A Point-less Jazz Draft is Possible

June 20th, 2013 | by Dan Clayton

For reasons that make complete sense, everybody expects the Jazz to come away from next Thursday’s NBA Draft with a point guard. Good luck finding a mock draft that doesn’t land a PG in either the 14th or 21st spot, and that’s to say nothing of fans of the franchise who have spent so much time arguing the merits of the five or six top points that it appears they forgot there are other players.

All of which ignores an uncomfortable reality: The Jazz don’t have to draft a point guard next week. Here are a few reasons why I will be neither surprised nor disappointed should the draft-night haul for Utah include three intriguing prospects but no point guards.

#1 – The Jazz need players.

While the Jazz’s depth chart has a gaping hole at the 1, it’s not like it’s stacked elsewhere, either. Consider the following:

  • Based on current contractual status, the big man rotation is made up of youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, with Jeremy Evans as the lone back-up. Setting aside for a moment that Kanter is recovering from an injury. Evans is extremely inexperienced and Favors can be foul-prone. At any rate, the plan can’t be to give Kanter and Favors 48 minutes each, so the Jazz clearly need some depth here.
  • The wing rotation is similarly thin. Gordon Hayward has already stepped into a major role, and Alec Burks is poised for more minutes. But after those two? Marvin Williams may not be available until well into the season, and the only other player with a contract is a team-option guy (Kevin Murphy) who has hardly played any NBA minutes. Unless G-Time and Burks are pulling 40-48 nightly and are immune from injuries and foul trouble, the Jazz need help here, too.

At the very least, the Jazz will be adding to the Core 4 with six or seven rotation-ready guys. Given the percentage of likelihood of getting a rotation player at 14, 21 or 46, the Jazz would do well to get two of those seven guys next Thursday, and then they have a long summer to find the rest. There’s nothing written in stone that says they have to fill particular spots in particular ways.

This isn’t just a rehash of the old positional-need-vs.-best-player-available argument, either (although I think there is a case there). I’m saying even if we toss BPA logic out the window, the Jazz’s need isn’t as simple as “PG or bust” right now. They don’t just need a couple of point guards — they need players, at every position.

#2 – Drafting is hard enough without limiting yourself to 20% of the draft pool

Finding rotation-caliber talent at 14 and 21 isn’t terribly hard. Look at the list of 14th picks since 2000, and pretty much all of them had some sort of career.

A more difficult task is finding a starter or a star-level player there. If the Jazz really want to complement their Core Four with the type of player who will be a part of the team’s future with Favors, Hayward, Kanter and Burks, they have tough math working against them.

So why would you make that task even more mathematically daunting by focusing only on one-fifth of the draft class? If someone is available at 14 (or 21, or 46) who you think can play at a high level, you grab them. If the Jazz wind up with a core-worthy wing at 14 and a core-worthy big at 21, then they have that much more depth, not to mention assets in trades. But if they ignore someone that is core-worthy to reach for a point guard who doesn’t last in the NBA, then the 2013 Draft will have been wasted.

#3 – The Jazz have 25 million other ways to get what they need.

I chuckle when I hear people say this is a big draft for the Jazz, like this is a do-or-die moment in franchise history. It’s not, and if you’re treating a couple mid-first round picks like they’re make-or-break selections, you’ll probably be disappointed.

This is, however, a big summer for the Jazz. They have a lot of tough decisions to make about their own free agents, and then they’ll fill out their roster with other free agents. All told, they have to spend a minimum of somewhere between $25 and 30 million (we’ll know the exact figure in a couple of weeks), which means there are many different ways to address the roster holes that exist at every position.

Might they draft a PG or two and then add depth using their cap space in free agency? Sure. But it’s just as viable an option to draft for depth and then use all that cap room to sign a couple of points. One route is not more or less correct than the other, as long as Favors knows who he’s supposed to tip the ball to this October.

Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and Jeff Teague are names that come up a lot, but the Jazz can also use their cap room to absorb players via trade, which is a good way of getting free talent (ask Oklahoma City and Eric Maynor). Point is: there is more than one way to skin a cat, and the Jazz have a lot of tools at their disposal this summer, as well as a lot of holes to fill.

All in all…

…it is still likely that they’ll come away with at least one point guard next Thursday. But if they don’t – or if they don’t get the one you wanted because they prioritized another guy first – it’s OK! Between the broad range of needs and the extensive list of roster-building tools the Jazz have at their disposal, the Jazz’s draft can be point-less without being pointless.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton

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11 Comments

  1. Clint Johnson says:

    I agree with everything you wrote except taking the wrong point guard being okay. I think it would be much better for the Jazz to take no PGs and get solid players than use pick 14, in particular, on a player who proves of little value. Not only would it be a wasted pick, but it may well eat up a few years of developmental time trying to turn the guy into something he never becomes. It may also influence the team’s willingness to pursue another young point guard (or whatever position he plays) in the next year or two.

