SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, the Utah Jazz were fortunate to end up with two players — Dante Exum and Rodney Hood — who were pegged higher on their draft board than where they ended up picked.
The Jazz had Exum listed as the third-best player of the 2014 draft. He fell to them at No. 5.
The Jazz had Hood in lottery range, and he dropped to them at No. 23.
The fact that it happened twice for Utah last year plays into Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey’s theory that you have to expect the unexpected on draft night, whether it be a surprise pick or an unforeseen trade.
And the Jazz will be prepared for all of that Thursday when they head into the 2015 draft with the 12th, 42nd and 54th picks.
“You can do all of the projections you want on who guys might need and want and a trade will turn everything upside down,” Lindsey said. “What’s underplayed is if one trades up into the early part of the draft and they take someone.”
That can throw off everybody’s plans.
“Then, it’s literally, you can do math equations,” he continued, “and you can get into the millions of different scenarios on how the draft could play out just because of one decision.”
The Jazz are heading into this draft with three big needs: improved point-guard play, perimeter scoring and defending, and another backup big.
Lindsey likes where the Jazz are positioned at No. 12, even calling it a “sweet spot,” but he appears ready to wheel and deal to accomplish one or more of those needs if the right opportunity presents itself ahead of Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. draft.
If not, Utah will be satisfied with its late-lottery selection.
“Usually this time of year I’m hating pretty good. I can find a few players that I can like but never close enough to get to our pick,” Lindsey said. “But this year, there’s very good players, different skillsets, different levels of experience and readiness, different positions.”
With so many options available, the Jazz have spent long hours on the phone, in meetings, in the film room and in the gym trying to effectively evaluate the field.
“It makes our task a little longer and a little harder,” he said, “but that’s the kind of limit you want to have a good set of options. I do think we do have that with the 12th pick.”
As with every draft day there are rumors, and there have been multiple claims made about the Jazz’s wishes. The team is reportedly interested in bringing unrestricted free agent and former Jazzman Paul Millsap back into the fold, according to 1280 The Zone’s Spence Checketts.
Others have reported that the Jazz are trying to move up from No. 12 (Jazz play-by-play announcer David Locke on a New York radio station) and that Utah is looking to improve its point guard situation (NBA.com’s Sam Smith).
The Millsap scenario might mean that the Jazz could look to move Derrick Favors, even though Lindsey continues to rave about the power forward’s progress and potential to help Utah win. Trey Burke is often brought up as a possible trade piece, too.
Lindsey said he’s had many conversations with Jazz coach Quin Snyder about the possibility of playing more small ball, which would make a possible Millsap move an intriguing possibility because of the power forward’s improved shooting beyond the arc.
The last two NBA champions — Golden State and San Antonio — both used small lineups at times en route to their titles. The Jazz haven’t been able to do that much over recent years because of the abundance of good bigs, beginning with when the team boasted a frontcourt of Millsap, Al Jefferson, Favors and Enes Kanter.
Going small now would mean the Jazz would sit their biggest defensive strength, 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert.
“The thing we’d say specifically with us is we’ve had good fortune to collect a lot of good, young players and people, and they’re big,” Lindsey said. “They’re big for their position. We feel as though we want to capitalize on our size.”
Adding another big like Myles Turner (Texas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky), Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky) or Bobby Portis (Arkansas) could reinforce that big-man platoon and the Jazz's bigger-is-better mantra.
Lindsey is cognizant that his team used a bigger lineup to finish strongly in last season's second half.
“I think we saw the last 30 games what that can mean relative to our team. There’s no reason why for us to run from that,” Lindsey said. “In many ways, Derrick bails us out of that option. If Derrick was not as mobile or if he wasn’t good with the game plan or lacked instincts covering fours, it would be much more difficult.
“Derrick and his intelligence and mobility coupled with his size allows us to be unique. I would imagine we’ll continue down that path.”
That said, Lindsey wants the Jazz to be structured so they can adapt to lineups other teams throw at them, big and small.
“Roster building in my opinion is like having a good bullpen,” the Jazz GM said. “You better be able to match situations very well, because if you don’t that situation will come up and you’re in a bad way. We’re certainly mindful of that.”