May 19 is simultaneously the biggest day for Jazz news in the next month and a half, and a likely non-news day.
Yes, NBA Draft Lottery day is the only key date on the league’s May calendar that matters to Utah, currently slated at the 12th spot in the upcoming draft. But it’s also a day that in all likelihood will end in anticlimax.
The Jazz have a 93.5% chance of hanging on to their #12 slot, and about a 4% chance of sliding backward 1-2 spots should Phoenix and/or OKC jump into the top three. That means the likelihood of Utah claiming one of the first three picks is about 2.5%, or roughly the career three-point percentage of interior dirty-work specialist Anderson Varejao.
One in forty. That’s the likelihood that the Jazz come away from May 19 with really good, franchise-changing news. A craps player has better odds putting all his money on boxcars1 on the come-out roll than he would betting on the Jazz landing a top three pick. It’s about half as likely as getting a blackjack dealt to you at a single-deck table.
Which raises the question: who exactly is rolling the dice for Utah?
Of course, it doesn’t really matter who sits on stage while deputy commissioner Mark Tatum opens envelopes. But it’s a moment that represents hopefulness and the future, so it’s worth sending someone to New York who represents the identity of the Jazz.
The Jazz, to their credit, haven’t had to make this decision a lot, and have mostly defaulted to sending a front office professional, like erstwhile GM Kevin O’Connor, who sat on the dais all five times that the Jazz participated in the lottery during his tenure.
So who should go this time? Let’s run through the options.
The Traditional Route
Most teams send an owner, front office member or coach, and the Jazz have plenty of candidates in that regard.
This probably isn’t the year for Greg or Steve Miller to go represent the Jazz, given that the brothers are stepping back2 from their roles with the club. The youngest Miller, Bryan, performed the duty last year, largely because he was in town on an only semi-related project.
Since the Millers are going a bit more incognito these days, maybe it’s Steve Starks’ turn to represent the club. The incoming president of Miller Sports Properties may3 be making the trip anyway, since the league often plans meetings the week of the lottery.
But none of those are my top three in this category.
Gail Miller could be an interesting choice. While she’s never run toward TV cameras and the more dog-and-pony-show style NBA events, she’s been an important part of the franchise for decades, and even more so since the late Larry’s 2009 passing.
Dennis Lindsey has already put a mark on the franchise, including through the draft, yet has never been the Jazz’s on-stage representative. Last year he was in the room when league officers and their auditing firm performed the actual lottery draw, but maybe Lindsey deserves a bit of a curtain call in the form of an invitation tot he podium.
But why not send Quin Snyder? If things go according to plan, this is the last time the Jazz will have to farm out this chore in a while, and that largely depends on Chef Snyder having the ingredients he needs to whip together a playoff team. He’s fast becoming a franchise face anyway, so he makes as much sense as anybody in this category.
The Player Route
Many teams send current players as their ambassador, and the Jazz have a lot of options if they go that route.
Dante Exum was the Jazz’s most recent lottery haul, and one who potentially represents a star-level acquisition in the draft. But I believe Exum’s plan is to be in Australia a bit longer than that, and there’s little value in having him jump on a 22-hour flight to essentially smile into a camera. I would assume the Jazz would prioritize some combination of rest and offseason basketball regimen over taking part in TV shows. He’d be my first choice from the player category if it weren’t for that.
Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors have embraced their status as faces of the organization, and both would be a quick flight away from Gotham at that point.
But Rudy Gobert would be my preference here. Rudy is symbolic of the scrappy Jazz forging their own destiny, draft order be damned. The Jazz had to go get Rudy proactively, and they did so at the 27th pick. So in essence, it would be a cool way of saying, “We don’t need your stinking picks. Even if we’re stuck at #12, we’ll be just fine because we’re smarter than all o’ y’all.”4 Rudy’s also a lot of the reason why the timeline for the Jazz suddenly feels different.
Other Ideas (Including my Favorite)
Welcome to the Jazz, JP! pic.twitter.com/kI36etzAK2
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 6, 2014
You know who’s never done a lottery ceremony? Gerald Eugene Sloan.
Maybe it’s wrong to associate Jerry with this event since part of his legacy is precisely the fact that kept Utah away from the lotto for 19 of the 22 years he coached to season’s end. But if Jerry is to serve his twilight years as a consultant to and ambassador of the front office, let him sit on the dais. Also, maybe his steely gaze will intimidate Tatum to perform some sleight of hand at the podium. I mean really, would you want to tick off that guy?
In the pay-homage-to-departing legends category, Utah could send long-time trainer and recent retiree Gary Briggs. Or if Hot Rod Hundley had an obvious stand-in, I’d say have a member of the Hundley clan go perform the ceremonial duty as a way of honoring the recently deceased broadcasting legend. None of his rightful heirs have really been too involved with the franchise, but again: all that’s required is smiling into the camera (and, if you believe in that kind of stuff, bringing the right mojo).
But none of those guys are my favorite idea.
Not be too, ya know, that way, but I believe I was the first person to suggest5 that JP Gibson and his family jump on a plane to represent the franchise with which he famously signed a one-day contract last fall.
Sending JP would be perfect on a lot of levels. Having him on stage would practically require ESPN to retell one of the more heart-warming stories of the Jazz season. Also, having recently finished chemotherapy treatments to vanquish his disease, JP embodies the spirit of overcoming odds and coming out victorious. Perhaps most importantly, it would be another cool moment for a really cool kid.
The only downside to sending JP is the aforementioned probability that the night ends in anticlimactic fashion for the Jazz. If there’s a 97.5% chance that the night ends with telling a chagrined 5-year-old, “That’s OK, you did the best you could,” that’s hardly ideal.
They’d just have to think about how to message it to him so that, in the very likely even that the Jazz come away with #12 as expected, he doesn’t feel like he’s let the franchise down. That’s doable.
Here are my top choices.
Who would you like to see rep for the Jazz in two weeks?