Utah Jazz Mailbag: What Happens If Jazz Win The Lotto?

Mar 19, 2024, 3:55 PM | Updated: 4:45 pm

A general view of the atmosphere prior to the first round of the NBA Draft...

A general view of the atmosphere prior to the first round of the NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sarah Stier/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: What If Jazz Win Draft Lottery?

Question: If the Jazz get some lottery luck and jump into the top 3, would you rather use the pick or trade it for a more established player?

Answer: This is an aspect of the Jazz offseason that has been lost in the shuffle, especially in their race to keep their top-ten protected first-round pick.

While many people, myself included, have spent more time watching the Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets to see if they will win enough games to keep the Jazz inside the draft’s top ten,  little attention has been paid to the potential to up via the lottery.

If the Jazz finish with the ninth-worst record in the NBA, which is the overwhelming likelihood with 14 games left in the season, they’ll have a 19.8 percent chance of landing one of the top four selections in the draft.

A top-four pick wouldn’t be expected, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.

If the Jazz were to move up into the top four I suspect they’ll be far more likely to hold onto the pick than if they stay at nine or drop to ten.

While this draft is far from a can’t-miss inside the top four, that is still the area where the odds of landing a star are the highest.

I’d invite readers to go back through past drafts looking at the top four picks alone. You’d be shocked how seemingly every draft in the top four has one great player, two good players, and one bust.

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There are obvious exceptions, but generally, there is one All-Star selected, two high-level rotation players, and one player who flames out of the league within a handful of seasons.

After the top four picks, there will generally be one more All-Star taken in the lottery, but the odds of finding a true contributor diminish considerably.

With the Jazz still needing to add top-end talent to the roster, and not needing another slew of young players added this summer, I think they’d welcome a high-lottery selection, but will be open to moving their pick if it stays at nine or ten, given the right trade package.

Q: Do the Jazz really have their No. 1 guy? Or do they still have to keep finding it?

A: I do not think the Jazz have a true number-one guy on the roster, and while there may have been hope that Lauri Markkanen could evolve into that after his breakout last season, we haven’t seen that type of progress in his game.

For Markkanen to become a true top player on a contender he’d have to be a far better shot-creator and playmaker, and neither is a strength right now.

Make no mistake, Markkanen should be in the All-Star conversation every season, and his isolation efficiency is very good, but he rarely finds himself in isolation situations, and he remains an average passer at best.

I believe Keyonte George is going to be a high-level NBA scorer in his prime and could be a 20-point-per-game scorer as soon as next season. I also believe he could surpass Markkanen as the Jazz’s go-to scoring option by his third season in the league.

And still, I don’t know if that’s good enough to be a primary scoring option in the modern NBA when the best players in the league are all up near, or above 30 points per game.

The tough news is the Jazz aren’t likely to find that top-tier player in the draft without a more serious approach to tanking which they’ve been unwilling to do over the last two seasons.

The good news is they have the draft capital, the young players, and the veteran salaries needed to make a convincing trade offer when that type of player next hits the market.

The question of when that player hits the market remains anybody’s guess, but the Jazz are in a position to be players in that market when the time comes.

We answered these questions and more on the latest Jazz Notes podcast, catch it every Tuesday wherever you download podcasts!

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

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

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: What Happens If Jazz Win The Lotto?