Greetings Utah Jazz fans! It's that very special time of the year once again, the near endless predraft workouts leading up to the NBA Draft! The Jazz are going into the NBA Draft Lottery with little chance to move up, but with what is likely to end up being the #12, #42, #52, and #60 picks this year you can bet your butt that Dennis Lindsey and company are going to be working out a lot of players over the next few weeks.
So, let's start with the Jazz workout recent history. In the lead-up to the 2010 NBA Draft the Kevin O'Connor team worked out 32 players including eventual Jazzmen Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans. In 2011 the team was scheduled to work out 31 different players, but there were two no-shows (Kawhi Leonard and MarShon Brooks) and one player was then asked to work out twice (Paul Carter). Of the players worked out that pre-draft period were Alec Burks, and in Europe, Enes Kanter. In 2012 the Jazz missed out on a tie breaker and instead of a lottery pick (and Damian Lillard, we tell ourselves) the Jazz were left with a single second-round pick. They only worked out 24 different players, none of whom they eventually drafted. They went with Kevin Murphy instead, though a few Idaho Stampede guys did come from this workout, like Dee Bost and Toure' Murry.
Things took a turn in 2013, Dennis Lindsey was on the payroll but holding back. The Jazz worked out 26 different players -- including Jack Cooley twice! (And he'd stay on the radar by being invited to free agent mini-camps over the years before he joined the Stamps/Jazz.) By the end of the summer the Jazz had added Trey Burke (traded up), Rudy Gobert (traded back into the first), and Ian Clark (undrafted) -- none of them came in for workouts.
Utah went full-Lindsey in 2014, working out 89 different players, including a few of them more than once. Only one of them made the Jazz, and at that, for 15 games at the end of the season (Bryce Cotton). Utah did work out players projected to go at all stages, lottery, late first, early second, bubble draft guys, and undrafted players. They did their due diligence, but not much came from it besides adding Niels Griffey (Murphy Gamma) and Jerry Evans Jr. to their Summer League roster. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Orlando Magic wiffed on their #4 pick, and allowed the Jazz to scoop up Dante Exum at #5. He didn't work out with the team, but he was a hand-in-glove fit. The Jazz also scooped up Joe Ingles after he was dropped from the Los Angeles Clippers training camp roster. The Jazz would suffer through a lot of injuries and had to go to the NBADL early and often to fill out the roster, so I'm not going to list all of the players the did add during the season -- mostly undrafted players that they did not previously work out.
Last off-season the Utah Jazz worked out 102 different players -- two were drafted (Trey Lyles, Olivier Hanlan), and five made the summer league roster (those two, plus J.J. O'Brien, Jesse Morgan, and Wesley Saunders). Six if you count Raul Neto (traded for on draft day back in 2013).
The Jazz have really started to evaluate a lot more players every year, and these 100s of players do not include the scores of players brought in every off-season for Free Agent Mini-camps. Utah is really taking the time to figure out who is who before they enter the leagues (NBA and NBADL). On one hand that lets you scout who the other teams do add, while also letting you figure out which players YOU want to add to your team.
But seriously? Hundreds of players and no guarantee that the team will even draft one of them? Is that not efficient? It doesn't look efficient. There's more to it. My idea is that the Jazz love data now. And more data the better. Knowing something a priori is great, but we can't really know things that way. In science we like frames of reference. They help us make qualitative guesses based upon quantitative values. And as a result, the more players the Jazz do work out the more they can know about them, and the better they can tailor their draft ladder / player rankings system.
Back in the bad old days of few workouts the Jazz made countless blunders -- like Kosta Koufos over Nicolas Batum or Serge Ibaka. More work outs and working out all parts of the draft means you just basically have more info going into the draft. You know who to trade up for, or trade back into the draft for. You know why someone's stock is falling, and so forth.
Testing the bare minimum (around your projected pre-draft, pre-workout rankings) gives you the bare minimum information.
But wait, there's more! Actual insider Peter J. Novak, ESQ pointed out yesterday that there's more to the draft than just helping yourself. If you help others then there's some good karma coming your way. A lot of the players the Jazz bring in for workouts are players who do not end up getting drafted. To us this looks like a waste of time. But it's not. These players have agents too. And helping these guys a) get a shot, and b) get a chance to make an impression on the Jazz (or someone else) makes you a more favorable business partner in the future. Utah does not always close their workouts to scouts from other teams, and in fact during the free agent mini-camps invite scouts from other teams including other leagues, to see what these kids can do. As a result, Lindsey's Jazz cultivate a good working relationship with agents who then may be more willing to tell their BEST clients about the Jazz in a favorable way.
