The Utah Jazz Need a Do-It-All Prospect
Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Every off-season in the NBA is unique. Very rarely does a franchise approach the off-season with the same strategy they had the previous year. It makes sense. New roster spots turn over, money becomes scarce or abundant, winning or losing becomes the priority, and new management may exist.
Needless to say the one constant is the desire (regardless of the ability) to go all in on their strategy. We’ve seen some franchises take the tanking route and have been stuck in NBA purgatory for years. Other organizations commit to winning games, even if that means they’re without the talent requisite to compete for a championship.
There are endless possible strategies the Utah Jazz may employ this off-season. The potential strategies for the draft are undoubtedly very different from the strategy in free agency and the trade market. Seeing as the draft is soon upon us, let’s focus on the potential options for the draft:
The Jazz could and probably should use their 21st pick to draft a player. The reason many teams perpetually win and are a top the ranks in their conference is their ability to draft, develop, and retain players who will contribute to winning in the future.
Another scenario is for the Jazz to trade their pick altogether. You might say, “But this is such a deep draft. They Jazz could get something real good at that spot!” Odds are if the Jazz feel that way, other teams do as well. Teams without a draft pick (Raptors, Pistons, Rockets, or Heat) or teams without cap space could be willing to part with an established role player in exchange for the pick.
The Jazz could also look into trading up in the draft. Teams with more than one pick (LA Clippers) May be inclined to shift one pick back in exchange for cap relief of some sort. This does require moving an asset. Fortunately the Jazz do have several players who may give teams what they need.
Of all the potential scenarios, the best option is to draft where the Jazz are. The top 7 picks could very well be franchise players. The subsequent picks through pick 16 aren’t destiny altering players and, although present better odds at a rotation player than where the Jazz are selecting, don’t warrant the risk necessary to move up. The latter third of the draft and into the start of the second round are all players who could have a strong impact in the right situation.
Obviously you’re going to have your busts and your hits anywhere you draft, but baring another impression given to the Jazz like Mitchell and Gobert did, the Jazz should stay where they are and bet on themselves and their ability to develop.
That then brings up the question. What kind of player do we draft? A big? A guard? A defensive minded player? Taking a look at our depth chart with guaranteed contracts may give us an indication of positional need:
PG SG SF PF C
Ricky Rubio Donovan Mitchell Joe Ingles Rudy Gobert
Alec Burks Jae Crowder Tony Bradley
NOTE: you’ll notice that Ekpe Udoh, Jonas Jerebko, and Thabo Sefolosha aren’t listed because their contracts next year can be declined (or canceled) should the Jazz choose (therefore not completely guaranteed).
At first glance we need a power forward. However, we saw with Trey Lyles that an inexperienced, young player filling the 4 position is not only difficult, but can compromise other areas with lack of production. This position is likely better suited to be filled via free agency or trade.
If not a PF, then we need a backup PG. Yeah, maybe. We know the Jazz are still high on Exum so he may fill that void. There are also many options available in free agency and via trades for guards who can compliment Ricky and Donovan in a three guard rotation. This is also an area for which we can’t compromise; we saw the effect of not having Ricky during the Houston series.
Well, then what’s left? What’s left are the guard/forward positions. We need multi-position players, players who, like Royce O’Neale can shift between the guard and forward spots in the lineup. We’ll call these players a do-it-all prospect.
Although some analysts devalue these players since there may appear to be no elite skill. With the Jazz’s current personnel and their draft position, we aren’t looking for or expecting an elite level prospect. We need someone who can play minutes, team defend, and make correct decisions on when to pass, shoot, or drive.
Royce O’Neale was a free agent signed rookie who was our 15th roster spot over the offseason. He fit this mold of a player who could do a bit of everything but wasn’t elite at a single facet.
Over the course of the season, he began to make shots, pass, and drive at an average level. He then found one skill that was above average: defense. He became reliable enough in all of these areas that he played high minutes during the playoff chase and performed an essential role in the playoffs.
This draft, particularly in the latter half of the first round, is loaded with various players who fit this mold. They likely won’t ever be all-stars or develop one elite skill, but they can benefit from the Utah Jazz system of sharing the ball, reading the defense, and taking advantage of weaknesses.
Kevin Huerter, Chandler Hutchison, Donte DiVicenzo, Shake Milton, Keita Bates-Diop, Melvin Frazier, etc., all have this type of potential. They each prefer different aspects of the game and have been coached to excel in different areas, but they all have been asked to do a little bit of everything throughout their career thus far.
The Jazz’s preference of shooting, athleticism, high basketball IQ, etc., will ultimately decide who they choose since each prospect has their own strength. Regardless, they will be do-it-all players who can help fill any need throughout the season.
We have our specialists on defense in Gobert and on offense in Mitchell. What’s missing are the players around them who can help in both areas as the Jazz establish themselves as championship contenders in the Western Conference.