Making Sense of an Unpredictable Draft

June 4th, 2013 | by Denim Millward
Tim Brown/OregonLive

Tim Brown/OregonLive

Ahh, June.

The time of year when the internet goes from reasonably inundated to super saturated with NBA mock drafts.  From the most reputable sports news sources to every parent’s-basement-created blog, any website with a remote connection to Dr. Naismith’s creation churns out their best guess at which hoop prospects will be where when the 2013 NBA Draft smoke clears.  After reading through the bulk of these predictions made by those who each fancy themselves as a roundball Nostradamus, one thing is crystal clear.

Prognostication is a fool’s errand.

With seemingly limitless variables and constantly changing conditions, making a correct prediction past the first handful of picks seems to be pure luck as often as not.

With this in mind, I did some digging into Utah’s draft history in an attempt to discern any possible patterns and/or tendencies not already apparent that could shed some light on who Kevin, Dennis and the gang may be leaning towards taking, and who may frighten them away.

Before we dive in, there are a few key points to keep in mind.

  1. This article is by no means an effort to correctly predict who the Jazz will draft at picks 14 and 21.  Rather, it should be viewed as a very general guide to provide insight on any non-obvious patterns or predispositions the Utah front office may have.
  2. I’m fully aware the sample size used is quite small, and thus insufficient to draw any strong, definitive conclusions from.  I felt it better to limit the picks analyzed to the 2000 NBA Draft to current, as that sample size better represented the draft decisions of the current front office structure.

With that said, here is the list of players who were analyzed for this article.

  • 2000:  DeShawn Stevenson – SG, pick 23, Washington Union HS
  • 2001:  Raul Lopez – PG pick 24, Real Madrid (Spain)
  • 2002:  Curtis Borchardt – C, pick 18 (trade w/Orlando), Stanford Jr.
  • 2003: Sasha Pavlovic – G/F, pick 19, Buducnost Podgorica (Serbia)
  • 2004:  Kris Humhpries – PF, pick 14, Minnesota Fr.
  • 2004:  Kirk Snyder – SG, pick 16, Nevada Jr.
  • 2005:  Deron Williams – PG, pick 3, Illinois Jr.
  • 2006:  Ronnie Brewer – G, pick 14, Arkansas Jr.
  • 2007:  Morris Almond – SG, pick 25, Rice Sr.
  • 2008:  Kosta Koufos – C, pick 23, Ohio St. Fr.
  • 2009:  Eric Maynor- PG, pick 20, VCU Sr.
  • 2010:  Gordon Hayward – SF, pick 9, Butler So.
  • 2011:  Enes Kanter: – C, pick 3 Kentucky Fr.
  • 2011:  Alec Burks: – SG, pick 12 Colorado So.
  • 2012:  no 1st round pick

Excluding 2012, when the Jazz had no 1st round pick, the Jazz had an average draft position of 17.4.  With the exception of 2005 and 2011, the Jazz were selecting players from the second and third tiers of draft prospects.  Does draft pick position affect the type of player Utah is likely to draft?  It appears so.

Since 2000, Utah has only selected two players who weren’t juniors or older with their eight picks outside the lottery:  DeShawn Stevenson in 2000, who came straight out of high school and Kosta Koufos in 2008.  On the other hand, four of the six lottery picks since 2000 have been used to select a freshman (Kris Humphries 2004, Enes Kanter 2011) or sophomores (Gordon Hayward 2009, Alec Burks 2011.)  While this is a far from an ironclad correlation, it hints at a very interesting draft strategy.

With the heavy dose of upperclassmen selected outside the lottery by the Jazz, it suggests they tend to value consistency and immediate production over upside and long-term potential when selecting in the late teens or lower, a diametric opposition to the “taking a flier” approach on a raw, undeveloped prospect late in the first to which many teams subscribe.  Picks within the lottery were split 4-2 between underclassmen and upperclassmen, perhaps indicating some preference towards younger prospects in the early stages of the draft.

Another interesting but more obvious draft trend is Utah’s aversion to drafting players with character issues, a hallmark of the Jerry Sloan regime if there ever was one.  Aside from Deron Williams, who is a pretty unique case, the one first-round pick that turned out to be any kind of a malcontent, Kirk Snyder, was jettisoned to New Orleans after a single year with the Jazz. The merits of seemingly automatically excluding anyone with widely known personality red flags can be debated, but Utah’s hardline stance on avoiding these players helps to thin the field of potential Utah Jazz draftees in 2013.

If we combine all of the apparent trends observed from the previous 12 drafts (excluding 2012), we can make some educated guesses of what direction the Jazz will go at pick 14 and pick 21 in the upcoming draft.

Clearly, Utah’s biggest need is at the point guard position, so it stands to reason point guard is where the Jazz will look to go with pick 14.  Michigan product Trey Burke is all but certain to be off the board by then, which leaves Michael Carter-Williams (sophomore) and Dennis Schroeder (19 year old German) as the likely candidates to be chosen.  Shane Larkin (sophomore) is also a possibility here, but a remote one due to concerns about his size and length.

