The NBA draft is upon us next Thursday (the day after I leave for the MTC on mission) and every front office is working frantically, trying to figure out which players to bring in and which ones to not touch with a ten-foot pole. However, the Utah Jazz are in an interesting position in this year’s draft – they currently hold picks 14 and 21 in a relatively weak draft. The Jazz desperately need a point guard, or a guard that can create a consistent shot for himself, and that caliber of player will most likely be gone by the time David Stern steps up to the podium for the 14th time Thursday night. With all this uncertainty, what direction should the Jazz head in this year’s draft?
Well, in order to answer that question a few factors must first be considered:
1. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are most likely gone next season. Unless Jefferson comes back to Salt Lake City for far less than last season’s $15 million salary, Big Al played his last game in a Jazz uniform against Memphis. Millsap is gone for good, in my opinion. He wants max money, and the Jazz aren’t in a position to give him that. With nearly $40 million in cap space this summer, Utah is going to try to conserve that cash for 2014’s free agent class and not get tied down with a bad deal this offseason.
With Millsap and Jefferson leaving, this puts the post work on the shoulders of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Obviously, the Jazz are going to have to try to either draft at least one backup big man, or sign a few in free agency this offseason at cheap prices.
2. After the first seven picks, every point guard with star power will be gone. Seeing as the greatest need for the Jazz is a point guard, hanging onto a 14th pick seems a bit redundant if they’re just going to try to take another lower-tier combo guard/forward.
3. This next season is going to be a tough one for fans. If anyone out there is dreaming of reaching the playoffs, I hate to break it to you, but the Jazz aren’t going to make any post-season noise for a few years yet. With Favors and Kanter starting, this team is going to go through some hard lessons, and the young guys still have a lot of growing up to do. Watching the kids grow and learn the NBA game is going to be a great ride, as long as fans don’t get misconceived notions of playoffs if this group of young’uns manage to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat.
4 – If next season truly is a rebuilding one, then how focused should Utah be on winning now? Should they try to throw money at some big name free agents in 2014 and hope the end result is a banner in the rafters of the Energy Solutions Arena, or should the Jazz follow (gulp) Golden State’s format and try to build a solid team through the draft?
Utah truly is in a unique, and difficult, situation. Many teams that have been in the Jazz’s current position have failed at the task of rebuilding, and their franchises are now mired in misery (Charlotte, Detroit, New Orleans, etc.). Utah has to handle these next few years the right way, or else the Jazz could go the way of the Pelicans.
That scary thought aside, here’s an interesting one for fans to chew on – what if the Jazz traded their two first round picks (14 and 21) this season to a surefire lottery team in 2014, for that team’s first round pick? Say Utah decided to strike a deal with the Pelicans, Bobcats, Suns, Magic, Bucks, Wizards, Kings, or Raptors – all teams that have a high chance of seeing the lottery next season. The Jazz could offer picks 14 and 21, and possibly Mo Williams in a sign-and-trade, for a first round pick from any of those teams. No players, no cash, no trade exceptions – just a first-rounder.
As an armchair GM, would you pull the trigger on that deal?
Imagine Utah having a top five pick. Players that could go in the top five in 2014 include Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Glenn Robinson III, and James Young. While a few of those names probably aren’t familiar to those of you who aren’t draft junkies such as myself, Wiggins and Parker should ring a few bells. Parker seemed close to committing to BYU before choosing Duke (Parker is a Mormon, which is why he was considering BYU). If the Jazz could land any of those players, they’d be in a great position moving forward. Where exactly is forward? Well, the 2014 free agent class is absolutely loaded. If Utah is smart this offseason with their cap space, they could have close to the same money in 2014.
The 2014 free agent class includes Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut, Aaron Brooks, Danny Granger, Lance Stephenson, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Grievis Vasquez, Carmelo Anthony, Thabo Sefolosha, Channing Frye, Tim Duncan, Kyle Lowry, and John Wall.
Imagine the Jazz drafting someone in a loaded 2014 class ( in the top 5 no less), then signing a solid free agent, all without giving up a single player from the Core Four?
I realize this is a bit of a stretch, as far as good scenarios go – but hey, a guy can dream right? Following this blueprint makes good sense, though. This next season will be one for development anyways. Utah isn’t title-chasing right now, and giving up a few draft picks now in exchange for a potential superstar next season seems like a fair trade, even if it means Utah sits at the bottom of the standings for most of the season.
If this situation presented itself, and you found yourself in Dennis Lindey’s shoes, would you pull the trigger on this deal and take the risk?