Unfortunately for the Jazz, they were not only unable to move up in the NBA Draft, but dropped to 5th when the Cleveland Cavs won the lottery, despite only a 1.7% chance of winning. Had the Jazz moved up or been able to hold on to the 4th pick they would have been in position to draft one of the four players many believe to have the potential to be franchise players. Although, picking 5th will still allow them to draft a very good prospect, They have options, such as moving down in the draft, if the right offer comes their way. This would still allow them to pick up some additional assets. What players might the Jazz target and what teams would be willing to trade?
If the Jazz look to trade up, which teams would be willing to give up their pick? Rumors have surfaced that the Cavs may be willing to trade the top pick. What would it take for the Jazz to move up to the first overall pick? Going back to the 2011 draft the Cavs had the 1st and the 4th picks. There was talk they were looking to trade with the Jazz, who had the 3rd pick, in order to draft Kanter. Do the Cavs still want Kanter? Would the 5th pick and Kanter be enough for the Cavs to trade the top pick? Personally, I don’t think the Cavs would even consider it given the hype around this years draft. For the Jazz to get the top pick it would probably have consist of the 5th, Kanter, and the 21st pick. Or maybe the Cavs want the 2017 1st round pick the Jazz acquired from the Warriors last offseason. Would the Cavs want the 5th, Kanter, and the 2017 pick? or 5th, 21st, and the 2017 pick? or will the asking price be so high they would demand the 5th, Kanter, 21st, and the 2017 pick? If that is the case would three first round picks and a young former 3rd overall pick too much to move up four spots in the draft? That depends on how the Jazz view the draft. If they believe there is a future superstar in the draft then no asking price is too high. If not, then that may be too steep.
What about the other three teams ahead of the Jazz? I do not think the Bucks would be willing to trade back given they too are a small-market organization and having the opportunity to draft a potential star is invaluable as they would not be able to acquire one through free agency. The 76ers are probably the least likely team in the top four to trade their pick. Other than Michael Carter-Williams the 76ers have traded everything with a pulse, without receiving much in return. All this was done in an attempt to land a top pick in this years draft.
The Magic might be willing to trade back one spot, depending on what happens ahead of them. It is widely known the Magic covet a point guard. If Exum is still available with the 4th pick they draft him and don’t look back. If a team ahead of them decides to draft Exum it may be in the best interest of the Magic to move back. If Exum is gone would the 5th pick and the 35th pick be enough to swap picks? The Magic would receive a top 2nd round pick, which should still result in a solid prospect given the depth of the draft, and be able to acquire a point guard in Marcus Smart. Or would the Magic want the 5th and 21st pick? Again this would depend on how much they value whichever player is still available (Parker, Wiggins, or Embiid).
If the Jazz stay put at four and Parker, Wiggins, Embiid, or Exum happen to drop it is a no brainer. Simply take whichever player dropped. Assuming all four are gone who do they take? The next crop of players mentioned for the 5th pick have been Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Marcus Smart. If the Jazz draft any of the first three the writing is on the wall for Kanter to be on his way out as there simply not enough room to add another big with Favors, Kanter, and Gobert. Given this, the question then becomes, how much better are the Jazz with one of these players and the loss of Kanter? The same question should be asked for Smart and Trey Burke. Given the lack of depth at PG for the Jazz they would be able to play both of them for a few years. However, only one will be able to be the PG of the future.
Julius Randle brings a great rebounder and versatile scorer. He apparently has range on his jump shot, but was not able to show it while at Kentucky. He struggled at times this year against long defenders, but could potentially become a dominant low post scoring option who demands a double team. However, he does struggle defensively. Randle appears to be a more talented and athletic version of Kanter. The Jazz simply need to evaluate how much better they would be with Randle as opposed to Kanter.
Aaron Gordon might just be the best athlete in the entire draft. At the Chicago Combine he recorded the fastest lane agility time out of everyone. That is incredible when you take into account he is a PF and was faster than all the guards. He also had the 3rd highest vertical jump ever for his position (and was disappointed). There were issues that he was undersized, which has since been dispelled, as he is the same height as Randle in shoes (6’9″) with has a 6’11″ wingspan. The problem with Gordon is he can’t shoot the ball two feet (as shown by hitting only 42% of his free throws). What Gordon does provide, aside from his athletic ability, is a great defender, rebounder, and a non-stop motor. If Gordon can develop a reliable jumper, watch out! He could be great. However, if he is unable to develop a jump shot would the combination of Favors and Gordon provide enough offensive firepower?
In Marcus Smart, his leadership and toughness would be the best attributes he brings to whoever drafts him. These are also the best attributes of Trey Burke. Burke has a more consistent jump shot, whereas, Smart is a better defender and bigger. There is no doubt at this point Smart appears to be the better prospect, but how much better? For me I do not think Smart is enough of un upgrade over Burke for the Jazz to consider.
I saved Noah Vonleh for last because he is my personal preference as of now. He is very long (just under 7’5″ wingspan), has NBA 3-point range, solid defender, and a great rebounder. The knocks on Vonleh are that he is still raw and needs to add strength. He already added some muscle while at Indiana and developed a low post game. If the Jazz do keep the 5th pick I believe Vonleh gives them the best all around ability. Pairing Vonleh with Favors would give the Jazz two defenders who can protect the rim without having to sacrifice on the offensive end.
If the Jazz do not believe any of those four prospects gives enough of an upgrade over who they would replace, then moving down may be the best move. If they do move down I believe it will be to acquire a legitimate 3-point threat. The best shooters in this years draft are Doug McDermott, and Nick Stauskas. To be in position to draft either they should look to drop to 9th or 10th. This brings the Hornets (Bobcats) and the 76ers into play.
The Hornets have two first round picks, but the Jazz do not need another pick. What the Jazz would need is the 9th pick and a player or two. Looking at the roster the only players I would consider are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker. I still do not believe either/both player(s) with Stauskas or McDemott would improve the team more than keeping the pick. I just don’t see the value of anything the Hornets can offer that would be of significant value to the Jazz. Kidd-Gilchrist has been a disappointment thus far in his career and Walker has made improvements, but is still a slightly above average player (his PER is 16.82).
The 76ers own the 10th pick in the draft. Currently, the 76ers have a roster full of players that should be in the D-League. The only players of any value on the team are Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. The 76ers will not part with Carter-Williams and the 10th pick to move up to the 5th pick. However, Noel could be interesting. He would give the Jazz the ability to draft the pure shooter they need and give them options down low. With the Addition of Noel to Favors, Kanter, and Gobert. I don’t see Favors being traded and Gobert would not have much value at this point. Depending on who the Jazz prefer they can keep either Noel or Kanter and begin to shop the other one around the league.
Regardless of what the Jazz decide they will come out of this draft a better team. Whether they are able to draft someone who can help them become a contender in a few years remains to be seen. The Jazz need to capitalize this offseason and cannot afford to miss. Dennis Lindsey has appeared to have made great moves thus far in his tenure. He needs to continue his success this offseason if the Jazz rebuild is going to amount to anything.