The NBA Lottery came and went and despite a lot of hopes, prayers, and other luck rituals, the Utah Jazz stayed put at No. 9.
Perhaps we should all be grateful considering there was a higher chance for the Jazz to fall to No. 10 than there was to jump into the top four. But the disappointment remains. All that said, what’s next for Utah? What course do they chart in this all-important draft in its rebuilding process?
Let’s go over the possibilities.
There’s a couple scenarios here that are a bit different both in how they might come about and how likely they are, so we’ll divide it up into parts as both deserve a separate breakdown.
Trade with Portland for the No. 3 pick
Before lottery day was even done reports came out that the Portland Trail Blazers, who jumped up a couple of spots to the No. 3 overall pick, will potentially be shopping that pick in hopes of landing a co-star to pair with Damian Lillard.
The star point guard is quickly reaching the end of his prime years, despite a resurgence this last campaign and likely isn’t going to be thrilled with waiting 3-4 more years for Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson to be ready to compete in the playoffs.
Utah could look to make a trade with a willing Portland team but it seems a bit unlikely that the two are able to come to an agreement. The Trail Blazers are going to be looking for an All-NBA or borderline All-NBA player to pair with Lillard. Utah’s only player who potentially fits that bill is Lauri Markkanen.
It doesn’t seem all that likely that the Jazz will be sending away their newfound star in hopes of maybe landing someone they hope will become an All-Star like Markkanen did. It’s not completely impossible, though. Danny Ainge traded Isaiah Thomas right after his All-NBA season in 2016-17 for Kyrie Irving, a player with a championship resume.
The parallel isn’t exact, but Ainge trading away a breakout player for a potential star player in the draft has similarities in the broad strokes. It’s the risk of trading away a great player with the hopes of getting a bona fide star. Only this time it’s for an unproven rookie.
Whether the Jazz are willing to give up Markkanen isn’t the only question in play here. Portland has to actually believe Markkanen is worth trading a top three pick for and that’s hard to say, though it’s not super likely.
There’s also the fact that Utah would need to give up even more than Markkanen. It’d also likely cost the No. 9 and/or 16 pick or at least No. 9 and some future first.
Jumping to the third overall pick isn’t something that will come without real sacrifice for Utah. There’s not a quick and easy solution to this scenario.
Trade for pick No. 4 or 5
This one seems a bit more feasible in terms of what the two parties may be interested in acquiring, but less feasible in terms of considering whether they actually want to trade.
The Houston Rockets own pick No. 4 while the Detroit Pistons have No. 5. Both are rebuilding, posting a combined 2022-23 record of 39-125 as the worst and second-worst teams in the NBA. They were certainly hoping to win the Wemby sweepstakes but obviously came up short.
Both the Pistons and Rockets don’t seem like they’d be super interested in moving back since they’re both in the process of adding young, top-tier talent. Can the Jazz really sweet talk their way into convincing two rebuilding teams to pass on a top five pick in exchange for the 9th and 16th picks? That is, of course, assuming the price tag is indeed just the 9/16 picks.
If the price to move to fourth or fifth is more than the ninth and 16th picks the Jazz may balk. The players just outside of the consensus top three (Amen Thompson, Jarace Walker, Cam Whitmore) are certainly good, but are they worth two picks and say, Ochai Agbaji? That’s hard to say. But it’s a question Utah’s front office will likely be asking itself.
Stay Put at No. 9
Among all the possibilities, this one is the most likely and the assumption for now should be that Utah will retain its pick. So the question now is “What should the Jazz do with pick No. 9?”
The answer could be a lot of things. Unlike the top end of the draft where most years there’s a solid consensus on at least who the top five picks will be, if not a consensus on the order they’ll be picked in, Utah sits in a range where things can get pretty crazy pretty fast. There’s not a consensus on which non-top five prospects will be available by the time the Jazz pick.
Utah’s options at No. 9 could easily be dictated by what teams above them do. Guys like Amen and Ausar Thompson, Whitmore and Anthony Black may be liked by the Jazz but mock drafts have them fairly consistently getting picked prior to ninth. But if one of those guys falls, Utah may switch plans from drafting Taylor Hendricks, Gradey Dick or Cason Wallace — players who have been commonly linked to Utah at ninth..
Overall, ninth is going to be a hectic spot to pick in because consensus will start to break down right before the Jazz pick and they’ll need to be on their toes. Teams may also leapfrog Utah and perhaps swoop in and grab a player the Jazz really wanted at seventh or eighth. The number of players Utah could end up with at nine is close to a dozen.
The least likely option of the bunch but there’s still a possibility. Utah is clearly gunning for the best player possible in this draft, though there are cases where the Jazz could feel trading back is the best option.
The most likely set of events where this happens is that Utah falls in love with a player who they think will fall back to the late lottery of even the high teens and take a trade from a team that falls in love with a player in Utah’s range. Maybe the Jazz end up loving Brice Sensabaugh or Leonard Miller. Perhaps the stock of Anthony Black or Cason Wallace falls and Utah feels like it can pick them up later. Ainge may be able to scoop up an extra pick while also getting the guy he wants.
One other possibility is Utah packaging 9 and 16 for a player. No matter how unlikely it is, it at least needs to be said in case in some bizarre set of events the Jazz do wind up moving their top two picks for someone already in the league.