We’re glad we have multiple picks in this year’s draft in particular. That’s not to say that we’ll use all the picks. —Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey
SALT LAKE CITY — As a friendly reminder, the Utah Jazz do not have a lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft.
While that might take away some of the excitement for Thursday's event (5 p.m. MDT, ESPN, Barclays Center), that’s the price for actually making the playoffs.
Even without a high selection, there are reasons why this could be an interesting draft day for the Jazz and their fans — and that’s especially the case for fans enticed by the possibility of front-office wheeling and dealing, a very viable option for Utah, as general manager Dennis Lindsey told the Deseret News.
“The market,” Lindsey said, “seems to be valuing the picks that we do have.”
With that in mind, here are some answers — or best guesses — to five pertinent questions about the upcoming draft:
What picks do the Jazz have?
By virtue of finishing with a 51-31 record and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2012, the Jazz did not end up in the lottery. Nobody will trade that seven-game first-round series victory over the Clippers or the experience of going against the NBA champion Warriors in the second round for a better pick, but it does take some of the drama away from draft day.
As it stands, the Jazz have four draft picks — two in the first round (24 and 30) and a pair in the second round (42 and 55).
The Jazz finished in a four-way tie for the fifth-best record in the NBA with Cleveland, Toronto and the Clippers, and ended up with the 24th pick in the first round after the tiebreaker. Utah picks one selection lower in order in the second round at No. 55.
The Jazz also have the final pick of the first round (No. 30) and the 42nd pick in the second round thanks to some wheeling and dealing in years past.
The 30th pick comes to them via Golden State as part of the three-way deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Warriors from Denver in 2013. Utah also got the 60th pick in this year’s draft — along with Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, cash and other picks — but traded that second-rounder to Atlanta for Shelvin Mack two years ago.
Utah got an extra second-round pick from Detroit, thanks to the transaction that sent Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City in 2015.
All of which gives Utah plenty of assets to dangle out there as bait for a potential trade or two.
“We’re glad we have multiple picks in this year’s draft in particular,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “That’s not to say that we’ll use all the picks.”
How good is this draft?
Even though the Jazz are nowhere near the Markelle Fultz/Lonzo Ball circus territory, that doesn’t mean there won’t be value available when they finally get on the clock Thursday night late in the first round.
“Yeah, I think there’s really good players that will be outside the lottery,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “There might be some good players that you could even get in the second round. I think it’s a really deep draft.”
Perrin, who makes a living out of scouting prospects, believes this draft is particularly loaded with bumper crops of point guards and big men. To point, five of the first 11 projected picks in DraftExpress.com’s mock are point guards. That website also projects 17 big men to be selected in the first 30.
What do the Jazz want/need?
This is kind of a loaded question. The Jazz won’t know what they need until after the free agency period — unless they know something they’re not telling us. With Gordon Hayward and George Hill about to hit the market, they could be in need of a new starting point guard and a new go-to guy/All-Star/starting small forward.
It’s highly unlikely they’ll find either of those with the picks they actually hold right now anyway, so Utah will likely have to deal with those worst-case scenarios in free agency if need be.
Jazz management will openly admit to needing more shooting.
The draft, especially where Utah will select, appears to be lighter on one of the Jazz’s needs: wing players.
Perrin admitted “it might be a little tough” to find a wing compared to playmakers and posts when it’s the Jazz’s turn to go.
Who will the Jazz pick?
The Jazz have put in a ton of work, bringing in 76 different players for pre-draft workouts and interviewing a bunch of players at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and scouring the world’s courts to find diamonds in the rough. They’ve also spent countless hours watching film, bantering back and forth about the positives and negatives of oodles of players and chatted with a ton of coaches and scouts.
Even with all of that footwork, they don’t know what they’re going to do at this point.
That might not happen until they’re on the clock Thursday night.
Here are who some draft experts believe the Jazz will take:
ESPN.com: North Carolina center Tony Bradley (“a terrific rebounder” with good size and length but “teams worry about his heavy legs”) at No. 24 and Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon (“an upside pick” who can shoot).
DraftExpress.com: Australian shooting guard Terrance Ferguson at No. 24 and Colorado guard Derrick White.
NBADraft.net: Michigan power forward DJ Wilson (Utah disputed reports that it gave him a draft guarantee) at No. 24 and Cal big man Ivan Rabb at No. 30.
USA Today: Wilson (“a perfect lanky stretch-four”) at No. 24 and White (“could help them right away”) at No. 30.
CBS Sports: SMU small forward Semi Ojeleye at No. 24 and Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans.
Sporting News: Duke guard Frank Jackson (he’s had two interviews with the Jazz, the website reported) and Bradley at No. 30.
Fox Sports: Latvian center Anzejs Pasecniks at No. 24 and White at No. 30.
The Ringer: German big Isaiah Hartenstein (“impressive perimeter skills”) at No. 24 and Evans (“lightning-quick point guard”) at No. 30.
In other words: Who knows?
One more prediction: Best player available.
What about guys with local ties?
This will be a fun sideshow for Beehive State basketball fans. There are multiple players with local interest who could — and some will — hear their names called at some point.
That group includes Frank Jackson (Lone Peak), Kyle Kuzma (Utah), Eric Mika (BYU) and Caleb Swanigan (former Salt Lake resident).
Jackson is the highest-ranked athlete of this group on ESPN.com analyst Chad Ford’s Big Board. The Duke guard is ranked No. 27, having impressed at the combine before needing a foot surgery. “He is super athletic,” Ford wrote, “plays both backcourt positions and shoots it well.” Most mocks have him going somewhere between the mid-20s and mid-30s.
Kuzma could go as high as 20, if the NBADraft.net projections pan out. Like Jackson, the former Ute power forward impressed at the combine. “Kuzma has the physical tools, fluidity and budding skill set to fit the role of a modern-day NBA power forward,” according to DraftExpress.com.
Swanigan, a Purdue power forward who lived in Utah from the time he was 5 until he was 13, is ranked No. 29 overall by NBADraft.net.
Mika, who left BYU after his sophomore season, is the dark horse of the group. The 6-foot-10 big man did impress the Jazz in his pre-draft audition, though.
“Eric had a very good workout for us,” Perrin said. “He really competed, really ran the court well.”
The Jazz liked seeing Mika showcase some offensive skills, including his jumper, that he wasn’t able to while at BYU. Whether a team will use up a limited draft resource on him remains to be seen, of course.
"Can he be drafted? Yes," Perrin said. "Can he go undrafted? There’s (also) that possibility, yes."
Welcome to the uncertainty of the draft.