We feel like we can field a team, a functional team, that can get better just by internal improvement. I think, again, internal improvement will be our greatest ally in really the next year or two. – Dennis Lindsey
SALT LAKE CITY — During the 2014-15 season, the Utah Jazz weren’t good enough to make the playoffs, an accomplishment accompanied by a rewarding satisfaction but a mediocre-to-bad drafting position.
On the other hand, they weren’t bad enough (or lucky enough) to end up with a high lottery pick.
Instead, they are left with the No. 12 pick in Thursday’s draft.
While they aren’t in a primo first-round spot, at least they have two second-round picks.
Despite being out of the top 10, you won’t hear Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey complain about where his team is positioned.
“That’s the nice thing about 12,” Lindsey said. “We think it’s one of the sweet spots in the draft, and we’re very excited.”
Part of that reason behind that excitement might be circumstantial. After all, the Jazz don't necessarily need to hit a home run in this draft, considering they have young talent they like in every position. In that sense, the pressure is off.
They also love Quin Snyder's vision and the results he helped the team achieve in last season's second half when the Jazz became the stingiest defensive team in the NBA.
Lindsey pointed out that the Jazz like their current position so much it could make trading down or out of the first round an intriguing option.
“We feel like we can field a team, a functional team, that can get better just by internal improvement,” Lindsey said. “I think, again, internal improvement will be our greatest ally in really the next year or two.”
Then again, the draft is an opportune time for an improving young team to bolster its roster with more talent.
To that point, the Jazz like what they see from this particular crop of players.
While they are approximately 10 spots away from claiming one of the premier picks — Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor — there are players who seem to have the upside to fit some of the Jazz’s most glaring needs.
Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin), Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Myles Turner (Texas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky), Bobby Portis (Arkansas) and Kevon Looney (UCLA) are among the group of bigs who could be available at No. 12.
Considering Utah is in the market for another reserve power forward or center to back up Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, this could be a good year for the Jazz to fill that particular gap.
“The bigs are bigger guys,” said Lindsey while complimenting the position depth in this draft. “There will be good players that are good players in the league well after where we pick.”
Although he wouldn’t go on the record to publicly evaluate individual players, Lindsey is impressed with the number of potentially good wings in the 2015 class.
Shooting guards and small forwards who might be on the board when the Jazz get their first-round turn include Kentucky’s Devin Booker, Kansas’ Kelly Oubre, Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“The wing group is a talented group, positional size, defenders,” Lindsey said. “There’s shooters, there’s the athletes, there’s the guys that may be more ready to help. Guys you may have to project out a little bit.”
Best part? There will be guys from that group available at No. 12. Any could help Utah fill another need of obtaining more players with an ability to shoot from distance and play defense on the perimeter.
The Jazz have three young point guards they like in Dante Exum, Trey Burke and Bryce Cotton, but it’s also possible they could be put in a situation where the best available player (their drafting policy) is also a playmaker a la Cameron Payne (Murray State), Tyus Jones (Duke), Jerian Grant (Notre Dame) or maybe even local favorite/lottery long-shot Delon Wright from Utah.
“We think there are good guards. We think there are good wings and we think there are good bigs,” Lindsey said. “And that’s the exciting thing for us.”
One thing is certain: The Jazz have their game plan on the board in their war room at Zions Bank Basketball Center, where the organization’s think tank will gather for Thursday's draft (7:30 p.m. MT).
Utah went through an arduous process of evaluating more than 100 players in person for pre-draft workouts over the past two months. Jazz front office members attended group combines in Portsmouth and Chicago. Their scouts were busy gathering intel throughout the college and international basketball seasons.
The staff has watched oodles of film and conducted a plethora of background interviews.
All of that was an effort to be as prepared as possible for all scenarios that could pop up Thursday night.
Lindsey said things might be adjusted based on last-minute information on players and/or what other teams intend to do, but the front office and coaches have spent hours and hours compiling a comprehensive picking order.
“If you do that up to the last second, then you could argue you’re disorganized,” Lindsey said. “There has to be a time that you lock in your order.”
That part is arguably tougher than the info-gathering process.
“The real trick, the real pixie dust magic that happens is how good can you order them?” Lindsey said, referring to the NBA hopefuls whose names have been bandied about for months in mock drafts. “How good are you at ordering them?”
They’ll find out Thursday night.