Let me let you in behind the scenes here at SLC Dunk. A lot of us were fully on board with #TankNote and the Utah Jazz going for a high lottery pick with what is looking like an absolutely stacked draft class. It’s not just Victor Wembanyama (and I’m very proud to say I spelled that right first try). Guys like Scoot Henderson and the Thompson twins are looking pretty dang good.
As such, an idea was conceived to make a regular update on how that tank was going, which teams the Jazz were competing with to get the best odds, how the other picks Utah owns were looking and, most importantly, how the prospects in Utah’s draft range were doing.
You can imagine how awkward it was for me, having volunteered to do this series, to look at my first vague, self-imposed deadline of late October/early November and realizing I had to write about how the 6-3 Jazz are doing with their “tank.”
Rest assured, I’m giving it my best go of it. And if Utah decides to make up ground on #TankNote you best bet I’ll be back with a vengeance.
The Assets the Jazz own
The Jazz are the proud owners of two unconditional first-round picks with a third conditional first-rounder. Those being Utah’s own first, Minnesota’s unprotected and the least favorable of Houston/Brooklyn/Philadelphia.
This being the insane season it’s been so far, Utah’s own first is actually the lowest pick of the three, currently situated at 26th. The Minnesota pick is in the lottery, 12th, as things stand today. If the season ended now, the pick Utah would get from the Rockets/Net/76ers mashup would be the 76ers’ pick which is currently 15th (Houston is tied for the No. 1 pick and Brooklyn’s pick is 4th)
Based on the preseason expectations, this is bonkers. The T-Wolves were supposed to be in the mid-20s and surely we all expected to see either Brooklyn or Philadelphia in that mid-20s range too. Instead the two extra picks the Jazz own are mid-first rounders and its Utah’s own pick that’s landed in the late first.
The prospects around where Utah picks
Since college basketball hasn’t started, the mock drafts currently out there are pretty much completely speculation driven. We have some stats and film from Henderson and Wembanyama but we all knew they’d be at the top. Guys in Utah’s current range in the mid-first and late-first have not played this season.
This will be broken into two sections, the first one listing a few prospects around the 13th and 17th picks and the second section noting guys around 26th. Mock drafts being as variable as they are, these lists could be 10-15 players long each, but I’ll limit the lists for the sake of some brevity.
The mid-first range
- Kel’el Ware (Oregon) 7-0 Center
Jeff Goodman’s mock draft 1.0 has the Jazz taking the freshman Oregon center with several others placing him in the mid-first. Ware isn’t in the unicorn mold (unsurprising as he’d be getting mocked higher than 12 if he were), fitting more into the rim-running/shot blocking role.
- Terquavion Smith (NC State) | 6-4 Guard
Smith is placed by most mock drafts out there in the range where Utah’s two extra picks lie. NBA Draft room’s most recent mock update (from Oct. 12) had the Jazz taking Smith at 18 where the T-Wolves pick was at the time.
Smith’s calling card is his scoring. He put up 16.3 points per game as a freshman at NC State, though his efficiency was greatly lacking and may have factored into his decision to stick around. He shot a solid 36.9 percent from three but a woeful 43.7 percent inside the arc. He ranked in the 14th percentile in points per possession at the rim where he made just 46.3 percent of his attempts.
- Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite) 6-7 Guard
The lower-ranked half of the Thompson twins (his brother Amen is mocked in the top five from most places), Ausar has size and athleticism but hasn’t developed some of the skills his brother has such as shooting and passing.
- Tyrese Proctor (Duke) 6-4 Guard
Goodman and Sam Vecenie both have Proctor going in the mid-first, though Proctor isn’t on the radar of some other mock draft sites (NBA Draft Room and Tankathon don’t have Proctor in their first-round mocks)
Vecenie called Proctor “one of the better passers in the class” but also noted inconsistency in his scoring game right now. Keeping an eye on Proctor’s shooting numbers will be something draft hawks will be consistently doing as good numbers there could raise his stock quite a bit.
The late-first range
- Kris Murray (Iowa) 6-8 Forward
Two different mock drafts have the Jazz taking Murray (granted, one is with the Philly pick which was at 20th when that mock was published) so there’s no way he could be left off this list.
The younger brother of Keegan, who was drafted by the Kings this past draft, Kris projects as a 3-and-D player with less upside as his brother. He’s got length and hit 38.7 percent of his three last season. He only played 17.9 minutes last year at Iowa, but per 36 minutes he averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
- Harrison Ingram (Stanford) 6-7 Guard
NBA Draft Room simply said Ingram is a “big guard who can do it all, score, handle and pass the rock.” It shows in that he averaged 10.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a freshman for Stanford. His efficiency numbers can make one recoil in disgust though. Just 38.8 percent from the field, 31.3 percent from three and 66.3 percent on free throws. There’s promise, but lots of room to grow.
- Leonard Miller (G-League Ignite) 6-10 Forward
Miller’s stock is a bit all over the place right now, being as high as 16 and low as 41 in the mocks I found. But that averages out to about Utah’s current late-first pick and Goodman has the Jazz taking him in his mock draft.
Is the tank even still on?
The players and head coach Will Hardy are spitting on the preseason notion that the Jazz should and were tanking. They’ve potentially made a playoff team out of a squad projected to win around 30 games. But is Danny Ainge secretly planning sabotage behind the scenes?
According to Shams Charania, the Jazz “have teams calling them every day” inquiring about Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley. Were Utah to trade one or both of those guys it would be a significant loss. Clarkson is currently averaging 16.5 points per game (second on the team) and Beasley is putting up 11.9 per outing (fifth on the team).
There are ways to gut this team with just one or two players being dealt. It could be Clarkson, Beasley, or even Mike Conley leaving that sends this team over a cliff and back toward the bottom of the standings. But we’ll have to see how Ainge rides this unexpected situation out.
What should the Jazz do from here?
This poll is closed
Push for the playoffs!
Trade one or two players, still be a bit competitive, just miss the playoffs
Trade Conley, Clarkson, Beasley and whoever else and go full-on tank