What's at Stake for Utah Jazz in 2014 NBA Draft Lottery?

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent IMay 19, 2014

Who are the Utah Jazz? Especially if neither of these men return next season.
Who are the Utah Jazz? Especially if neither of these men return next season.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The state of Utah is one of six in the United States that does not have a lottery. Which is somewhat ironic, considering how much of their basketball franchise's future rides on the NBA's version of a draft lottery on May 20.

The Utah Jazz won a tie-breaker against the Boston Celtics early in their offseason, after both teams finished 25-57, the fifth-worst record in the league. By virtue of that, they have an 11.9 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick, to just 8.8 percent for Boston.

This was a sizable victory for Utah, as many teams are crossing their fingers and putting on lucky underwear in order to break into the top three for June's draft.

As we'll learn over the next couple days and weeks, this lottery is one Utah will not only want to support, but hope to win. After losing 57 games in the season following the departure of big names and big bodies like Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz are a bit of a mystery.

There isn't a whole lot under contract for next season. Their best player, