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NBA Draft 2015: Six reasons why the Utah Jazz having the #12 draft pick is a good thing

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Why winning the lottery wasn't in the plans for Dennis Lindsey and company

Historically #12 isn't great for the draft, but has been for the Jazz
Historically #12 isn't great for the draft, but has been for the Jazz
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Three nights ago we saw the inevitable results of statistical probability at the NBA Draft lottery. It is already shaping up to be a historically significant lottery because it's the first time since 2004 that the team with the highest chances to win the lottery actually did it. The #1 pick goes to the Minnesota Timberwolves who had a 25.0% to claim their right to prima rookta. And since the lottery started in 1985, this will be just the fourth time this has EVER happened. (1988 Danny Manning, 1990 Derrick Coleman, 2004 Dwight Howard, 2015 TBD) The starkissed Los Angeles Lakers had only a 12.6% chance to pick second, yet that's precisely what happened as they jumped from 4th to 2nd. (I had erroneously felt like they would have gotten the #3 pick, but I was wrong here.) It's going to be funny to see if the Lakers go with their head or their hearts here, either picking a player to build around for the future, or trade the pick for immediate veteran player help now to help Kobe Bryant get to the playoffs one last time. Rounding out the top three we have the Philadelphia 76ers, the third seeded team for the lottery gets the third pick. On one hand it's upsetting for them because they had a 31.3% chance at getting a top 2 pick (almost 1 in 3), but on the other hand remaining third is not bad. Historically the #3 pick has been very strong, busting less frequently than #2. And Sixers fans just need to look at the plight of the next team to feel a little better about themselves. The two seeded New York Knicks drop to picking fourth in 2015. That's awesome. Their franchise has two rings, but is an epic joke.

But it's nothing to joke about that the Utah Jazz, the 12th seed, are picking 12th in the draft. And here's why.


1. The 12th Seed in the Lottery has never advanced, so don't be upset the Jazz didn't

Since the NBA adopted the lottery system (which was put in place to disincentive tanking, if you are old enough to remember), and expanded to 30 teams, the #12 seed in the lottery doesn't have a lot of luck going for it. They are close but still so far from being a playoff team. And they are just way better than some of the other teams who are hellbent on picking up lotto balls, instead of wins, during the regular season. The 12th seed has a 93.5% chance of staying the 12th. And at #12 the team is actually MORE LIKELY TO FALL (3.9%) than they are to rise (2.5%) as a result of what happens in the lottery. So in a strange, crazy, absurd way -- the Jazz dodged a bullet by picking 12th, instead of having to pick 13th. And while we can easily brush off not winning the lotto, it would have been a huge kick in the collective junk if the team ended up LOSING a draft spot in the lotto for the second straight year.

From the data available, here's how the last decade has shaken out:

Year Lotto 12th Team Record Lotto Result Draft Selection Draft Result
1 2006 Hornets 38 - 44 46.34% 12th pick Hilton Armstrong
2 2007 76ers 35 - 47 42.68% 12th pick Thaddeus Young
3 2008 Kings 38 - 44 46.34% 12th pick Jason Thompson
4 2009 Bobcats 35 - 47 42.68% 12th pick Gerald Henderson
5 2010 Grizzlies 40 - 42 48.78% 12th pick Xavier Henry
6 2011 Jazz 39 - 43 47.56% 12th pick Alec Burks Lip licking becomes epidemic amongst impressionable youth
7 2012 Bucks 31 - 35 46.97% 12th pick Jeremy Lamb Predraft trade to Houston Rockets (Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston, 2012 #12 for Samuel Dalembert, cash, 2012 #14 (John Henson))
8 2013 Raptors 34 - 48 41.46% 12th pick Steven Adams Pick thusly owed to the Oklahoma City Thunder
9 2014 Knicks 37 - 45 45.12% 12th pick Dario Saric Pick thusly owed to the Denver Nuggets, who owed it to the Orlando Magic, and traded to Philadelphia 76ers
10 2015 Jazz 38 - 44 46.34% 12th pick TBD TBD

So you're telling me that the team that has a 93.5% chance of picking 12th has picked 12th ever year. And this is what happened to the Utah Jazz. And therefore, there should be no tears as a result. I know I'm not upset at getting my hopes up for random chance to fix my problems. I think smart planning is better than random playing. After all, in real life the lottery is a voluntary tax on the stupid. And the Jazz front office powered by Dennis Lindsey is far from that. At the end of the day, the lowest lotto seed to ever win the lottery was the 11th seeded Orlando Magic back in 1993. And that was probably more than just luck. I think the Jazz will stick to skill instead.


