Should Jazz Draft For Fit, Need, Or Best Player Available?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA draft has many dogmas. Depending on a roster’s current makeup, building plan, or front office strategy, teams may draft players based on their fit with the roster, team needs, where they are drafting, or simply choose to take the best player available. With the Utah Jazz current makeup, which draft night strategy makes the most sense?
First, we must analyze where the Jazz are as a franchise before predicting their best course of action.
What are the Jazz Needs?
The Jazz are a firm playoff competitor and a borderline Western Conference contender based on matchups and health. The team has one of the best set starting lineups in the NBA, with a healthy mixture of veteran experience, youth, and players in their prime.
Star power is not an issue, as both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert earned their first All-Star nods last season and will likely be perennial All-Stars and All-NBA candidates for the next several seasons.
The Jazz have several high level supporting players in Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson, assuming he returns to the roster next season.
However, the team lacks depth beyond its top six players, with little projectable youth assuming heavy rotation minutes next season. Thus, the Jazz need playable depth, whether that’s through free agency or the draft.
During the team’s disappointing first-round loss, the Jazz proved to lack versatile wing defenders, and frontcourt players capable of help next season playing either the power forward or center position.
But while the Jazz appear set for next season, they must also keep a focused eye on the team’s not so distant future. Mike Conley will be a free agent next offseason, as could Gobert if he doesn’t agree to an extension this offseason. That could provide a long term for another guard and a center in the next few years. Finding a young option through the draft could have longterm upside.
Who is Available in Free Agency?
While the Jazz will look at the draft as a pathway to improve their roster, the team’s best option to improve the roster will come through free agency. Even can’t miss prospects atop most draft’s fail to help their teams win games at a high level early in their careers.
With the Jazz owning the 23rd overall pick, finding a player that makes a significant difference next season is unlikely, though not unheard of.
Even if the team resigns Clarkson, the Jazz should have both the mid-level exception, and the bi-annual exception available to them when free agency opens. With a relatively deep class of reserve bigs and wing defenders, the Jazz should feel comfortable heading into free agency knowing they will emerge with playable solutions to their most glaring needs.
While that doesn’t exclude the Jazz from drafting for immediate help next season it shouldn’t feel like a requirement on draft night.
Do Jazz Account For Fit?
Every team in the NBA must account for fit when adding a player to their roster. Whether it’s team culture, market size, or market culture, teams must be aware of a player’s personal needs when welcoming them into the NBA.
The Jazz take particular interest in this aspect of the pre-draft process understanding Utah presents a unique environment to its players. Salt Lake City is one of the smaller markets in the league, with a low African American population.
Otherwise, the Jazz appear to have one of the healthier locker rooms in the league as many players from all experiences and backgrounds that have proven they can succeed alongside the team’s stars and role players. Mitchell has proven to be a strong leader when welcoming newcomers to the roster.
Additionally, the Jazz tend to have a type of player they like to target. Traditionally, the team has looked at players from bluechip schools, with defensive upside due to their physical makeup.
Which Approach Should the Jazz Take?
Due to the Jazz current roster makeup, they should have quite a few options on draft night to satisfy whatever they are looking for.
Should the team opt to draft for need, hoping to find an immediate impact player, it’s unlikely they’d draft a backcourt player. Between Conley, Mitchell, Clarkson, and Joe Ingles, the team has plenty of ball handlers capable of initiating the offense.
That could leave the Jazz targeting wing and frontcourt depth. In that case, the team would likely focus on names like Desmond Bane, Josh Green, Isaiah Stewart, Tyler Bey, or Xavier Tillman.
If the Jazz are more concerned with fit, understanding they can address their needs through free agency, players like Tre Jones or Cassius Winston who are known for their leadership at blueblood colleges would make sense. Both players would sere as long term insurance in case Conley’s time with the Jazz comes to an end after next season.
Finally, the Jazz could draft the best player available. While that phrase can be applied in several ways, we can use it to mark the player with the high upside of becoming a star player. Those names would include Tyrese Maxey should he slip in the draft, Cole Anthony, Jaden McDaniels, or Tyrell Terry.
The draft will be held on November 18.
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