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