2. This Jazz team doesn't need a prospect with a lot of potential

The highest draft picks used to be the best players, implicitly. They had the most talent. They had usually taken their NCAA teams deep in the tournament. And they were good enough to crack a good team's rotation back when they were still playing in college, and would help that NBA team that drafts them to win from the first time they step out on the court. That's the "good old NBA". It's no longer that. Sure, you occasionally get a really good rookie who has a strong rookie year and is productive beyond being the best player on a bad team. But for the most part, the highest picks today are great athletes who are very young, and do not know the game to the point where they can be a "Day 1 difference maker". Exceptions exist like Anthony Davis, John Wall, LeBron James, and so forth. But the rule seems to be potential and possibility over production and polish.

This is probably best seen in the continued rising mean draft spot for Seniors and Juniors in the draft. More and more Freshman and Sophomores are getting picked in the top 15, leaving the more polished, game ready players to be had at lower spots. Verily, the trend is to declare for the draft if you are good enough to get drafted by today's trends -- be great at something, even if that one thing is having potential. The players who aren't so great have to stay in college for longer. It's then the theory that the longer you stay in the NCAAs means that you have a lower ceiling as a player; though the trade off is that you are a much more capable player right off the bat. You may have a more NBA ready body, or have played enough basketball to finally be great at something.

While you can argue that you can never say no to drafting a future star, I don't think the offense that Quin Snyder runs, or the team that Dennis Lindsey has formed, is one that is a singular missing piece away. Adding LeBron James makes this Jazz team a title contender. But adding an 18 year old LeBron James does not. Instead, Lindsey has made a team that still has potential to improve, but is built up around a lot of very good players. Getting better is more important than getting potential talent.

I have preached to play the young guys and have patience. But after a while even I tire of being in the lottery every year.


3. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are heading to their sixth NBA seasons

While both are young men, they are approaching their peaks in physical ability while still having room to grow as players. They're will into their 2nd NBA contract, and after a while you pretty much have more money than you can spend. You want something more, though. You want to win. And if your professional goals are not met with a team, you may want to go to one that can better fulfill those. And for the Jazz, you do not want to get into divergent evolution here, where the players that matter are put into two different groups -- and they keep moving in different directions. You want a unified team. And frankly, guys like Gordon Hayward (married, with kid on the way), Derrick Favors (in-house, with twins on the way) want to get on with their lives, their whole lives -- including their professional ones. They want to win. They don't want the franchise to set the clock back by getting another 19 year old who isn't ready to help them advance. They want to make the playoffs NEXT season, not three seasons from now.

A top 5 pick may not be something to say no to, especially when you notice that Dante Exum (19), Grant Jerrett (21), Rudy Gobert (22), Trey Burke (22), Rodney Hood (22), Bryce Cotton (22) and others are so young. If your core isn't the guys going into their 5th and 6th seasons in the NBA (Favors, Hayward, Alec Burks), but more on those other players than setting the clock back isn't wrong. But I think it would not be the best possible thing for the guys who are "done" with development, and now are setting their sights on professional accomplishments. Winning. Playoffs. And more.

If the Jazz won the lotto the temptation would be there to draft a very young guy, a good player, and a future star -- but at the expense of being in line with the career trajectories of our two best players. From what we know from point #2, the team doesn't need a star when Hayward and Favors and Gobert are likely going to cement their star status next season. Also, a top pick is likely to be less polished than someone in the later half of the lotto. It may be more likely to get someone who can help the team win now with #12, even if someone going 1, 2 or 3 is going to be a much better player over their respective careers.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell, and Emmanuel Mudiay are great prospects, but I don't think they are going to be at their peak at the same time to overlap with peaks of Hayward and Favors. and for Hayward and Favors that could be something they are aware of.


