The NBA Draft is tomorrow. And looking at my "planning sheet" I have a lot of posts to do today. As a direct result, do not anticipate a huge downbeat today. We are still going to cover some of the most interesting Utah Jazz stories though, in stand-alone posts today. So anyway, lets' get to it:
By the time you read this, it's likely that the NBA Draft will be in about 30 or so hours. Unfortunately for me, I seem to be stuck out of the country right now. As a consequence, some of the posts I do will not be up to my normal trash quality, and instead be simply rubbish. The Utah Jazz are never really 'settled' because of the mutable nature of the NBA Draft, their game plan is going to change according to the ebbs and flows of what the other 29 teams are doing. I think there are a few cases where we've seen them jump on a player they weren't planning on drafting just because they fell to them, examples are Kosta Koufos and Trey Burke. I'll leave it to your imagination where those guys stand in the pantheon of Jazz greats, but I will leave it up to your diligence to see how well they did compared to their relative rookie classes: 2008-2009 rookie class, 2013-2014 rookie class.
The NBA Draft "What If" game is an endless self-flagellation exercise that is fun, but may not be fruitful. Every team makes mistakes. Many Jazz fans look at missing on Tony Parker for Raul Lopez, but I do think that those Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer led Jazz teams would have been better served with a Nicolas Batum or Serge Ibaka instead of a Kosta Koufos. But that's just me. The thing we have to hope for is that our team will make small mistakes, and not big ones.
What are some of your biggest "What Ifs?" in Jazz history? Also, psychologically, do you have a greater vested interest in the players your team drafts, beyond reason? I had to convince myself that Deron Williams was in-fact superior to Chris Paul for a few years until my homer-ism couldn't mask the truth anymore.
Anyway, back to the greater point (if there ever was one), I think Dennis Lindsey and company are great planners. Stick to the plan. You see to have one in place already.
Probably a tid-bit that only crazy people care about, but the Jazz worked out 97 players publicly this time around, with perhaps a few secret ones (only one which was confirmed) peppered in-between. The team has four draft picks this time around, so that's working out about 25 players for spot. Is that really what the team did? Did they truly work out about 25 guys up for the #12 spot? Or did they work out nearly 100 players for the
Utah Flash Idaho Stampede Salt Lake City Stars farm league? It's nice that the team has, under Lindsey, actually tried out a lot of players.
I'm guessing only a real fan, or possible serial killer, or both, would keep track of this
Over the last seven drafts the Jazz have been busy. More busy now than before. Back in 2010, the "The Precious" draft, the team worked out only 16.0 players per draft pick. Over the last three seasons it's ballooned up to 30.3 (2014), 34.0 (2015), and 24.3 (2016) players per pick.
The end result is that the team finishes each pre-draft period with a lot of data on a lot of players. Some who do make the league, many who do not. That has helped the Jazz stay in the game when making mid-season adjustments to their roster due to the injury wear-and-tear. If anything, I'm extremely impressed with the "over a career of a player" long-term diligence that Lindsey's staff displays for players in the Jazz system. It's a great way to get a head start on scouting opposing teams. But it's a great way to track the long-term development of potential NBA guys.
Of course, getting back to the question of "did the Jazz work out NBA players or not"?; well, this year's work out class wasn't that impressive. Deyonta Davis (Michigan State), Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), Dejounte Murray (Washington) -- these D guys could reasonably had in the lottery or just outside of it. None of them look to go Top 10. And that's fine. But that's only five players. Ante Zizic (Croatia), Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), and Thon Maker (Sudan / Australia / Canada) could all go in the first round. But that's, in total, 7 possible 1st rounders worked out when the team worked out 97 guys.
Don't get your calculator, I'll do the math for you. That means the Jazz worked out 90 (NINE ZERO) guys who are 2nd rounders at best. Reasonably that's 30 guys per 2nd round draft spot (#42, #52, and #60) but you have to figure there's a great deal of draft rank overlap between those three numbers that are close together. I guess this is me getting mad at the Jazz for doing their deep draft homework.
The argument I hear from Jazz Social Media Justice Warriors is that agents don't want the Jazz to pick their young guys because the Jazz do not have an immediate place for them to get early minutes. Fair enough. But that's assuming information that we do not have evidence for. In an evidence based world (and granted, you can reach a valid deduction from the evidence you have, and that deduction could still be very wrong because all the evidence you worked with was not all the evidence there was) the easier idea to swallow is that the Jazz already KNOW what they are doing at #12, and it's most likely to get rid of the pick. By not working out ANY possible lotto guys that just really tips their hand. So instead this year they worked out three (Deyonta, Domantas, and Denzel).
