Facebook Twitter

Utah Jazz: Team brass hoping to strike lottery gold

SHARE Utah Jazz: Team brass hoping to strike lottery gold

SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into tonight's NBA Draft Lottery, the Jazz have lofty expectations for their eventual 2010 first-round pick.

And it's not just because they seem to be looking up at bigs — mostly power forward-types, and some centers too — in the event unrestricted free agent Carlos Boozer were to leave them high and dry.

Rather, cite the New York Knicks — and Wesley Matthews. And hope, the Jazz will tell you, for good fortune to fall their way.

"There's a lot of luck involved," coach Jerry Sloan said. "You hope that you get a good player because obviously we need him."

Sloan was talking mostly about making the right pick.

But there's another way to get lucky, and that chance comes in tonight's lottery — when picks originally owned by non-playoff teams can be improved, or even devalued, via a lottery-style drawing of tennis-table ball number combinations.

It's the Knicks pick that the Jazz own, and they have since a February 2004 trade in which Utah acquired it from the Phoenix Suns.

All the while the Jazz expected to finally be able to use it in 2010, and the whole time they had been hoping the Knicks would be so lousy this past season that it would end up being a top-three or perhaps even No. 1 overall selection.

Instead, it was the New Jersey Nets who were the New York metro-area team that stunk it up most — and who will pick No. 1 if the odds hold and the lottery goes their way.

New York was bad too, but for now their Jazz-owned pick is slotted only at No. 9.

Still, the Jazz are hoping to strike it rich in tonight's drawing — and move up to the top-three, making all of their emotional investment in the Knicks' pick really worthwhile.

There's only a 2.2 chance — 22 out of 1,000 combinations — that that will happen in tonight's lottery, though.

And there is even less likelihood Utah will wind up picking No. 1.

Only once since the current lottery format was initiated in 1994, in fact — Chicago, in 2008 — has a team overcome greater odds to claim the top pick.

Still, the Jazz's hopes for finding someone who can contribute right away really are sky-high — lottery luck, or not.

Blame for that an over-achieving Matthews, the undrafted rookie out of Marquette who wound up finishing the just-completed 2009-10 NBA season as the Jazz's starting shooting guard.

"You look at the draft over the number of years and you see a guy like Wes Matthews get to that point," Sloan said last week. "And then you see some guys that drafted in the top 10 that may never play in the league on a consistent basis."

Onus for making the right selection falls mostly on general manager Kevin O'Connor and his staff of scouts, including player personnel vice president Walt Perrin and head scout David Fredman.

"Kevin's got a lot of work," Sloan said, "and the scouts have got a lot of work."

And that even includes searching for a little luck tonight.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com