Backward Bounce: Jazz to Select Fifth in Upcoming NBA Draft

May 20th, 2014 | by Dan Clayton
Jazz rep Bryan Miller wanted to make history on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Jazz rep Bryan Miller was hoping to make history on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Down with math.

The statistically probable gut punch arrived this evening in Times Square in an envelope marked “5.” The Utah Jazz, slotted fourth going into the NBA Draft Lottery, now own the fifth pick after the deals-with-devils Cleveland Cavaliers again crashed the top 3, bumping eight disappointed teams backward in the process1.

Forgetting for a second that the Cavs only had a 1.7% chance of ruining everybody else’s night, the likelihood was high that the Jazz wouldn’t hold onto their #4 spot all evening. The 37.9% odds that Utah would land fifth represented the collective odds of teams 5-14 to leapfrog them. It didn’t have to be Cleveland’s paltry 6.11% chance at a top three pick – there were plenty of scenarios that would result in Utah dropping a spot, enough that it was the single most likely outcome for Utah.

“From a percentage standpoint, this was the most likely thing to happen,” a nonplussed Dennis Lindsey told Salt City Hoops immediately after the televised proceedings. “So there’s no surprise statistically,” the Jazz GM continued, “(but) you’re always hopeful.”

In other words: Statistics schmatistics2. The numbers don’t make anybody feel a lot better, including Bryan Miller, who had hoped to be Utah’s good luck charm as the on-stage representative for the televised unveiling of the draft order. “I didn’t anticipate that I would feel disappointment, but I do.”

I asked Miller why he didn’t expect to feel let down, and he pointed to the depth of the draft. He came into the evening feeling like wherever the Jazz wound up, there would be great options. And, his unexpected disappointment aside, he still does.

“There’s clearly a lot of talent here,” Miller said, “and it’s always hard to know how somebody’s going to turn out. So to be even five, you gotta feel good about that.”

Lindsey agrees, adding that, “It’s more than a five-player draft.” While much of the pre-draft analysis has four players tagged as potential franchise players followed by several very good players, Lindsey definitely didn’t speak as though he feels everything past #4 is a consolation prize. “We feel good about players all through the draft, but specifically in the lottery. Eight, nine, ten — there are very good players.”

Let’s address some of the big post-lottery questions, with the help of Lindsey and Miller and a dash of my own healthy conjecture thrown in here and there.

Is it still franchise player or bust?

All that leads to the inevitable question about whether the Jazz still think they can get their hands on a franchise player this summer. Front office man Walt Perrin has overtly said on team radio that that’s the goal, and Lindsey conceded my point when I asked if that’s still the goal.

“That’s a big mission and charge: to find someone that can define how we play,” Lindsey said on Tuesday night.3

But there are a few ways to get there, he reminded. “When you’re short from a franchise player standpoint, hopefully you can internally develop one. I think that’s the best case scenario. But you’re certainly going to look at all the alternatives that are presented to you.”

Lindsey again mentioned the possibility of parlaying some of what’s in his arsenal to try to get to a star player, specifically mentioning the multiple picks4. He said he has already gotten calls about picks #23 and #35, and the cap space opens up some options as well.

“We have a lot of assets that we could individually capitalize on or aggregate together and come up with a big deal,” the executive teased. “It’s safe to assume that we’ll exhaust all those opportunities.”

Will the Jazz attempt to move up?

Lindsey said at the end of the season that the Jazz would be “aggressive” in the draft, and I asked him after the Lottery if this is the scenario he envisioned.

“I really think move up, move back, move out. At this stage, we have to open to any of those options,” the Jazz GM said. “There’s nothing sacred. We’ll examine anything. The #5 pick is a very big asset for the Utah Jazz. If we select it, I think we’ll select it for good reason. If we move off of it, I think we’ll come up with a very good alternative.”

Personally, I think it will be difficult to move up. If anyone has the assets for it, it’s Utah5, but there have to be buyers. I’m not sure, after how the evening shook out, who among the top four are going to be willing to move back. Cleveland might decide that as long as they’re playing with house money they should garner another asset, but #1 overall picks hardly ever get traded, and Cleveland has kept its last three. The Bucks, Sixers and Magic probably already feel a bit jilted with the way the night went down, so further compromise might be unsettling there. But as Lindsey mentioned to the media back in SLC over a video conference: “It just takes one partner.”6

Trading down might become a real possibility now. If you believe, as some do, that there’s a plateau starting at #5, I wouldn’t be surprised — assuming the trade-up conversations led nowhere — to see the Jazz go the other direction. It’s probably telling that Lindsey dropped the “eight, nine, ten” quote above: that’s a pretty specific comment at a point in the process where quotes are usually pretty vague.

