SALT LAKE CITY — The 2020 NBA draft was originally scheduled to be held Thursday night, but as with so many other things, it has been pushed back during the coronavirus pandemic as the May draft combine couldn’t be held, nor could individual team workouts.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported last week that the draft will now be held on Oct. 16, a few days after the expected conclusion of the 2020 NBA season in Orlando. Nevertheless, with it being “draft day,” here’s a look back at some of the most impactful drafts for the Utah Jazz over the last 20 years, listed in chronological order (Andrei Kirilenko just misses the cut, as he was drafted in 1999).
As the turn of the century brought the final few seasons of the John Stockton-Karl Malone era, the Jazz were still good enough to where their draft picks were late in each round. Sure, they drafted a few decent rotation players such as DeShawn Stevenson in 2000, Jarron Collins in 2001 (oh, Raul Lopez, instead of Tony Parker, too) and Mo Williams in 2003, but no one who truly could be a building block for the future.
The 2003-2004 campaign, the first without Stockton and Malone, was supposed to be a disaster, but with Jerry Sloan guiding the way still, Utah managed to win 42 games and just missed the playoffs. That didn’t help their draft situation, however, and they ended up with the 14th, 16th and 21st picks of the first round.
They essentially struck out on all three, taking Kirk Snyder, Kris Humphries and Pavel Podkolzin.
Later that summer, however, the Jazz splurged in free agency for really the first time ever, signing Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Injuries plagued the squad, however, and Utah ended up with the sixth pick of the 2005 draft, along with the 27th pick after they traded Podkolzin to the Dallas Mavericks).
The 2005 draft had a good deal of talent at the very top, but then a drop off around the fifth pick. With the sixth pick, it appeared the Jazz wouldn’t be able to get one of those impact players, but they traded it and that 27th pick to the Portland Trail Blazers to move up to No. 3, where they drafted Deron Williams out of Illinois.
Looking back, Williams’ legacy in Utah is complicated. He was tough to work with, had spats with Sloan and was ultimately traded in 2011 a few weeks after Sloan abruptly retired. As far as his career overall is concerned, he had a rapid decline in the latter stages of it, and Chris Paul, who was taken fourth overall, is still a high-level point guard in the league.
But during his 51⁄2 seasons with the Jazz, Williams was simply marvelous on the court. He averaged at least 16.2 points and 9.3 assists every year after his rookie campaign, becoming one of the best point guards in the league (the best at one point, some argue). Most importantly, Utah had success with him, Boozer and Okur, the height of which was a 2007 trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Secondarily, the Jazz got a good return when they traded him to the New Jersey Nets, landing Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two draft picks, one of which became Enes Kanter (the other became Gorgui Dieng, whom the Jazz traded to help acquire Trey Burke in the 2013 draft). Additionally, Williams and Sloan made amends a few years ago.
For years up to this point, there was talk around the Jazz that they would eventually get an unprotected first-round pick from the New York Knicks because of a 2004 trade in which Utah got the pick from the Phoenix Suns.
For all the talk, the pick ended up not being as high as some hoped it would be, as the Jazz selected No. 9. Additionally, fans were generally displeased when the selection became forward Gordon Hayward instead of a big man such as Cole Aldrich or Ed Davis (yes, that Ed Davis).
Hayward continued to be a polarizing player for much of his time with Utah, as evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t offered a rookie contract extension by the Jazz, and then many thought the team overpaid when it matched the Charlotte Hornets’ 4-year, $63 million offer for him in 2014.
By the end of that deal, however, Hayward had become an All-Star and led Utah back to the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in five years. That season, he averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a steal per game.
Of course, just a few months later, he held Jazz fans’ attention captive on July 4 after it was reported by Chris Haynes that Hayward had chosen to sign with the Boston Celtics, but Hayward’s camp refuted it until later that evening when he released the now-infamous Players’ Tribune article announcing his decision.
Since then, Hayward has continued to get booed every time he touches the ball when the Celtics play at Vivint Arena, but that notwithstanding, there’s no denying he was a big part in getting the Jazz back to their current level of relevance.
In the 2012-2013 season, the Jazz went a decent 43-39, but missed the playoffs by two games, giving them the 14th pick in the 2013 draft. They also had the 21st pick from the Deron Williams trade. They needed a point guard, and packaged the two picks — Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng — for the No. 9 pick, Trey Burke.
Jazz fans for the most part were ecstatic, as Burke had just been named the Naismith Player of the Year in college basketball, but despite some bright moments, his time in Utah wasn’t very good and he was ultimately traded to the Washington Wizards in 2016 for just a 2021 second-round pick.
Later on that draft night, however, the Jazz struck another deal that at the time received far less fanfare than the Burke trade when they sent the 46th pick, Erick Green, and cash to the Denver Nuggets for the 27th pick, Rudy Gobert.
Utah didn’t really need another young big man, as it had Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the fold, but Gobert had been considered one of the best prospects in the draft before performing rather terribly at the draft combine and in some of his individual team workouts. He had been tremendous in his workout with the Jazz, however, so why not take a swing for a low price?
Gobert wasn’t good his rookie year, as he averaged just 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 45 games, and he spent part of it in the NBA D-League (now the G League). In the summer of 2014 at the World Cup, however, Gobert was tremendous, and he carried that over into the fall with Utah, where he produced good numbers despite limited playing time.
That coincided with Kanter growing sour with the Jazz, and he was traded in February 2015. Gobert became the starting center, and has turned into a franchise pillar, having been named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons and an All-Star this season.
While the Jazz made the playoffs for the first time in five years and beat the LA Clippers in the first round, fan happiness about that became overshadowed by the idea that All-Star Hayward could leave in free agency.
On May 27, 19 days after getting eliminated in the second round by the Golden State Warriors, Utah hosted a predraft workout with an intriguing prospect, Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell. His presence there was interesting because prospects generally only work out for teams with picks in the range they’ll likely get taken, and he was expected to be a late lottery pick, while the Jazz weren’t going to choose until No. 24.
The workout was closed to the media, but Mitchell was incredibly impressive in an interview setting afterward, and it was later revealed he also dominated in the workout. Over the next month, there was talk Utah could try to move up in the draft, perhaps to take Mitchell, and then on draft night, the Jazz again swung a trade with Denver, which had selected him No. 13. Utah traded Trey Lyles and that 24th pick, Tyler Lydon, to the Nuggets in exchange.
Less than two weeks later, Mitchell wowed the summer league at the Huntsman Center during the same week as the Hayward-to-Boston saga. Suddenly there was some pressure on Mitchell to step in and perform, and although he struggled a bit initially once his rookie year started, soon he had replaced Rodney Hood in the starting lineup and is now an All-Star with a big shoe deal.