UTAH JAZZ

Utah Jazz Mailbag: Would Jazz Make All Three Draft Picks?

Mar 12, 2024, 3:50 PM

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Adam Silver announcing the Utah Jazz NBA Draft Pick (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

(Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Welcome to the Utah Jazz mailbag where every week our NBA insiders answer your questions on social media about your favorite team.

Each week we will send out a prompt on KSL Sports ThreadsInstagramX, and Facebook pages asking for the questions you have about the Jazz.

Then, we’ll respond to as many as we can in that week’s mailbag.

Jazz Mailbag: Could Jazz Make Three Picks?

Question: Do you anticipate the Jazz using all three draft picks again this year? Or consolidate for a trade-up scenario, or, use them to trade for a starter-level player?

Answer: Thank you for the question Cam, but first, let’s quickly reset which picks the Jazz are projected to have in this year’s draft.

If the regular season were to end today, the Jazz would have the 32nd pick via the Washington Wizards, the 29th pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the ninth-best odds of moving up into the top four picks via their own selection.

I list the lottery odds because they could have a major effect on how the Jazz approach this offseason, and the overall value of the pick.

If the Jazz were to move into the top four, I’d suspect their odds of trading the pick would decrease significantly. If they were to end up with the ninth or tenth pick, I could foresee a scenario where they package picks to either move up, or move out of the draft entirely.

As it stands, the Jazz are poised to have three second-year players on the roster next season, plus Walker Kessler before even making a draft pick.

While that could change this summer, all three players are under contract, and have shown enough on the court to warrant a return next season.

If the Jazz were to add three more rookies, they’d have seven players on the roster still in the early developmental stages of their careers, without a logical way to get them all on the floor.

So, I’d be stunned if the Jazz were to make three picks in the top 35 of this year’s draft.

Understanding that if a superstar were to become available via trade this summer, the Jazz would be aggressive in pursuing them, but if we were to remove that hypothetical, here’s how I could see the draft strategy shaping up.

I expect the Jazz to make their own pick to add another top-1o player to the roster. While the Jazz do have more talent on the team than their final standings will indicate, they are still clearly a step below every playoff roster in the West.

Eight of the West’s ten best teams have at least two players who have made the All-Star team in recent seasons.

The two that don’t are the Oklahoma City Thunder who will soon have three in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren, and the Denver Nuggets who have two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, and the best player in NBA history never to make an All-Star team in Jamal Murray.

The Jazz don’t have that type of firepower, and one of the best ways to find it is by hitting on your lottery picks in the draft.

Beyond that, how they approach the 29th and 32nd picks is a huge unknown. The Jazz could package them together to move higher into the 20s, they could stand pat and draft a more NBA-ready player, they could trade them for a current NBA veteran, or, and this would be my guess, they’ll trade them for more picks in future drafts.

Last year, three of the final seven first-round picks were traded on draft night. Then, the first ten picks of the second round were all traded.

If I had to bet, I’d say the Jazz will add another lottery pick this summer, and their second and third picks will be used in trades.

Q: Could I see Walker Kessler rebounding and having a better third season?

A: Kessler’s slow second season has come as a bit of a surprise, especially considering he’s not been the team’s full-time starter after filling that spot over the final 40 games of the season last year.

The center had a funky offseason traveling with Team USA but barely played at the FIBA World Cup, then got hurt in the first game of the regular season, and never seems to have found his rhythm.

Kessler should be back with the Team USA Select Team this summer prior to the Olympics, but should have more of a traditional offseason to work on his game.

Ideally, that should help him find some momentum heading into next season.

But, let’s look at how other third-year players have fared in recent seasons, and whether it’s fair to expect Kessler to make a significant improvement after another summer.

Among players in their third year in the league this season, both Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Johnson have had major breakouts.

Both players had underwhelming contributions in their first two seasons before bursting onto the season this year.

The common theme for the two wings was opportunity as both saw their playing time increase dramatically from their rookie and sophomore seasons.

Two other players, Herb Jones and Jalen Suggs, also saw improvements in their third seasons, though it was largely driven by more efficient three-point shooting, which I’m not sure applies as heavily to Kessler.

While it still could happen, I don’t expect to see Kessler’s game evolving much from a skills standpoint in the immediate future.

Rather than thinking about spacing the floor which was a common talking point this summer, the Jazz would benefit from Kessler becoming a better rebounder and more consistent free-throw shooter.

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If Kessler can’t connect on free throws, it’s hard to play him late in close games, which lowers his value considerably.

Furthermore, he needs to cut down on the number of games that could be considered no-shows.

Kessler has 13 games when he’s scored four points or fewer this year, despite never playing fewer than 13 minutes in those games. He had 15 of those games as a rookie, but only three after becoming a full-time rotation player in the second half of the year.

Ultimately, I think concerns about Kessler’s second season have been a bit overblown, but his lack of improvement in his second season may require fans to lower their expectations on his overall ceiling, and the hope for a true breakout in his third year.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Utah Jazz Mailbag: Would Jazz Make All Three Draft Picks?