Of course, work outs do not ensure being drafted. If anything they do indicate that the team has their eye on you. The guys who made the team in some capacity who were previously brought in for work outs include: Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter (private workout), Trey Lyles, Elijah Millsap, Shelvin Mack, Jack Cooley, J.J. O'Brien, Toure' Murry, Bryce Cotton, Gorgui Dieng (drafted, traded), Grant Jerrett, Erick Green (drafted, traded, later on added as 10-Day), Dee Bost (Idaho), and Jordan Hamilton (signed after training camp, waived in order to then sign Joe Ingles). You may not be drafted by Utah, but you may end up in Utah at some point. The list is even larger if you include summer league players, etc.
However, there have been 411 players over the last seven drafts who have been worked out by the Utah Jazz. Discounting the NBA DL, Summer League, and training camp, only 15 of those 411 made the team.
The negative way to consolidate all of this information is that: a) the Utah Jazz worked out a lot of guys who will not get drafted this year, and a few who will; and b) most of the team over the last few years has been comprised of players the team did not work out.
The missing piece of information here are the guys the team PICKED (or whatever) on draft night that they did not work out. Ronnie Brewer (just an interview) is a good example (but he was selected before the 2010 draft, which is the farthest back my spread sheet goes). There are other examples, like Raul Neto or even Rodney Hood. Utah knows who the potential rotation players are and will snatch them up.
The track record improves with each draft for the Jazz brass and I am confident in them. And like I said, as a fan you have to accept that all teams make mistakes at time. Just make sure that you don't make big mistakes.
Man. Just . . . man. The Raptors don't draft that great post-Isiah.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have their first-ever franchise NBA Championship. They join, in recent history, the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat to go from zero to at least one. The teams still left wanting (with NBA Finals appearances in the brackets) are:
- New Orleans / Utah Jazz (2),
- Phoenix Suns (2), New Jersey / Brooklyn Nets (2),
- Orlando Magic (2),
- Indiana Pacers (1),
- Buffalo Braves / San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers (0),
- Vancouver / Memphis Grizzlies (0),
- Charlotte Bobcats / Hornets (0),
- Denver Nuggets (0),
- Toronto Raptors (0),
- and the Minnesota Timberwolves (0).
That's one third of the league without a championship banner. Guess how many of them were expansion teams from the 80s onwards? (Hint: without looking, it's more than the number of rings Michael Jordan has) Personally, futility shouldn't be embraced. But there is some charm to wallowing with your fellow losers.
SB Nation put out their list of Saddest Sports towns.
Now that Cleveland's won a championship, it's time to answer a very important question: https://t.co/F13XfDsRdc pic.twitter.com/PKfsW0Pbfu— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 21, 2016
This includes all of the major sports, seems to forget that the WNBA is a thing, and selectively remembers soccer. But the results are what you'd expect for a poll that has 10 entries:
Yes, that's right, Boston is represented and the write up for them includes this gem:
"Here's the thing, though: it's been over 16 months since the last championship, when the Patriots defeated the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Before that, the Red Sox won in 2013 -- that was another year and a half in between titles. You get used to a certain kind of lifestyle, a certain level of success, and then other teams start winning instead of yours... it's just not fair, you know."
I had never previously needed to use the phrase "gag me with a spoon," but I think it is apt now. So, really, gag me with a spoon spoilled Boston fans. The other cities represented had their own laundry lists of futility and woe. Buffalo and Toronto really have sob stories, if you are so inclined to read that article.
Of course, there was no mention of Utah or Salt Lake City in the piece or the comments section. I guess that MLS win was huuu-uuge. Or perhaps, there haven't been enough bad pro teams to be on this list. I guess that's the silver lining.
Regardless, Cleveland winning a championship really makes me want one as well. If you look at the three teams who went from zero rings to at least once (MIA, DAL, CLE) there's one thing in common (besides playing in the finals with or against LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade). These teams built around star players. Guys who were all-stars, all-nba types, MVPs.
You need a star to win in a star dominated league. If you do not have one, then . . .
. . . then you are in the situation of the current Utah Jazz. Two problems are coming up.
The first is that with a team where no star exists, and you want to be good, your overall depth needs to be greater. This means having to pay more people market value or above. Even if the cap is now $94 million, the contracts are based upon a percentage of the cap, regardless of what it is (when signing a new contract). Utah could quickly run out of cap to field a "playoff competitive" team if they are forced to pay ten digits per player for six or seven players. I wrote about it here, if you wanted to go cry again.
The second problem is that if you do not have a star, and you pretend you have one, you can be building your team around someone who may not be worth it (financially or on the court primacy, or whatever). For better or worse, the team has on it right now eight 1st rounders on the roster (nine if you include Trevor Booker). Six of them are lotto picks (erroneously the chart here shows Booker as one as well, but he was picked #23, not #12, it was a translation error). As of right now zero of those lotto picks are stars. Zero have made the All-Star team (some of them going into their seventh season in the NBA). Zero have even averaged 20.0 ppg while being the man. Most damming, is this collection of medium to good players have failed to even finish with a winning season (41-41), let alone sniff the playoffs. (I guess last year we sniffed it, but needed the Houston Rockets to lose and to beat the Los Angeles Lakers -- and both did not happen.)
