require a draft asset. He has most likely done his homework for free agency.
Dennis Lindsey has also said he wants to be "lean and strategic" this upcoming season.
Let's set the parameters shall we?
According to Shamsports.com, the Utah Jazz have a project cap space of $27,772,692 if they renounce all their free agents. That is also if they choose to keep both 1st round draft picks. This cap flexibility allows them to be big players in free agency. But there's another option.
Next year's NBA draft is projected to be historic. Chad Ford is even reporting that in GM circles they believe it could be historic. In fact, the top 10 players of next year's draft would all go number 1 in this draft. The top 5 players of next year's draft would go number 1 in most year's drafts. It's THAT special. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, and Marcus Smart to name a few. Next year is where at least 5 bottom feeders can change their stars.
How do the Utah Jazz fit into all of that?
[SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT TANKING.]
Dennis Lindsey has said that he would "very aggressive" with their draft positioning. Many have used this statement to assume this year's draft. But I have a different theory.
Why order the best entree from a mediocre restaurant when one can order many entrees from the 5-star restaurant? The Jazz lack a star. They have lacked a star since the trade of Deron Williams. We can make guesses as to if Kanter, Favors, Hayward, or Burks can become a star but the chances aren't high. The Jazz must acquire a transcendent talent by whatever means possible. Which is where the cap space comes into play.
The Jazz have the ability to play lender to cap tapped teams. Teams like Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc. who are trying to create cap space for free agency. Teams like Washington, Sacramento, Detroit, or Toronto who have bad contracts weighting them down. The Utah Jazz can take on these bloated contracts with their cap space.
If Utah's plan is to be lean, aggressive, and strategic this is the way to go. The Jazz most likely will not set the world on fire and make the playoffs next year. This next season most likely will be evaluating the talent that they have drafted and setting a future price on their prospects for future contract negotiations and how to build around these young players. In order to stay lean the Jazz would be wise to avoid two guaranteed 1st round draft picks' contracts especially if both those players are 5th tier prospect who are not guaranteed to even be around in the league in a couple years.
Which brings us to how the Jazz can be successful in this year's draft. Most see the Jazz coming away from the draft with at least 3 young prospects. But I think that is a misnomer and just not realistic. It would also be a failure of a draft. With one of the most historic draft classes on the horizon the number one goal of this year's draft must be to leave Brooklyn Thursday night with an additional 2014 1st round draft pick in hand. If that requires taking on a Andrea Bargnani or a Nene so be it. It doesn't matter if the Jazz end up with 2 2nd round draft picks and Andrea Bargnani as long as they acquire a 2014 1st round draft pick.
That is the prize. They have the ability to do it. They have 3 draft picks this year. They have very unique positions to draft at as well. They have the cap space. They have the prospects. They can be aggressive. They can be lean. Most importantly, they can be strategic. There would be nothing more strategic than the Utah Jazz acknowledging their present condition as a bottom dweller team that needs a star.
Even if the Jazz exceed expectations next year. Say they miss the playoffs and are the 10th worst team in the NBA. That additional 1st round draft pick could be a lottery pick that gives them additional chances to win a top 3 pick or it can provide ammunition to move up and get the franchise player that completes the core 4 into a future championship contender.
It is naive and unrealistic to believe that the Jazz have a strong chance of drafting a star and franchise player in this year's draft EVEN if they trade up to acquire said player. They might be able to acquire a starter but not a franchise player. Not a star. The smart thing to do, the strategic thing to do, is to fold on this year's draft. Don't cash in. Wait for the next hand in 2014. The haul could be legendary. It could be franchise changing.
If Dennis Lindsey wants to turn the Utah Jazz into a long term winner he'll learn from the win now mistakes of the past two years. He could draft really well this year, end up with a few role players, and be lauded for finding diamonds in the rough. Or he could do something only few do. He could be patient. Forego this draft almost entirely. Steal another draft pick in next year's draft from a CBA scared team. Trade up for a franchise changer. A player so special they become the franchise. A player so talented they could one day have a statue alongside John and Karl. Dennis Lindsey wouldn't be lauded for merely finding diamonds in the rough, he would be lauded for something greater. Finding a player the rightful heir to throne that has been vacant since Karl and John retired. The next Jazz legend. That would be "strategic".