SALT LAKE CITY — It’s possible that Utah Jazz executives and coaches put themselves to sleep leading up to the draft by repeating a certain phrase over and over instead of counting sheep.
And so it was not surprising when Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin repeated the phrase recently when asked about the pattern of No. 12 picks not turning out to be All-Stars.
“I subscribe to (the theory) I’m trying to get the best available player for the Utah Jazz, whether he’s an All-Star or not,” Perrin said. “I’m looking for a guy who’s going to help us win games and get us to a championship.”
Fans of Alec Burks can tell you that a No. 12 selection can a good one, but the Jazz shooting guard is in rare company when it comes to successful players from that particular position.
Sure, Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson (2009) and small forward Thaddeus Young (207) carved out decent careers, but yell “BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE!” when any of these other recent 12th picks excites the general manager in you: Etan Thomas (2000), Vladimir Radmanovic (2001), Melvin Ely (2002), Robert Swift (2004), Yaroslav Korolev (2005) and, well, you get the point.
Teams don’t need every pick — even every lottery pick — to develop into an All-Star-type player to be successful. But the trend for this particular spot late in the lottery is a bit disturbing if you’re trying to judge your drafted player’s future chances of success based on the past repeating itself.
The last actual All-Star to be drafted in the No. 12 spot?
No, not Michael Doleac. (Sorry, Ute fans.)
Not Vitaly Potapenko, either. (Sorry, Ukraine.)
Try Mookie Blaylock, who was taken 12th overall by the New Jersey Nets in 1989 and was named an All-Star while playing for Atlanta in 1994.
Despite that unconvincing track record — which has produced more than its fair share of Alek Radojevic and Alec Kessler types — the Jazz are going into Thursday’s draft with an optimistic attitude.
“We do all of the probabilities on the draft. You need to understand the odds,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “I think all of us would prefer to be the house in Vegas than someone walking up to the table.”
Lindsey rattled off a number of things the Jazz have been doing to make the most out of their first-round position: using analytical modeling, gathering and dissecting player intel, obtaining opinions from scouts, using coaching opinions.
“You use these workouts to all help, hopefully, tilt the odds in your favor,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey then did something that was about as shocking as Perrin’s use of the “best player available” refrain to emphasize a point that the past doesn’t always predict the future with NBA draft positions.
Yep, the former San Antonio assistant general manager made a Spurs reference, specifically about how two-time NBA All-Star/four-time champion Manu Ginobili made quite the career for himself after being selected late in the second round. He was snatched by the Spurs 57th overall in 1999.
“There probably wasn’t a lot of (No. 57) picks that worked out in a big way before he was taken,” Lindsey said of Ginobili.
Other than Torraye Braggs, the Jazz’s pick at No. 57 in 1998, not a lot come to mind.
The Jazz aren’t going to use the less-than-spectacular No. 12 history as an excuse, either.
“At the end of the day, you need to be mindful of the odds and know them so you can come into the decision-making process with the right level of humility and understand value,” Lindsey said. “But it’s our job to pick well. That’s what we’re paid to do. We work very hard at it. We don’t get them all right, but we’re looking for the smallest advantages to help us make a better decision.”
And then, of course, they’ll take the best player available.
Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat for the Jazz's picks at 42 and 54.