Regardless of whether the Jazz ultimately pick fifth or not, Lindsey gets that the draft won’t be judged by where the Jazz picked but by what they do with that position. “Every draft is different. Every draft is only as good as the player you select.”

Who from the Jazz witnessed the actual ping pong ball drawing?

Lindsey was part of the behind-the-scenes drawing. I asked him if it was more tense there than the on-stage proceedings.

“It’s a little more tense than last year, as you would imagine, because of the stakes of moving up… Clearly tensions and hopes are high.”

Remember that those proceedings actually go in forward order, unlike the televised countdown from 14 that we all witnessed. The league starts at #1, floats four balls to the top, assigns the top pick accordingly, and then moves on. I imagine that’s suspenseful in a completely different way than what the rest of the world lives through. That means that Lindsey knew after the first pick that his chances at #2 were 104/983 instead of, say, 104/750 had Milwaukee won the top pick. There’s less deductive thinking a la, “OK, that means (blank) must have happened.” A whole different kind of suspense.

That behind-closed-doors portion immediately preceded the televised unveiling, where Miller hoped he wouldn’t see the Jazz logo until after a commercial break.

Speaking of which…

Why was Bryan Miller chosen to represent the Jazz?

Bryan is one of the less visible members of the Miller family, at least where the basketball business is concerned, so a few fans have wondered how the Miller Inspire president drew the assignment.

There are many ways teams select their on-screen rep for the event. Tonight’s crew ran the gamut: current players, angry-looking former players7, less angry-looking former players and even gorgeous heiresses. No minors wearing bow ties this time, but we had just about everything else.

Miller’s case to be part of the proceedings was actually made on literary grounds. Yeah, literary.

The son of late Jazz owner Larry Miller is writing a book about his father, and reached out to former commissioner David Stern to ask for some experiences he could include.

“I asked him (Stern) if he’d contribute a story and he said yes,” Bryan Miller explained. “So in a family meeting, I said, ‘Hey, Stern said he’d be willing to give me story, but I’d probably need to go get it from him, so maybe we could kill two birds with one stone.’”

No actual birds were harmed in the making of this Draft Lottery, but Miller journeyed east to meet with the retired Stern and pick up a draft pick on his way. The book, intended to be a follow-up to Larry’s Driven from 20108, will be called Beyond Driven. No word yet on when it will be available.

Will system (and therefore the coaching hire) influence the picks? How do those two timelines relate?

Lindsey: “We have a few things to balance relative to timing with the coaching search. Again, we’re looking for the right guy. And we’ll take as much time (as necessary) to get the right person in that seat.”

The implication here is don’t hold your breath. Remember that a few of Utah’s presumed candidates — San Antonio’s Jim Boylen, Miami’s David Fizdale and CSKA Moscow’s Ettore Messina — are still involved in basketball tournaments, which could slow the process of talking to the people on Utah’s list. I didn’t discuss those names with Lindsey, so that’s just an educated guess on one factor that could be elongating the process. But for what it’s worth, I’ve heard from others in Salt Lake who are picking up similar signals that the coach search is simmering on the side burner.

Who will the Jazz draft? Which current players are tradable? Exactly how much cap room do the Jazz have? Who will be the third assistant on the Jazz’s coaching staff? What offense will Utah run next season? Why can’t you answer ALL my questions? I’m going crazy. AAAARGGHHHH!!

Stay tuned. The SCH team will have much, much more on this pivotal offseason for the franchise.

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

  • Examining Utah Jazz Shot Charts
    Analytics
    18
    July 25th, 2014

    Examining Utah Jazz Shot Charts

    In today’s media-savvy basketball world, there are a number of methods available to analysts like myself to evaluate players,...Read More

10 Comments

  1. UtahsMrSports says:

    Two years ago, I watched the draft with a couple of buddies. As Boston came up on their back to back picks in the early 20′s, I remember thinking how they should take Fab Melo. When they took Melo and Sullinger, I told my buddies that Boston had won the draft. In 2010, I boo’d like crazy when we took Hayward. Didn’t the front office know that Luke Babbit was still on the board!?!?!?

    As I have watched the subsequent years, the realization of the draft has hit me. The draft is so much about hope and (often times) so little about reality. At the end of the day, no one, be it “experts”, talking heads, insiders, beat writers, fans, or front office people have any clue about how a player will end up 95% of the time.

    I took a look through the last 10+ drafts just now. I realized a few things. First, it is incredible to me how many people I just plain had forgotten about. I DID have a fun memory. I found the name “Nedzad Sinanovic” and was instantly taken back to the RMR when I first saw Mr Sinanovic play. This dude was 7’3 or so and had a regular person sized head. He was the anti-Arvydas Sabonis. One of the weirdest things Id ever seen. Second, if history has taught us anything, it is that a good draft requires hard work, finding the right fit, and (I think in most cases most importantly) good luck.