    So, if the Jazz pass on Schroeder for Larkin, or Carter-Williams for Schroeder, or whoever ends up being a solid player for someone who doesn’t, that may matter quite a bit. In that circumstance, anyone advocating for the player who develops into a contributor is justified in feeling things didn’t work quite okay, in my opinion.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      I actually said the opposite – I said its ok if instead of taking the pg you or I hope they take, they pass on him to take a wing or big they think is better. This is an incredibly thin roster and the jazz just need to add as much talent as they can get, at whatever positions.

      • Clint Johnson says:

        I meant the “they don’t get the one you wanted because they prioritize another guy first” part. Sorry for the miscommunication. I think if they prioritize another guy that’s fine, so long as that guy bears out their trust. If they passed on a player, especially a point guard, who a fan really wants them to take and they guy they selected instead doesn’t produce and eats up a young roster spot, that won’t leave many feeling okay. That is doubly true if they pass on a point guard who becomes a solid starter for a guy who barely makes his mark in the league. That’s all I meant.

  2. Roy says:

    While I agree the Jazz don’t have to take a PG (based on the same reasons you listed), I also think the draft would be a monumental failure for the franchise if they didn’t draft a PG, or if they drafted the wrong one.

    There are some promising PG prospects in this draft, and the Jazz have the assets to make something happen to land one. It’s time to get a young PG to develop with the young core. Whether that happens through the draft, or a trade doesn’t make much difference. To continue to deny the team a floor general and distributor would be terrible management.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      You’re assuming there’s going to be a starting-caliber “floor general or distributor” available. History says you’re not likely to find someone that late who is going to change your team around.

      They clearly need to add 2-3 points to the roster at some point. But they don’t have to so it by Thursday

      • Roy says:

        Hence the mention of assets (multiple picks to trade up, Jefferson/Millsap sign and trade, etc) or acquiring their guy in a trade.

  3. PLAY 18 says:

    I would rather have J Jack (FA) and any (2) of the following…CJ McCollum, Shane Larkin, Dennis Schroeder, Nate Wolters, Eric Green, Pierre Jackson or Lorenzo Brown over Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson. To add depth I would resign Foye and pick up Korver and either Carl Landry or David West as Free Agents as well

    Jack/Larkin/Wolters
    Burks/Foye/Korver
    Hayward/Marv Williams/Carroll
    Favors/(West or Landry)/Evans
    Kanter/draft a big (Plumlee or Adams)

  4. Trent says:

    This is an awesome article! I am a huge Jazz fan and I have been following the draft closely because I too think this is a very important draft/offseason for us. We need a PG now! There needs to be a confident distributor out there making plays or Favors, Kanter and Hayward will all walk in free agency in a couple years and we’ll be screwed.

    Until I read this article, I was one who thought we had to find the future PG in the draft. Unfortunately I also think Trey Burke is the only all-star point guard in the draft and he isn’t going to be available at 14…

    Now I agree with Dan that the focus this draft should be on improving depth everywhere, unless we can somehow move up and get Burke. He is going to be an elite PG.

    If we do build depth in the draft and avoid reaching for a PG, I think Jarret Jack would be a great FA pickup.

  5. Layton says:

    There is a huge misconception about the salary floor that the Jazz must spend the minimum to fill out their roster with a certain amount of money. That in fact is false. According to the CBA, the amount of money below the salary floor at the end of the season will be split up and assigned as a roster bonus for all those on the team still. Thus, it would in fact play into the cap flexibility mindset to not offer outrageous contracts this off season when there is clearly not a difference maker available to us specifically. We could retain the cap space and have multiple options up to the trade deadline for any team needing to drop assets in order to gain flexibility themselves. Cleveland picked up a 1st rd draft pick from Memphis in order to absorb Maurese Speights’ contract . And if a situation like that doesn’t present itself, we split a roster bonus among our under-paid rookie contract players and give them a few million reasons to stick around in our rebuild.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Right, they don’t have to spend up the 50M or so… but they will, one way or another. The point is the Jazz have more cap space (or the ability to create it by renouncing guys) than they have committed salary, so there are a tons of different ways to roster build. Signing guys, S&T, absorbing salary in exchange for assets, draft…. Given that the Jazz need someone who is readly to play PG now, I’m surprised at how many fans are happy with the plan to just get the best PG they can get at 14/21 and just live with that.

      • Roy says:

        I don’t anyone here is saying they want to draft a starting PG. Aside from McCullom,I don’t believe there is a starter-ready player for the position in the draft. And I see him as a 2 anyway. I personally think it would be a good idea to resign Mo Williams—though I can’t stand watching his hero ball–and draft a young PG to develop behind him. But it’s extremely important to get that guy now (not later) so that he can build chemistry with the C4 and develop alongside them. Time is precious, and management has already wasted enough of it on veterans who clearly aren’t part of the future.

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