It’s here. NBA draft season is upon us.
We’re only about five months late, but hey, better Nov. 18 than never, right?
As draft night grows near, it is the perfect time to revisit what it is the Utah Jazz are looking for with their lone first-round pick at No. 23.
Before we get to the specifics of the draft, it’s important to be realistic about where the Jazz are as a franchise and where they want to be. Right now the Jazz are a middling playoff team in the Western Conference that hasn’t proven they can get very far in postseason play.
That’s not the most flattering of pictures to paint, but it’s the honest truth.
“Going from good to great is hard,” general manager Justin Zanik said after the Jazz left the NBA bubble at the end of the playoff’s first round.
In order to go from good to great, the Jazz have to be deliberate and careful about how they build the roster. They have Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in their primes and with a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic set to return next season, there’s no time to waste.
To that end, the Utah Jazz have three needs that are pretty easily defined: defensive wing depth, a backup center and a potential third playmaker/point guard.
“Anyone who is an active and athletic defender with defensive integrity, and doesn’t sacrifice offensive spacing, will be someone of interest to us.” — Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations
They aren’t looking for a star or to make a blockbuster move, which puts them in a pretty good spot as far as teams on the rise are concerned. They have their cornerstones and a starting unit that is reliable and capable at the highest offensive levels. They just need a little more on the bench to push them into the upper echelon of the NBA.
Dennis Lindsey, the Jazz’s executive vice president of basketball operations, was pretty clear in the type of players the Jazz would seek out to improve the team in the offseason.
“Anyone who is an active and athletic defender with defensive integrity, and doesn’t sacrifice offensive spacing, will be someone of interest to us,” he said.
It’s a little hard to imagine the Jazz taking a center with the 23rd pick in the draft. They already have a young project of a center in Tony Bradley, and it can be very difficult to guarantee success with a youthful center. Now is not the time for more projects or waiting for a couple years on a high risk, high reward player.
It’s also very possible that the Jazz look to the internal works in progress that they already have to fill some of their rotational needs. The Jazz brass and coaching staff have not been secretive at all about their confidence in their development program and using some of their two-way and G League players in larger roles.
There’s Miye Oni, Jarrell Brantley, Rayjon Tucker and Juwan Morgan who have all shown flashes of being able to provide what the Jazz need, but they need more time on the court during the course of the regular season in order to gel with the rest of the team. In particular, it’s possible that the Jazz look in-house to fill the reserve playmaker role with Oni, who stood out during the seeding games in Orlando.
With the way that Lindsey phrased the needs of the team and the shortcomings that were on display during the most recent playoffs, it is very likely that the Jazz look to add an athletic defensive wing with the 23rd pick in the 2020 draft.
The NBA draft is usually one of the most exciting nights on the NBA calendar, but the usual pomp and circumstance will be a little short-lived this year. The turnaround time between the draft and free agency is going to go by in the blink of an eye. With the season set to begin on Dec. 22, the Jazz can’t really afford to miss on two free agent signings like they did with Ed Davis and Jeff Green.
This puts quite a bit of pressure on the Jazz front office and the intel they’ve been collecting, not only on draft prospects, but also on potential acquisitions around the league. They need players who will have an immediate impact and be able to adapt to Quin Snyder’s system in short order.
It’s all right around the corner.