While the NBA Draft has been going on since 1947, it can be argued that what used to happen back in the bad old days may not effectively represent the game we watch today. The rules have changed, but more importantly, the scouting departments and type of information available has flooded front offices in the modern era. There's almost too much data to look at. However, the check and balance is that there should be better precision in finding a player who should be in the NBA, and less flubs where you draft a guy who has no business in the Association. The Utah Jazz have three picks tomorrow, the #12, #42, and #54. It's hard to assume that they'll find a star with each pick, and even highly unlikely that General Manager Dennis Lindsey would keep all three picks. (He's made two trades a draft over the last two years.) But if the the Jazz are keeping #12, what kind of player can they expect? I looked at every NBA draft from 1974 onwards and let me tell you . . . the #12 pick could be one worth keeping.
Of the 41 drafts from 1974 till 2014 we've had 40 players suit up and play for their team, the only one who didn't was Philly's pick last season: Dario Saric who played in Europe. In the 70s and 80s this player came into the league around the age of 22 or 23, and more often than not was able to stay in the league for 8 or more seasons. The #12 flame out was unheard up early on as only three guys between 1974-1988 didn't "make it" in the league.
N.B. These are the complete career statistics (NBA Regular season + Playoffs) for the drafted players; who in more recent times, curiously seem to end up playing for the Sonics / Thunder at some point in their careers.
Things changed in the 90s and continues on today where nine players since then till now are clear "busts". It looks worse when you factor in the reality that an impact player (good starter, or great bench player) hasn't come out of the #12 pick since 1989. The overwhelming majority of the players, though, do end up averaging 20.0 mpg for their NBA careers -- and thus straddle the line between rotation player (starter to key bench guy) and role player (spot duty because of a specific skill or talent). You add depth at #12, and for a Jazz team that can easily look to improve their bench, this makes a lot of sense.
As a side note, because you know I would be all over this, the year by year average minutes for the first five seasons of a #12 pick go as: 1,103; 1,509; 1,663; 1,406; 1,291. But the average minutes per season for just the 1994-2014 range is MUCH smaller. So if you are raw and a #12 you're not going to get the on court work experience in order to "make it". And this goes hand-in-hand with my previous theory that it's easier to stay in the league in the late lotto if you have an NBA level skill and flaws than it is to be average of below average at a bunch of things. The case studies offer some supporting evidence.
The best #12s from 1974 onwards:
- Mookie Blaylock, great defender, NBA career 2.3 spg, also got on the court long enough to average 13.5 ppg, 6.7 apg, and 4.2 rpg. In hindsight he probably should not have been a #12 pick
- Kelly Tripucka, very talented scorer, really a poor man's Chris Mullin. No #12 had a higher career PPG than his 17.1. He also added 3.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 1.0 spg.
- Brian Winters, whom you don't know, but he was "the in the Charles Barkley trade" that sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to LA. He was an absolute stud guard who had great court vision
The other #12s that "made it" are quite far behind those three, but found their way due to their NBA level skill. Thaddeus Young has versatility at his size and skill level as a combo forward. Cedric Maxwell was an NBA level defender and above average in efficiency. Muggsy Bogues was a great distributor who rarely turned the ball over (4.6 to 1.0 assist to turn over ratio). Even our own Alec Burks has that NBA level driving / getting to the line / scoring around the rim ability. Most recently Steven Adams is an NBA level brute who does the dirty work. If he wasn't good at something, but just average everywhere he probably wouldn't have even gone in the lotto.
So with what we know we can synthesize an idea. The #12 isn't going to get a ton of minutes, so it's better that they come into the NBA with an NBA level skill.
Who are some of the guys we see in the 12 +/- 4 range? (8th to 16th)
- Willie Cauley-Stein: NBA Skill -- Elite defensive player
- Stanley Johnson: NBA Skill -- Scoring ability, probably the closest thing we have to an All-Around player, and not just a mainly one trick pony. Could be like Mookie, a guy that probably shouldn't have ever been picked this low. (N.B. He's probably not going to be around at #12)
- Devin Booker: NBA Skill --Ridiculous shooter
- Myles Turner: NBA Skill --Shotblocking and floor spacing
- Frank Kaminsky: NBA Skill --Offensive ability, inside/outside game
- Cameron Payne: NBA Skill --Traditional / Throwback point guard vision
- Kelly Oubre Jr.: NBA Skill --Killer in transition
- Trey Lyles: NBA Skill -- Face-up game, offensive rebounding
- Sam Dekker: NBA Skill -- this is the warning, I don't think he has one NBA level skill, but is more of an all-around player / jack of all trades. Unless you count versatility as his NBA level skill . . . then there ya go!
There are options for the Jazz at #12, and in a draft this deep it's very likely that if Lindsey stands pat he'll find something he can add to our roster to help improve our team. There appear to be a number of high upside guys who already have their NBA level skill to help them build confidence and their NBA resume's around. Of course, I completely am okay with Lindsey trading up, trading down, standing pat, trading out, or whatever. I firmly believe that his scouting department leaves on stone unturned and he has access to the most detail information on each player. And a trust the judgement of the brain trust to make the right analysis from the data, and make the best decision for the team.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the #12 pick be used in a trade, but with the talent that's on the table this year -- maybe that will be completely unnecessary.