4. Competition is very close to Inhibition

I know, I'm the crazy guy who has not lived my entire life in the United State or in Capitalist societies. The propaganda I am consistently told is that competition is the best thing ever because it means that the best thing will eventually win out and dominate the market. If two people compete for the same job, the best candidate will win. If three TV shows are on at the same time, the most viewers will watch the best one. If there's a market for something, the market will be won by what is the best. Period. Yet here we stand in a world where the guy who is pals with the boss gets the job over the person better suited for the job; where the TV show with the worst marketing department is the loser, despite being the best show; and where I see people everywhere wearing Beats by Dre headphones instead of, you know, stuff that actual people in the music industry use. Competition is about effort and choice, and sometimes to win you have to be something other than the best. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the Utah Jazz. And at this stage the Jazz are young enough and have tons of potential. But excessive competition isn't going to solve anything at this stage. Sure, you need guys like Joe Ingles and Elijah Millsap to help your team win games, but their true benefit is to sharpen guys like Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, and Gordon Hayward. But at the end of the day you know Joe and Eli aren't really going to compete against the other three where it counts -- in the finite resource of minutes.

Not everyone here knows about, cares about, or remembers the mechanism of competitive inhibition. If you are still in high school, or a biology major in university, you should know what I'm talking about. The TL;DR version is that if two things compete for the same goal, one of them will change the situation entirely so that the other thing is completely inhibited from ever getting there. That's really the simple version, but the practical application of this would be the alternate universe possibility of the Jazz having a Top 3 pick.

Many draft nerds (myself included) feel like D'Angelo Russell (19 year old PG) and Emmanuel Mudiay (19 year old PG) are Top 5 picks this year. If the Jazz were picking #2 or #3 it would be possible that they would have picked best player available. And invariably, by their own measures and evidence, they could possible see one of those two as the BPA. Point guard is the hardest position to learn at the NBA level, and especially for a very young guy, they need to soak up as many minutes as possible to get good at it.

Utah knows this as they currently have a 19 year old PG (Dante Exum), and a 22 year old one (Trey Burke). Going for a PG three years a row in the draft displays some level or error occurrence. Furthermore, it's not the same thing as adding a vet PG (somewhat developed, not real competition). A third young, raw, under-developed PG who needs as many minutes as possible = allosteric competition/inhibition.

You know this stuff, right? (PS. The Enzyme is the total pool of minutes available)

All three guys (if on the team and healthy) are competing for minutes, in order to ever be the player they can be (maximize return on potential investment) they need to get these minutes. These minutes are finite. Because #competition one of them will win out, thus changing the equation so that the other two do not get the minutes. And this then means that the other two have a greater chance of never equaling or surpassing their initial potential investment cost.

If the Jazz were picking Top 3 and picked a PG, and didn't move any of their current young PG prospects, there would have been this inhibition. This could have been a similar issue if they went with a center (KAT or JO) to inhibit the potential growth of Favors or Gobert. Sure, some people think that there's enough minutes to "go around". That's not the case in my experience, or someone like Enes Kanter would never have gotten pissy about his treatment. That's a great example of this competition --> inhibition issue that ultimately leads to a gross under-actualization of a potential investment as a #3 pick.

Right now about 90% of mock drafts out there place two centers and two point guards in the Top 5. Each of those players are 19 years old. If the Jazz won a Top 3 pick it is likely that their BPA strategy would lead them into one of these PGs or Cs. And thus, lead to inhibition. And then down the road, a net loss on the potential investment of beating the odds and winning a Top 3 lotto pick.

On the other hand, picking at #12 nets you a player who is almost assured to never be an inhibitor to the growth of the young guys currently on the team (Exum, Burke, Burks, Hood, Hayward, Favors, Gobert), but in some cases could still be good enough to be a rotation player (Burks, as an example).

You want to add people to improve your depth, add missing skill sets, and be there to make your best players better. You can achieve all three at #12 without rocking the boat as getting a PG at #3 could. (And call me crazy, but I think the Jazz also want to make Dante and Trey as good as possible, and not try to replace them this off-season.) Getting #12 has a chance to help the team in a way that doesn't change team chemistry, nor does it make it more difficult for the Jazz to get a good return on the initial draft investments they have already made.

I know, bioeconomics is just a numbers game. Thanks Ty.


5. Utah has options with #12

If we look at the #12 draft pick in the 2015 draft as an asset, and not a potential Jazzman to fall in love with and irrationally support over the internet, then we see that the team has yet another asset that can be used on draft night. Utah has this lotto pick, and two second rounders in 2015. The Jazz also have 13 other draft picks between now and 2018. Utah is also severely under the cap going forward, and this next season have about $20 million to spend. Last year Utah moved Erik Murphy, Malcolm Thomas, John Lucas III, and Diante Garrett in non-guaranteed deals. This season they have Trevor Booker, Elijah Millsap, Chris Johnson, Bryce Cotton, and Jack Cooley on similar deals. The Jazz also hold the draft rights to Ante Tomic, Raul Neto, Tibor Pleoss, and Mario Austin (who is pretty old by now, but still playing in Europe).