Back in the KOC era players who were scheduled for workouts would sometimes not even get on the flight to Utah. That doesn't happen anymore in the DL era. And let's not forget that Kawhi Leonard didn't show up in Utah and as a direct consequence the Jazz passed on him. If his agent was on good terms with the Jazz then perhaps he does show up?
This is how the game is played now. And Utah is doing their part by helping some of these totally undraftables have strong showings in order to secure contracts in minor leagues and work their way into the NBA. For a franchise that isn't a big draw you have to do whatever you can to get an 'in' into the ears of the best players. And this invariably seems to be through cultivating good relationships with agents and agencies. (Heck, hiring the brother of a guy on an agency's exec board is also a good way to stay in the game.)
The DL Jazz are playing the game right now. And the results will be, hopefully, less treachery.
So just who are the Jazz bringing in today?
|1||Josh Adams||PG||6'2||185||Wyoming||SR||--||BDA Sports||Rade Filipovich|
|2||Alex Hamilton||PG/SG||6'4||190||Louisiana Tech||SR||--||ASM Sports||Christian Dawkins|
|3||Josh Hagins||PG||6'1||180||Arkansas - Little Rock||SR||--||?||?|
|4||Jalen Jones||SF||6'7||226||Texas A&M||SR||--||Blackwave Media Group||Kim Grillier|
As two of the three PGs have agents, and only one of the three wing players do, I suspect the eye is on the PGs. All six are seniors and this may be seen as "favor" workouts because none of them are projected in the Top 100 at DX. Josh Adams is ranked #39 in NCAA Seniors, with Alex Hamilton at #46, and Jalen Jones ranked #50. Seniors may less overall hidden potential, but should be fundamentally sound. Utah will use this workout to help sort out their player rankings a bit for both PGs and Seniors. It's a small start, but you have to start somewhere.
Personally, I hope Alex Hamilton busts out as the guy who impresses the Jazz, if for no other reason than the fact that he went to the same school as Karl Malone and Paul Millsap (and P.J. Brown) (and four other guys who were less impressive).
N.B. I'm writing his Downbeat in an airport right now, I don't know if this audio track has bad words in it
As for the agencies represented, Blackwave is new and only has six NCAA guys as clients. ASM (Andy Miller) is a big player that the Jazz have close ties with, working out countless players represented by them, and adding a few to the Jazz over the years (Travis Leslie, Eric Maynor, Alec Burks, Milt Palacio, Trevor Booker, Erik Murphy, and a lot of guys Jazz fans have eyes for). BDA (Bill Duffy) is also another major player, but they don't have a lot of Jazz ties (Andris Biedrins, Ian Clark, Tibor Pleiss) -- but they do represent a lot of Jazz killers. So there's that.
It's not all about the workouts today. Today is also May the 4th, so if you like #StarWars you should be pretty psyched. It's also a historically important time for one of our icons.
Furthermore, it is a great start for one of our current icons too!
It's not an NBA All-Star nod, but it's something. Go out and vote! Exercise your rights in this democracy before everything goes horrible!
Personally, I think the Pistol Pete Maravich is the Jazz icon we should be trying to market our franchise around. He was the Jazz. He was hip. He had style. He made plays that made non-basketball fans get out of their seats for. He fit the musical style the team was named after. Let's embrace this type of heritage. Let's rekindle this legacy.
According to social media (official account likes and follows), the Utah Jazz are effectively the least popular team in the league. We Jazz fans love the team. But it's hard not to see why non-Jazz fans wouldn't. We somehow have lost the meaning of Jazz over the years. Jazz is a co-operative and challenging work of art that borders on all styles and becomes it's own. And it was the dominant cultural force in America and then around the world, for a while.
The overly structured, slow, and predictable offense the team runs now is more like a waltz or square dance than Jazz. That's just my opinion though. I also think that some of our players on the roster today are built for Jazz-y basketball. Someone like Gordon Hayward has the talent to be a PG/SG/SF/PF on any given play. Or even parts of each of those on a single play.
I am excited to see some Jazz in the upcoming season.
What's the biggest need this draft? There's a lotto pick and some scrambles in the 2nd round that will be worth little on their own. There are moves the team could be made, so I don't think that limiting our imaginations right now to "best player available" is something we should look at. So to you what's the biggest need this draft?
Secondly, is there a player who fills that need? If so, how do you propose the Jazz brass get him?
Let's limit this to draft prospects, not sign-and-trade free agents just yet. Let's wait till after the draft for that, ladies and germs.