...New York's first-round pick
"With the 9th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, the Utah Jazz select..."
Normally those are the words you would expect to hear as a result of missing the playoffs in the previous season. It's the highest draft pick the Jazz have had since 2005 when they picked Deron Williams and the second-highest pick since they took Thurl Bailey with the #7 pick in 1983.
While other teams are accustomed to an annual visit to New York to participate in the lottery, the success of the Jazz has ensured a mid to low 20's pick each year.
So how did a playoff team land a top 10 pick? Thankfully for the Jazz, Isiah Thomas was allowed to run a team in the NBA.
Back in 2004, he traded Howard Eisley, Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, a 2004 draft pick, and what has become the Knicks Pick to the Phoenix Suns for Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway. The key to the Knicks Pick was that it was protected until 2010. By the end of the 2010 season, the thinking was that the Knicks should be back in the playoffs and therefore the pick would be a low one.
That pick was burning a hole in the Suns' picket because they then flipped it, along with Tom Gugliotta's expiring contract to the Jazz for Ben Handgloten and Keon Clark.
The Knicks however, never got better. After winning 39 games in 2004, they only got 33 the following year. Larry Brown took over after Lenny Wilkins was fired in 2005 and finished worse putting together just 23 wins. The next two seasons Isiah Thomas took over as coach and had deja vu all over again as the New York won 33 and 23 wins respectively.
Thomas was finally shown the door and Mike D'Antoni was brought in. Thankfully he had to wait a couple of seasons before he had a roster that was able to compete.
Each season that passed with Knicks futility drove up the value of the pick. Once the protected status came off, it was time to openly root against the Knicks even though they had never been an enemy of the Jazz. I can say it felt bad to root for a team to lose that had suffered for a decade and that were not rivals for the Jazz in any way. So while I tried not to relish another fan's misery, each loss was met with a silent first-pump.
Knicks Pick watch was on. The season started out promising enough for Jazz fans as New York started the season 3-14. Then a crazy thing happened, the Knicks didn't suck in December and went 9-6 over that span. They were still 8 games below .500 at that point but that was their only winning month on the season.
Just three more losses that month, or at any point in the season, and they would have landed a top-5 pick. With the way the 2010 draft had played out so far, those seem to the only sure-thing picks right now.
That was the start of the frustration for the fans. This pick had the potential to be a franchise-changer. And for a perennial playoff team such as the Jazz, it could have landed them a player that put them over the top and made them not only contenders, but favorites in the years to come.
Even though the team only had a 7.9% chance of moving into the top 3 and a 2.2% chance of getting the top spot, it was a bit disheartening to not strike it big.
So when the time came for David Stern to call out the pick that we had been waiting on for 6 years, Gordon Hayward's name was anti-climactic at best. It wasn't a knock on Hayward, most Jazz fans didn't even know who he was. Those that did likely only remembered him from Butler's run in the NCAA tournament. I believe the boos that echoed at the ESA weren't really directed at Hayward but at who he wasn't. He wasn't the big name that many fans had thought this draft would yield.
Still, the Jazz had no control over where they would pick, unless you want to blame them for beating the Knicks in both meetings last season. They couldn't use the picks from previous seasons because they were at least top 22 protected. Once we got past the 2006 season, I think using the pick in 2010 was always the goal for the team. The fact that it would coincide with the a big free-agency season for the Jazz made it more valuable to the team.
We'll be debating Hayward as the pick for some time, but you'll take a shot at a top-10 pick for Keon Clark and the Hand any day.