So that's cash, picks, cheap players, and draft and stashes -- four things that give you flexibility. Two drafts ago the Jazz moved a #14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and a #21 (Gorgui Dieng) for a #9 (Trey Burke). That same draft they moved a #46 (Erick Green) for cash and a #27 (Rudy Gobert). They also flipped a future 2nd rounder for Raul Neto. I don't think that Dennis, he of many draft night moves, is married to the #12 pick. The Jazz could move up or down 3 spots without much difficulty if there's someone they like. There's always someone willing to tango, especially with Kevin O'Connor's many contacts. (Or so we are told.)

There's even more juice if the Jazz move one of their contract players, though I doubt they do that. I strongly believe that the Jazz front office could do enough to sweeten a potential deal to swap picks with possibly the Detroit Pistons (#8), but definitely the Charlotte Hornets (#9), Miami Heat (#10), and Indiana Pacers (#11) -- however I wouldn't really move up to #11 unless you absolutely HAD to do that. I do not believe that the Jazz can get into the Top 7 without losing someone you care for. I'm pretty sure you could get a Top 2 pick this year if you give up Rudy Gobert and future picks, but no one on our side of things wants to do that.

The Jazz will likely work out close to 100 kids in the next two months. It is likely that they do find someone they want to add to the team, someone who will be in striking distance. Heck, they could just go BPA at #12, and then when the player they REALLY like falls later on in the 1st round they could trade #12 for the player they want and get stuff back in return, instead of giving stuff away. Dennis Lindsey is a wizard, after all.


6. In this draft you may actually get something really good at #12

This is a relatively deep-ish draft. It's not a shallow draft like the 2013 was (where some middle to late 1st rounders by talent snuck into the lotto), and it's not a super deep draft like the 1984 one was (where there were All-Stars and HOFers all over the place). But it's semi-deep. Wear a life preserver, but keep the scuba stuff at home. Every draft a GM reaches, and sometimes you get Anthony Bennett going number one. As a result, someone you do like is more likely to fall for whatever reason. Some of the players you SHOULD be interested in are:

cRanking 2014-15 Stats
Player Ht Wt Pos Age Ex From AVG STDEV PPG RPG APG PER
1 Mario Hezonja 6 8 200 2 3 20.0 -- INTL (CROATIA) 7.63 ± 1.55 5.9 1.9 1.2 13.8
2 Stanley Johnson 6 8 243 3 18.8 1 Arizona 8.78 ± 1.58 13.8 6.5 1.7 23.0
3 Myles Turner 6 11 242 5 18.9 1 Texas 11.07 ± 2.38 10.1 6.5 0.6 26.2
4 Frank Kaminsky 7 0 242 4 21.9 4 Wisconsin 11.78 ± 2.83 18.8 8.2 2.6 35.0
5 Devin Booker 6 5 186 2 18.3 1 Kentucky 13.33 ± 4.00 10.0 2.0 1.1 19.7
6 Kelly Oubre Jr. 6 6 204 3 19.2 1 Kansas 14.30 ± 2.54 9.3 5.0 0.8 21.6
7 Sam Dekker 6 9 229 3 20.8 3 Wisconsin 14.37 ± 2.19 13.9 5.6 1.2 25.9
8 Trey Lyles 6 10 250 4 19.3 1 Kentucky 15.67 ± 4.27 8.7 5.2 1.1 20.3
9 Cameron Payne 6 2 180 1 21.0 3 Murray St 16.48 ± 3.67 20.3 3.8 6.0 29.5
10 Bobby Portis 6 10 235 4 20.0 2 Arkansas 16.65 ± 2.64 17.5 8.9 1.2 30.0

These are the players that are in the neighborhood of #12 according to the nearly 30 mock drafts and draft specific websites that I visit. Without fail, almost all of them are an upgrade for the Jazz against a player from last season. I'm going to breakdown each of these players in more specifics in separate posts, but it's pretty obvious to me that the Jazz are going to find a gem at #12. And as a team that's on the verge of returning to the playoffs, that's going to be awesome.