This summer there was a minor stir created by owner Greg Miller’s “I think that the best approach for us to take as a franchise is just to be competitive” quote. When he admitted that “we’re probably not going to win a championship, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to give it everything we’ve got” it upset a lot of Jazz fans. The Jazz have come very close in the past and the current team they have isn’t that far off from being a championship caliber team. They just seem to be stuck in the tier right below the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs. Some of the fault is usually placed on the team being in a small market and that ownership isn’t willing to spend the required amount of money. I disagree with that. The main reason the Jazz don’t have a championship caliber team is because they have not drafted well over the past 7 years.
When I write that the Jazz haven’t drafted well over the past 7 years I want to be fair to Jazz management. Before I get into the negatives let me first start off with the few things the Jazz have done well in regards to the draft:
Without the above three things the below analysis would be even more depressing to Jazz fans. As far as the analysis goes though I am going to compare who the Jazz drafted with the player selected right after the Jazz pick. The reason being is that it frustrates me when people go back through drafts and play the “what if” game. What if the Jazz took Landry Fields instead of Gordon Hayward? Well of course the team would be better right now, but nobody would ever have suggested to Kevin O’Connor before the draft to take Fields with the 9th overall pick. It would have been a better pick, but it just isn’t realistic.
I could go back to 2001 (Raul Lopez instead of the next pick Gerald Wallace) or farther, but I would rather start with 2004 since that was a huge year for the Jazz as they had three first round picks. Let’s look at the Jazz picks compared to the very next pick and see how the Jazz did in their draft by comparing each player’s career *Win Shares.
*Win Shares = an estimate of the number of wins that can be attributed to one player. For a longer description check out this link.
Better pick by the Jazz: 3 times
Worse pick – 7 times
Comparable picks (I excluded the random 2nd round picks like Robert Whaley if they were matched up with another bust. Also, I am a Jazz fan and despite evidence to the contrary I rate Deron Williams as the same as Chris Paul) - 3 times
Overall Total: -45.9 Win Shares.
A negative 45.9 Win Shares difference between the Jazz pick and the very next pick shows how close the Jazz have been to getting some real impact players. What if the Jazz had drafted Jefferson and Smith in 2004 and played them very few minutes like they did with Humphries and Synder? What if they had then drafted Chris Paul the following year? Can you imagine a lineup with Chris Paul, Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Memhet Okur with Al Jefferson and Josh Smith coming off the bench? Would that team have beaten the Spurs in 2007? What about the Lakers the next three years?
Even if you go back only 5 years or even 3 years then you see players that would help this Jazz team out. Darren Collison would be a great backup point guard for Deron Williams and if they had to trade him like they did with Maynor he probably would have brought back more in return. Serge Ibaka would have provided a solid inside presence to help every year against the Lakers.
Now you can see how the team I described It is pretty clear over the past seven years the Jazz have done a worse job drafting than the random teams that drafted after them. Does this make me worry more about Gordon Hayward? Does this make me think that Kevin O’Connor might not be the best GM at drafting? Does this make me think more highly of Coach Sloan? (Some might think this speaks less of Coach Sloan and point to the fact that he can’t develop 1st round picks. I disagree since I don’t know any coach in the world that would be able to make Kirk Snyder into Josh Smith.) Does this make it even more remarkable that the Jazz have been a consistent playoff team?
Yes to all of the questions in the paragraph above.
I think that if the Jazz would have made only one or two different draft picks over the past seven years then Greg Miller probably wouldn’t have had the “just to be competitive” quote this summer. I think there would be a decent chance that the Jazz would have at least one title and would be looking at another one this year.