Utah will be on the lookout for someone to take them back to the playoffs.
This article is part of a series on NBA Draft team needs. So far we’ve covered the draft needs for the Sixers, Lakers, Celtics, Suns, Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Raptors. This article will look at the Utah Jazz. After missing out on the playoffs by just one game to the Houston Rockets, 2017 seems like the most opportune time for a young team to finally get to the postseason.
*This draft preview was written prior to Utah trading the 12th pick to the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team trade.
Team: Utah Jazz
Draft Picks: #12
Team Needs: Point guard, shooting, backup center
Key Players: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood
Poor Utah. Just six years ago they were in the second round battling the Spurs. After Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams were shipped out of town, Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap left as well, leaving an inexperienced core in place. Now, this young core is almost completely in place, due in large to great drafting.
Since 2010, Utah has drafted the following players: Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Shabazz Muhammad (who became Trey Burke), Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert (whom they traded for), Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Jarnell Stokes, and Trey Lyles. Some might look at that and criticize the lack of stars, but it’s clear Utah knows what it’s doing. And aside from Kanter and Exum, they have not consistently had top-five picks. Hayward was the ninth pick, Lyles the 12th pick, Hood the 23rd pick, and Gobert was the 27th. That’s extremely impressive haul for just two top-10 picks.
Lyles was truly one of the steals of last year’s draft, but 2015 was also an insanely deep class. Utah will be picking 12th yet again, but this time around there is far more mystery in a pretty shallow lottery. Even though the 2016 draft class has a lot of boom or bust potential, the Jazz have shown they’re more than capable of finding the diamonds in the rough.
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12th Pick in the NBA Draft:
With Dante Exum and Alec Burks due to return from injury, there are not a lot of minutes to go around for the Jazz next season. But frankly, no guard on Utah, aside from Hood, is guaranteed minutes next year. The guards are Utah’s biggest weakness, something they really lacked in the final games of the regular season when they still had a shot at the playoffs. Adding a guard or wing could be beneficial and provide insurance in case Burke, Burks, and Exum don’t pan out.
Should they decide to go that route, they’d be wise to pick one of Denzel Valentine, Demetrius Jackson, or Wade Baldwin. Valentine profiles as a very strong role player and could provide the secondary playmaking and ball handling the Jazz have struggled to add. Playing him with smart defensive players like Derrick Favors, Gobert, and Lyles would also lessen his weakness on that end. He also would fit their timetable as an older rookie who could come in and play right away akin to Hood.
Valentine might be even more attractive if Utah wants to allow Exum a chance to grow and play. However, Utah could end up not as concerned with where Exum plays and believe they don’t have any definitives at point guard. If that’s the case, then drafting Jackson or Baldwin makes a lot of sense. It would create tremendous competition, and both guys are incredible athletes and tough-as-nail defenders.
In Jackson, Utah would get a natural-born leader, a tough competitor, and a career 38 percent shooter from deep. He’s a little on the smaller size at just 6-foot-2, but he has starting potential and a higher ceiling than Burke and Raul Neto. He has all the intangibles for a point guard to come into a potential playoff team, but so does Baldwin.
Baldwin literally jumps out the gym and could be a menace on the fast break, which is not a strength for the Jazz. He is not as skilled offensively around the basket as Jackson, but he has better size (6-foot-4 with a 6‘11.25 wingspan) and better shooting (over 40 percent from deep). Baldwin’s length could be his calling card and what makes Utah select him with this pick. Draft Express, in fact, currently has Baldwin going to the Jazz. Baldwin could even play with Exum off the ball, providing shooting from deep. Baldwin is a high riser and could be taken in the top 10, but Utah should call his name if he’s there at 12.
The dilemma for the Jazz will be justifying this pick on a point guard when they have Neto, Burke, and Exum all on cheap deals and Shelvin Mack eligible to come back for cheap. If they’re very high on Baldwin, then it should not matter who else they have. Others will have to step up, or he’ll take their minutes. However, if that is too big of a problem for Utah to overlook, they could look at some of the young big men in this draft.
With Gobert and Favors returning from injury, and Lyles ready for a bigger role, Utah could be patient in drafting more of a project. Even though Favors and Lyles can play some center, it would be useful for the Jazz to look for a backup center. Skal Labissiere is a good candidate, but he’s more likely to be a power forward. That leaves either a project in Deyonta Davis or one of the more polished big men in that range: Jakob Poeltl or Domantas Sabonis.
The appeal of Sabonis or Poeltl would be that they could contribute mightily right away while having plenty of room to improve. Both guys have great hands, a wonderful feel for the game, can already bang in the post, and are monsters on the glass. Poeltl additionally is an extremely underrated passer. This is the kind of player who could play backup center for a playoff team for 15-20 minutes a night to start the season. Should Utah go with a big man at 12, one of these two would fit nicely with Lyles in terms of fit and value. More thorough breakdowns of their games were discussed in our article on the Raptors.
Given Utah’s close proximity to making the playoffs, its more likely they draft either Poeltl or Sabonis, but there’s plenty of intrigue with Davis. Much like Poeltl and Sabonis, Davis would not have to play a ton of minutes early on, but that’s not to say he’s incapable of that. It’s noteworthy when any freshman plays meaningful minutes for Tom Izzo. He is very athletic for his size and has more skill than he was allowed to showcase in East Lansing. Davis even emerged as an elite shot blocker in his first and only year, averaging 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes.
Huge block by Davis. pic.twitter.com/yLBX7exiwD— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD_) March 12, 2016
That block saved a Big 10 semi-final game. It won’t take long for his shot blocking to convert to the NBA. Since Davis will need more time to adjust to defensive schemes and game speed than anything else, he’d be wonderful as a second unit player alongside Exum and Lyles. Rolling the dice on Davis could create a problem down the line with two great defensive, rim-running, shot blocking centers, but that would be a great problem to have.
Utah, much like Toronto, is in a great position with a lottery pick. Having an established core will greatly impact what path they decide to go down with this pick. Given that there are three 20-year-olds with proven intangibles and a four year product of Tim Izzo, the Jazz are best off taking one of Baldwin, Sabonis, Poeltl, or Valentine.
The Draft Order and Team Needs
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Atlanta Hawks (From Utah)
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington) - Second 1st Round Pick
14. Chicago Bulls
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston) - Second 1st Round Pick
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas) - Second 1st Round Pick
17. Memphis Grizzlies
18. Detroit Pistons
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland) - Third 1st Round Pick
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Atlanta Hawks - Second First Round Pick
22. Charlotte Hornets
23. Boston Celtics - Third First Round Pick
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami) - Second First Round Pick
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City) - Third First Round Pick
27. Toronto Raptors - Second First Round Pick
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland) - Third First Round Pick
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Golden State Warriors
No Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards
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