If you’re a Utah Jazz fan, Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery made you incredibly despondent, irate or both, especially after watching Cleveland steal the No. 1 spot for the third time in four years.
The Utah Jazz’s 10.4% chance for the first pick and nearly 34% chance for a spot in the top three was taken by a plethora of Eastern Conference teams (pretend you’re not surprised). In the aftermath of all the emotions, wringing, wrangling, and gnashing of teeth, let’s discuss where Utah stands with its No. 5 pick and what they need to do to get back in playoff contention.
Jazz fans who saw more than 15 minutes of any game last year know what Utah’s needs are, and they stretch pretty much across the entire court. Trey Burke channeled his inner Iverson last year, putting up great rookie numbers: 12.8 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3 RPG, all while shooting 90% from the charity stripe. He played all but 12 games, and with his handles showed why he won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at this year’s All-Star Game and took third in the Rookie of the Year race. With Burke locked down for at least another year with options on two more, the Jazz are sitting pretty with a starting point guard. What it needs help with, however is its backup PG needs.
John Lucas III is one of the worst basketball players in the NBA. How he found his way onto the basketball court this year is a mystery to me, and is probably the reason Ty Corbin is spending this season gardening, so to speak. In 15 MPG last year, he averaged 3.8 PPG and 1 APG, shooting a miserable .326 FG%, .298 3P%, and .625 FT%.
For those counting at home, as a guard, he shot free throws slightly worse than most big men—good enough for 377th in the league in percentage made. The types of guys behind him put it all in perspective: Rasual Butler, Dante Cunningham, Donatas Motiejunas, the list goes on—but not for very long. What’s even sadder is that he averaged 14 MPG, which is about 30 more than he should have been.
Put shortly, “that guy” in a pink polo and khakis that shoots free-throws at half-time to win $37 USD is so much more qualified to play the sport than Utah’s backup PG.
It’s not just the PG position that needs help. The Jazz could desperately use a SF or stretch PF to help Derrick Favors space the floor. He averaged 13.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game this season, and is only going to get bigger and better (he’s 22). Last season, the Jazz’s compact offense and lack of spread made Energy Solutions Arena look like Lord of the Flies, and that’s a bad thing.
SG/SF Gordon (G-time) Hayward is soon to be a restricted free agent, and although he had an extremely shocking year in terms of shooting, he is going to get offers from a bunch of teams in the next two months, thanks to his work ethic and strong defensive presence. Losing him would be a blow, but the Jazz have to figure out how to replace him or add to the formula to give him something to work with. He was responsible for too many plays and touches down the stretch, and you could read frustration from his face all too often. He seems unhappy, which makes building around Favors and Kanter the most real option.
The Jazz have the following picks: the 5th, 23rd (via GSW) and the 35th. This gives the them a few good options, with the first two picks being in the first round and one in the second.
Noah Vonleh played in Indiana and is 6-10, which can only bode well for the Jazz. He’s a rebounder and is athletic. He would be a great addition to clog up the paint and open up outside shot opportunities. If the Jazz wanted to spread the court, they could bring him and Favors out on the high blocks and let their guards go to work, since both big men are athletic enough to create around the rim and get around slower big men for rebounds.
Aaron Gordon could replace Gordon Hayward, or if Hayward stayed, Aaron could play as his backup, learning from a really good veteran in the league. Aaron Gordon has potential to be just like Hayward: a strong defender and a great all around player who can play two or three positions if needed.
On the PG front, the Jazz would do well to get Dante Exum, who will probably go third or fourth, or Marcus Smart, who, although a powder keg, has got some serious edge to him. In case you missed it, SLC would be a good place to keep Smart from getting too big of a head too fast. Either of these guards could learn a lot from Trey Burke, get more than 20 minutes of playing time, and grow into elite players. Exum could even play at SG, giving the Jazz some serious firepower from the wings.
What do you think? Who should the Jazz take at the fifth spot? Will they trade it for something/someone better? How will the Jazz fare this year?