Jazz Draft Reveals Team Building Strategy

Jun 27, 2024, 8:27 PM

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge laugh during a press conference at ...

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge laugh during a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus (Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – With the 2024 NBA Draft in the rearview mirror, Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik’s vision for the Utah Jazz has been revealed.

Collect highly-touted recruits, size, and upside, and let the chips fall where they may.

Related: Cody Williams Excited About Fit In Utah

Jazz Plan Revealed In Last Six Draft Picks

Over the last two years, the Jazz have made six draft picks under the watchful eyes of Ainge and Zanik, and there are common themes with every selection.

A Prospect’s High School Career Matters

Of the six picks over the last two drafts, four selections have been top 10 rated prospects in their high school class.

Isaiah Collier (1, 2023), Cody Williams (5, 2023), Kyle Filipowski (4, 2022), and Keyonte George (7, 2022) were all top 10 recruits according to the Recruiting Service Consensus Index.

Taylor Hendricks (46, 2022) and Brice Sensabaugh (49, 2022) were both ranked in the top 50.

While prospect rankings are far from a foolproof system, they do measure the consistency of a player’s performance through their U18, high school, and AAU appearances against their peers.

Betting on a player’s high school production, while not overvaluing their college season, good or bad, is a more patient approach to the draft, without sacrificing youth and upside.

NBA Size Matters

Among the Jazz’s six draft picks, three players are 6-foot-6 or taller, and no selection is considered undersized for their position.

Filipowski is 6-foot-10.75, Hendricks is 6-foot-8.25, and Williams is 6-foot-6.5.

Collier is measured at 6-foot-2.5 with a powerful 205-pound frame. Neither George nor Sensabaugh had their official measurements taken at the draft combine last year, but have proved to have adequate size in their rookie seasons.

Teamed with veterans Walker Kessler, Lauri Markkanen, and John Collins, all of whom stand 6-foot-8.25 or taller and the Jazz are beginning to reflect a team with strong positional size throughout the roster.

Multiple seven-footers are not the key to unlocking title runs, but the NBA’s last two champions, the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, each had excellent positional size, and it was clear in their dominant playoff performances.

Jazz Aren’t Afraid Of Upside Swings

Prior to selecting Filipowski, still just a sophomore, the Jazz drafted five consecutive one-and-done prospects out of college, and no player older than 20 years old.

Entering each of the last two drafts, it seemed likely the Jazz would trade at least one of their three picks, but wound up making every selection.

And, perhaps with the exception of Filipowski, the lone second-round selection, each player could be classified as a high-upside swing, with considerable bust potential.

Related: What Does Kyle Filipowski Offer Jazz?

Hendricks was a late riser in the 2023 draft cycle due to his impressive shooting numbers and versatile defense, but did so on a smaller stage at UCF against unproven competition.

George’s offensive skillset reflected some of the top guards in the NBA, but his shooting numbers and negative assist-to-turnover ratio were potential red flags.

Sensabaugh had one of the best offensive seasons from a freshman in recent years, but his unique frame and style of play were cause for concern at the NBA level.

Williams had excellent shooting numbers at Colorado, but they came in small sample sizes compared to other players in his class.

Collier scoring and playmaking numbers imply a potentially large offensive role in the NBA, but his mediocre three-point shooting and free-throw percentage saw him fall out of the lottery.

Regardless of these players’ need for growth in specific areas, Ainge and Zanik favored their star upside, rather than settling for older players with more easily projectable roles in the NBA.

Will Jazz Plan Work?

Betting on a 19-year-old’s upside is a difficult endeavor, and one with plenty of poor outcomes in draft history.

However, with the Jazz’s need for star talent to pair with Markkanen and Collin Sexton, and a recent lack of high-level players to hit the trade market, getting lucky in the draft might be the organization’s best bet to acquire a difference-maker.

Odds would suggest that of the Jazz’s last six draft picks, at least a few of the players won’t materialize into high-level NBA contributors.

But, by taking enough swings at highly-touted recruits, with strong NBA size, and considerable upside, the Jazz will eventually find their next star.

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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Jazz Draft Reveals Team Building Strategy