1. Will the Jazz trade up, trade down, trade out, or keep their pick in the draft?
Dan Clayton: Assuming it’s pick #12, I still think their preference is to trade it for the right complementary veteran. The way Dennis Lindsay has consistently spoken indicates that it’s on the table, and he even admitted to entertaining “tempting” offers involving that asset in February. If the plan is to be relevant as soon as next year, I think they need more help than what a late lotto rookie typically offers.
Ben Dowsett: Smart money is still on them keeping the pick, though there are certainly a number of scenarios where this wouldn’t be the case. But the fact remains that making a trade is much tougher than not making one, and there could be a guy or two in their draft range who could make an impact off the bench right away.
Aaron Hefner: Keep their pick. This is likely the best pick the Jazz will get in quite some time and there are some high ceiling players falling in the 10-14 pick range. Plus, with huge pay raises on the horizon for Gobert, Hayward, and Favors, having some rotational players on rookie contracts is valuable.
Clark Schmutz: Keep their pick. In short, I don’t think a player will be available for the 12th pick in this draft that is an obvious upgrade to any starter for the Jazz right now. And having a guy on the rookie scale is important for the team’s financial future.
David J. Smith: Trade out. The Jazz have flexibility with this pick, which they will use to their advantage. This may be a prime opportunity to bring on another young, impactful player who can add to the team’s mix – someone who can grow with the rest of the core. Utah’s asset accumulation can help with any moves it strikes.
2. If the Jazz were to strike gold in the draft lottery and get a top-3 pick, what should they do with it?
Dan Clayton: They would probably keep a top-3, though in a strong draft they would definitely get some interesting phone calls. If they kept it, it’s hard to imagine them not taking one of the scoring wings. I just can’t picture adding another star-level big at this point, unless we underestimate the degree to which Derrick Favors is available.
Ben Dowsett: If he were available, D’Angelo Russell seems tough to pass up to this eye. He brings elite shooting and P&R work, and can play both guard spots with ease. Otherwise, this could be an opportunity to explore an even more lucrative trade than the 12th pick would bring in.
Aaron Hefner: Keep it and draft D’Angelo Russell or Justise Winslow. Both of those players have a good chance at becoming All-Stars. The only scenario where I could see the Jazz trading a top-3 pick is if they get back a lottery pick in this draft, a young All-Star with multiple years on his contract, and future pick(s).
Clark Schmutz: Speaking of preparing for the financial future, there are few better ways to maximize low costs for high production than by drafting a top 3 talent. If you do it right, you are paying a borderline All-Star 5 or 6 million dollars in their 3rd and 4th years. Towns, Russell, Okafor and Winslow would be my targets, in that order.
David J. Smith: If that happens, which would be remarkable, it would naturally be wise for Utah to explore all the options and see what other teams are willing to offer. That said, it would ultimately behoove the Jazz to keep the pick. There is star potential at the top of this draft.
3. How many players on the Jazz roster at the end of this season will return next season?
Dan Clayton: Aaron knows I hate (and usually dodge) questions that are this specific. I’ll arbitrarily put the over/under at 10, but it could go so many different ways. The main point: I think Lindsay knows that the Jazz aren’t there yet. The quartet of Exum-Gobert-Hayward-Favors is probably not going anywhere. Beyond that, nothing would shock me, but they like a lot about their guys.
Ben Dowsett: I’m going with nine. Utah basically had this many in the rotation plus the injured Alec Burks, so I’m saving room for a bit of movement, or perhaps more if someone like Bryce Cotton cracks the full-time rotation.
Aaron Hefner: Nine. I think the roster is going to look a lot different next season, with more departures than most fans anticipate. I think Booker, Burke, Jack, Jerrett, Johnson, and Millsap, are all candidates to not return. The Jazz will use 1-2 roster spots for D-League call ups, 2-3 for free agent signings, and 1-2 new rookies we draft and sign.
Clark Schmutz: Let’s start with the obvious answers. Hayward, Exum, Favors, Gobert and Hood will be back. Burks and Jerrett will be back as well. After that it gets tricky. But I think Burke, Ingles, Millsap and Booker will all be back. And although it is less than a sure thing, I am going to add Jeremy Evans too. Just out of hope.
David J. Smith: Nine. Several end-of-the-bench players will not return, perhaps being shipped out in a move to optimize their non-guaranteed contracts. Utah may need to include a rotation player or two to consummate a deal involving the draft pick.
3. What rotation player is most likely to be traded or not return next season? Why?
Dan Clayton: It’s got to be Trevor Booker because of that contract set-up, right? There’s Trey Burke chatter for basketball reasons (i.e., the need to improve PG output without disrupting Exum’s trajectory), but Booker’s partial guarantee through 7/15 makes him extremely likely to get rolled into a deal for money reasons.
Ben Dowsett: Trevor Booker. His contract remains the most malleable asset the Jazz have, and though it wouldn’t be enjoyable for anyone, if a move to truly jolt this team into contender territory came up, he’d have to be considered expendable.
Aaron Hefner: Trevor Booker is the obvious candidate given his attractive contract, but I’m actually going to go with a less popular answer of Trey Burke. I think the front office knows they can’t continue forward with the same abysmal backcourt and it’s obvious Exum isn’t going anywhere. Trey may still improve, but I don’t think it will be on the Jazz.
Clark Schmutz: Trevor Booker. I think the Jazz will bring him back, but logistically, he makes the most sense to not return. His non-guaranteed deal makes him a very favorable trade or cut option. Burke is second most likely.
David J. Smith: Trey Burke. While Burke has had his struggles, Utah remains high on him. He is still young and works hard. If he is indeed traded, it would not be because the team is disappointed in him. In order to obtain value, one needs to give up value. Trevor Booker is another option, given the way his contract was constructed.
5. Should the Jazz make roster moves to try to make the playoffs next season, or let it develop organically?
Dan Clayton: I really don’t think it’s an either/or thing. I think they need organic growth as a unit, but at this point, that means giving this core a chance to cut its teeth in the postseason. So go for it, but in a way that doesn’t compromise the principles that got you to this point.
Ben Dowsett: The former, because doing so is very easily possible without damaging the latter. This is perhaps the most common misconception surrounding the Jazz this offseason – bringing in improvements and continuing to develop the essential members of the core are simply not mutually exclusive categories.
Aaron Hefner: Both. I think the Jazz can trade their non-essential pieces and sign contributing free agents this summer to strengthen roster depth. I don’t expect any significant impact player signings that will steal our young players’ minutes, but I do expect the Jazz to sign solid backups and fringe starters (e.g. C.J. Watson).
Clark Schmutz: I change my mind on this daily. But for now, I think the Jazz should draft at their spots and see how far they can get with a starting lineup of Exum, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert and Burks, Booker and lottery pick player off the bench. I think they could upgrade the backup point guard position fairly easily, but that’s as far as I would take it. Ask me again tomorrow, though.
David J. Smith: A combination of both is the recipe for snatching a postseason spot. Organic growth will certainly occur, thus making it unnecessary for the Jazz to mortgage the future or lock themselves into bad deals. They can and will be selective with major moves, but will not hesitate if said transactions propel themselves forward. They have free agency money, too.