I’ve been in the ultra-secret NBA lottery drawing room, I saw the inner workings of the NBA’s decision-making machine and been in the belly of the beast. I attended the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, talked with numerous executives, coaches, players and scouts, and I have returned to the Beehive State to share all the knowledge gained from my pilgrimage.

In other words, it’s time to open up the mailbag!

To kick things off, let me give you a glimpse into my personal anxieties. I was one of just 18 reporters allowed into the lottery drawing room. When I was notified that I would be one of the lucky members of the media that would know the fate of the lottery-eligible teams before the rest of the world, I felt honored and excited and eager.

Soon after that initial feeling of excitement though, fear entered my brain. What if the lone Utah Jazz beat reporter is chosen to be in the lottery room and the Jazz end up not only not getting a top-four pick, but falling down below the projected ninth spot? What if they end up with the 13th pick and it’s on my watch?

If that happened, would Jazz fans blame me as the bad luck charm that doomed their lottery night? Would I ever live down that moment?

I shared that fear on social media (partially hoping to nip those reactions in the bud), so Tiffanee here was making a friendly joke about the situation. But, I’m not joking when I say that was truly what was going through my head that night.

Now onto some bigger fish.

I got quite a few questions about potential prospects and while I want to save some of the more player-specific answers for the weeks to come (a lot of pre-draft coverage is on the way with a lot of player breakdowns), this question really had me thinking hard and I thought I’d let you in on my thought process when I’m considering players.

My instinct is to say that I like UCF’s Taylor Hendricks more as a prospect. He’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and his defensive quickness, agility and versatility are what stand out. He’s also super athletic to the point of being a lob threat and being able to rise up for pull-ups that have little chance of being blocked on a close-out.

Overall, Hendricks is the better offensive player of these two prospects and he moves on defense kind of like the Brooklyn Nets’ Mikal Bridges, and if a prospect is making me think about one of the recent Defensive Player of the Year candidates, things could be a lot worse.

But if we’re talking about which prospect I like better for the Utah Jazz, well that is a different question.

Related
Three of the top four draft picks could be on the move
What we learned about the Jazz in Chicago — and what to expect moving forward

Houston’s Jarace Walker is 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the shoulders of a linebacker, the strength of a traditional NBA power forward and the type of defensive speed that allows him to switch one through five. If I’m thinking about the future of the Jazz’s defense, Walker seems like the better choice.

There’s been a few times during this year’s playoffs where I’ve thought that lack of strength and lack of physicality have been the greatest downfall for some of the teams that have been sent home.

Physicality was one of the things the Jazz struggled to contend with last season. At times, Jazz coach Will Hardy was playing Udoka Azubuike in meaningful minutes just so the Jazz would have a stronger body on the floor.

The Jazz just don’t have a player on the roster with the kind of intimidating strength that Walker brings to the table and the fact that he’s able to guard on the perimeter and interior and make seamless transitions between the two makes me like him for the Jazz more than Hendricks.

Again, I think that Hendricks is a special player. But I think the Jazz would be better served by Walker.

It’s hard for me to imagine the Jazz trading into the second round. If they want good, young talent that they are going to spend time developing, they have the ninth, 16th and 28th overall picks in the draft. So, why not take a first-rounder.

If the Jazz were going to make a trade, it feels more likely that they would send out one or both of the lower first-round picks as part of a deal to bring a proven NBA player to the roster.

I’m not even certain that the Jazz will be making a deal with their draft picks though. This draft class is so deep that it wouldn’t shock me if the Jazz stick with at least two, if not all three, of their first-round picks.

Piggy-backing off the last question, I’d say that we are in for a pretty wild draft night. I don’t know that we’ll see too many trades prior to draft night, but I expect for there to be a lot of movement on draft night.

There are quite a few teams that could be making moves that come down to the wire. As I said in my most recent Jazz Insiders Newsletter, the only sure thing in this year’s draft is that Victor Wembanyama will go No. 1 overall to the San Antonio Spurs, and outside of that, buckle up.

These are all great questions, so let’s take them one at a time.

How much do NBA teams value personality, culture fit, worth ethic, etc.? Well, it really depends on the level of talent.

By all accounts and reports, Wembanyama is a humble, sweet, fun guy and a great teammate. But, what if the reports said that he was a difficult person to be around and he was arrogant? Honestly, it probably would not keep him from going No. 1 overall because he’s just that good.

In general, teams really care about work ethic and fit and the personality of the player they are drafting. No one wants to upset the chemistry of a team or work with a player who is not going to be invested.

So, will a team pass on a player based on their attitude? Absolutely they will. If there is a player who seems like he would be a better fit with the culture of a team, even if he’s maybe slightly less skilled than another player, who maybe shows some red flags with personality traits or attitude, it could mean the difference between being drafted or being passed on.

Related
Are the Utah Jazz the NBA’s most interesting team ahead of the 2023 draft?

To answer the final question from @jjcottle, I’ll tell you a perfect example from the draft combine.

Emoni Bates was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15-year-old and was expected to be the No. 1 player of the 2022 draft class. But injuries and off-the-court issues derailed his draft stock. At the combine, not only did Bates have a great physical showing — impressing during 3-point shooting drills and scrimmages — but he also blew teams away in his interviews with them.

He described how therapy has been helping him to center himself, he was open with teams about his previous struggles and how they have made him better as a player and a person and he came across as a hungry player who is ready to prove himself.

Right now Bates is expected to be a second-round pick, so I don’t think that his interviews are going to make any teams take him at a top selection. But I do think his interviews really boosted his stock and made a lot of teams take a closer look at him.

The Jazz have been very quiet about who they are bringing in for draft workouts. They are trying their very best to not tip off the competition about who they might be favoring.

Since the Jazz have a range of picks throughout the first round that gives them the ability to bring in a massive amount of players that are projected to go anywhere from the top-four to the second round.

I’m working on bringing some more concrete information on this front soon.

Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates plays during game, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in Detroit. Bates appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 15. He lost some favor due to injuries and off-the-court-issues, but showed maturity and promise during the NBA combine. | Carlos Osorio, Associated Press