    *hits head against desk for saying I had a “few” realizations, and then only listing 2*

    I guess now that I have rambled on enough that only the diehards have bothered to read this far, I should make my point. I appreciate tremendously the approach that this article and this blog have taken. It is so easy to get caught up in hysterics. “We only got the #5 pick! We are doomed! This whole year was a waste! Fire Ty, again!”

    Instead, I think the right approach is to sit back and enjoy the draft process. So often we get in a rush to “grade” our draft. Sometimes you get Paul George (who a lot of people thought the Pacers reached for in 2010) and sometimes you get Mikey Beasley (nbadraft.net and a lot of others had him on par or rated higher than Kevin Durrant when he came out. Hashtag: LOL!)

    Whatever happens, I anxiously anticipate cheering for whatever new faces join our family this summer.

    GO JAZZ!!

  2. Steve in Idaho says:

    It is pretty groan-inducing to see the Cavaliers get the first pick not only because they have proved to be one of the most incompetent franchises in recent history (we get it, Lebron left. Pick yourself up already.) but because it knocked Utah out of contention for one of the 3 or 4 solid franchise-changing players. That being said, I hope the Jazz keep the pick and draft Aaron Gordon. He is gifted defensively and athletically. He’s only 18 so his shooting has time to improve and he can fill an open role for Utah. Could be the next Blake Griffin.

    Now, a few cautions for the franchise.

    1) Do not draft Marcus Smart.
    2) Do not draft Julius Randle.
    3) Do not trade down for a pick at 10 or 11. The Jazz need to give fans something to be excited about and moving further down for an RJ or Marvin won’t do that.
    4) KEEP GORDON HAYWARD. Do not use him as a bargaining chip. It’s time to buck the trend of developing our players and letting other teams nab them (Wes Matthews and Paul Millsap.)

    Just give us something to be excited about for the first time in a few years. If you trade Kanter and the 5 pick for Kevin Love we’re fine with that.

    • UtahsMrSports says:

      Just tossing this out there; but I really think you can trade down, acquire another asset, and still land Aaron Gordon. Granted, I am saying this on May 21, still well over a month and drastic moves up and down the board will occur.

      I would like Gordon. Being a die hard Ute fan, I saw him up close three times and came away impressed at his potential. I think he is a unique mix of Blake Griffin and Andrei Kirilenko.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      I’m not sure that I would flippantly dismiss either Marcus Smart or Julius Randle as being a bad pick for the Jazz. Just like Gordon Hayward a few years ago (who I thought was a mistake when the Jazz drafted him), or Rudy Gobert (who most teams passed over last year), the Jazz may be able to see something in the workouts that will help them decide which player is the best fit for the Jazz.

      Also, one of the teams picking prior to the Jazz may pick Smart, Randle, Gordon or Vonleh, which would allow a player to slip to the Jazz, which they had not anticipated.

  3. Spencer says:

    Here’s an idea if Exum goes #4 and the top 3 stay there:

    1-Draft Vonleh at #5-Huge hands, great rebounder excellent defender can shoot from three. Watch him on Youtube, I think he has a ton of potential and fits perfectly next to Favors. (If you like Gordon more, then put his name here)

    2-Trade Kanter for Boston or LA pick and Get Smart. I love his defense. He reminds me of Stevenson.

  4. Pingback: Utah Jazz Post-Lottery Mock Draft Round-up | Salt City Hoops

  5. zach says:

    What are the chances Cleveland would trade the #1 for kanter, #23 and #35, then the jazz would have #1 and #5 and cleveland could get Kanter, Kyle Anderson at 23, and still have #33 and 35 to either package and move up to the teens, or draft later round players like Glenn Robinson and/or Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Jazz can get Parker along with either Exum/Gordon/Randle. Wouldn’t it be great to see parker and A Gordon play together – thatd be like lebron and carmelo.

    • John says:

      0.1%, you would have to give up #5, Kanter and probably the 23 to even get them to think about it. Even then if I were the Cavs I would say no.

      • Dan Clayton says:

        yeah, i’d agree, they probably don’t take that even if you throw in #5. you’d probably have to include something more than kanter on the player side, and maybe an additional pick with pretty generous protection levels. #1 picks just don’t move. last one to get traded was chris webber, and that was a different (pre rookie scale) world for draft trades.

  6. Pingback: Dennis Lindsey: “Nothing Sacred” in Jazz Quest to Move Up | Salt City Hoops

Leave a Reply