Both of those problems work hand in hand -- as you can be paying a bunch of guys who don't get the job done, and in doing so remain in the doldrums (never getting better or worse), while never actually having a star on the team.
So, is Gordon Hayward a star? He probably is . . . in the Eastern Conference as the 2nd banana. Is he a star as "The Man" of a lottery team in the West? Evidence says that he is not.
Bro is going to opt out after the 2016-2017 NBA Season (which is after the next 82 Utah Jazz games). This could end poorly. It got to me thinking . . . how different would our current squad be if Hayward was removed, but one of the previous Jazz stars were on it? For this exercise I'm just using New Orleans / Utah Jazz players who were NBA All-Stars (not cherry picking Hall of Fame guys, and I am not including just guys who have retired jerseys) -- and these players are at the age Gordon was last season.
Replacing Gordon Hayward with a point guard:
This isn't the worst thing, because Gordon is the primary ball handler for the current Jazz. Putting the ball in the hands of an actual point guard is a very normal thing to do (over the 100 year history of the sport). Deron Williams was "The Man" on a team that won 9 playoff games. Adding him to a defensive minded team like this, while moving Rodney Hood over to the three (and starting Alec Burks?) this is a very superior club in this modern era. While Stock didn't look to score, in a league without hand-checking and with the open looks he could get off the pick he may go over 20 ppg easily. He didn't shoot well from three at the age of 26, but the very next season he shot over 40%. The range was there, even if he didn't show it. But the biggest benefit would be that a good Jazz defense would be great with Stockton on it. Forget about all the easy buckets he'd create for Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz wouldn't even have to score with a 26 year old Stockton paired up with Favs and Rud. The other team would lose points and finish with negative. The only all-star who may not be better at leading this team out of the point guards is Rickey Green. This was years before Green made the team, and he wasn't much of a scorer. He could distribute the ball and really play defense though. But the other two guys make the Jazz contenders. Hayward didn't even get them to the playoffs.
Replacing Gordon Hayward with a wing:
Adrian Dantley was as legit a first option as you could get. He was ball dominant and could score against smaller guys and bigger guys. In the modern NBA he could probably get a few minutes in as a stretch big (even if his game was mostly close to the basket). The Jazz have a guy who can score, and have big men who can watch his back on defense. AD was injured in his 26th year old version, but we are discounting that for this exercise. We can't discount how Pete Maravich, with his swag, style, and game, would make the Jazz so much fun to watch. Pete didn't play with great teammates with the Jazz. The team currently build around Gordon is just the opposite. This would be a #4 seed at least if it was Maravich over Hayward. I know, he is a HOFer. So duh. But also, see what legit 1st option wings are actually like and see that Gordon -- as much as we love him -- is not one. Andrei Kirilenko playing for Quin Snyder would be the best Andrei Kirilenko imaginable. At 26 he was years after his All-Star season (yeah, Andrei was an All-Star at age 23, Gordon is going to be 27 next season), but he still had the talent and ability, even if his role changed significantly. Have Hood do more with the ball, but let Andrei create on offense and watch how many Top 10 plays he makes passing between his legs to Favs or Rud. Even as "bad" as Andrei was at 26, look at his numbers against Gordon's. G-Time shot 2x as much and scored 2x as much. Everything else you can argue about for who was better. There would be so much length on defense.
Replacing Gordon Hayward with a bigman:
There will be a log jam here, and a possible deficit for ball handling. But who is to say that Raul Neto doesn't average 8+ apg when passing it on the fast break to the Mailman? Only Eaton (a rookie at 26) couldn't put it in the basket. Everyone else was a two-way-ish threat. All of them could be a first option in today's NBA. Truck could be Draymond Green (both are 6'7), we don't know how his game would translate. We do know that Karl Malone makes this team a contender. And we also assume that Booz or Memo instead of Hayward does create a problem for ball handling, but on talent, could (with a solid trade) make this a playoff team. Memo's inside/outside offensive game and toughness in the paint are sorely missed, and he would have been an amazing PF next to Rudy. Boozer's lack of defense but great defensive rebounding would really look nice as well. Having an actual go-to-guy, though, would be the biggest benefit.
The purpose of this exercise wasn't to shame Hayward. But to use a frame of reference for what an actual star player looks like. You need less support to be a good team if you have one or more stars. As a result, the cap doesn't need to be spread out in huge chunks for 6+ people. It's impossible to be a group of non-stars and win a title. With a star? Anything is possible.
As of right now, though, Gordon Hayward is not a star. This is not opinion, sadly; but a fact.