If either Carter-Williams or Schroeder are on the board for the Jazz’s lottery pick, but not both, I think the Jazz happily scoop up whichever player remains.  In the unlikely event Utah has the choice between the two, I would give the slight edge to Schroeder due to his nearly-unparalleled quickness, great length and age (Schroeder is 2 years younger than Carter-Williams).

At 21, Utah should be comfortable selecting Larkin if they didn’t come away with a point guard at 14.  If they nab a point guard with their first pick, a big man seems to make the most sense. Mason Plumlee or Kelly Olynyk would fit Utah’s history at picking older players after the lottery, but most mocks have those players being drafted before the 21st selection. In that case, the Jazz may have to go for an unproven longshot such as Rudy Gobert, the 20 year old Frenchman with the 9’7” standing reach. It’s possible the Jazz could kick the tires on Shabazz Muhammad at #21 if he falls that far, but the aforementioned character flaw aversion makes Muhammad being drafted by the Jazz a remote possibility.

If I was forced to make a prediction, I would say the Jazz come away from the draft with Schroeder and Gobert.  I would also feel about 3.7% confident in that prediction, as it would only take one of many variables to change for the entire draft order to go up in smoke, taking my feeble prediction with it.  This was an interesting exercise in pattern recognition, not an attempt accurately predict the future.

After all, prognostication is a fool’s errand.

 

Denim Millward

Denim Millward

Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
Denim Millward
Denim Millward

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9 Comments

  1. Clint Johnson says:

    Good observation on player experience and age relative to when they are drafted. I don’t see the Jazz taking Gobert when there are likely to be one or two bigs more ready to contribute now. They already have two bigs already slotted as starters for the better part of the next decade, so no need to try to hit a home run. I suspect they would take Olynyk, Plumlee, Dieng, and maybe even Withey over Gobert, as they would all contribute much faster.

    My prediction right now: MCW and Schroeder are both gone by 14, so we get Plumlee there, Larkin at 21, and Kabongo in the 2nd round.

    Realistic hope: Schroeder at 14, Adetokunbo at 21, and Kabongo at 46.

    Unrealistic hope: Trade for a late lottery pick next year

    • Roy says:

      I’m just curious, which two teams do you see taking a PG in the lottery before Utah? I only realistically see Dallas choosing MCW or Schroeder. Every other team ahead has far greater needs at other positions, with safer bets on the talent available to them.

      If both MCW and Schroeder are gone, then someone fairly good fell through the cracks to Utah at #14.

      • Clint Johnson says:

        I see Trey Burke going to New Orleans at 6. Vasquez has played well but he is a questionable ball handler and doesn’t have great range, which that team needs given Eric Gordon’s uncertainty. Add in Vasquez’s injury and I see Burke going there to fill two needs.

        I think Detroit takes Michael Carter-Williams at 8 as both Porter and Oladipo are off the board. Knight isn’t going to be their point guard, and once they switched him to off guard toward the end of the year he became much more efficient due largely to his 3 point shooting moving from 35% to 40% post All-Star break. To balance his lack of size at the two, MCW makes a ton of sense, as he’s a point guard large enough to guard two guards if needed. He gives Detroit the ball handler, passer, and height they lack with Knight, allowing Knight to be an atypical two guard without as much negative consequence as would normally be the case.

        Minnesota needs shooting and scoring from their guards, and they should jump on CJ McCollum at 9.

        Dallas grabs Schroeder at 13. He supposedly has a guarantee from the combine, and I find it far more likely that Dallas would hand out a guarantee so early in the process than the Jazz, and they’re the only two teams that make sense in the late lottery area as extending a promise to Schroeder. Plus, Dallas likely has as much information on this kid as anyone because he must have been on Dirk’s radar for quite a while as he comes from Germany.

        The player who dropped on my board, at least according to DraftExpress’s projection, is Steven Adams, who they project going 10th to Portland and I have going to Milwaukee at 15.

        • Roy says:

          I see. I’ve got Detroit taking Shabazz at #8 as a first option and CJ McCullom as a second, Minnesota taking CJ at #9 (I consider him a SG) as a first option and Alex Len as a second, and Dallas taking Schroeder at #13 as a first option and MCW as a second. Schroeder’s guarantee is reportedly from Boston at #16, but he’ll likely be gone before that. It will be interesting to see how things play out. I just hope the Jazz don’t underwhelm with their two picks.

  2. Laura Thompson says:

    Very interesting way to break down age vs. position in the draft. Also love the 3.7% confidence.

    I’m hoping Clint’s realistic hope ends up being reality. Also, I may cry if we take Larkin at #14.

  3. David Smith says:

    Excellent job with your first post, Denim! The Draft is always unpredictable, but you’ve done a nice job laying things out as far as the Jazz’s pattern goes. Well done!

  4. Rory Litster says:

    You all forgetting CJ McCollum from Lehigh! MCW make Rondo look like an efficient scorer not to mention he is 6’6” but weigh a buck 80. He’s not quick or athletic in anyway. That would be a guaranteed waste of a pick. Schoder would be ok but his age worries me. I love Larkin but lack of size is a buzz kill.

  5. Rory Litster says:

    Check out Ray McCallum from Detroit! he could be be a great sleeper in the 2nd round!!

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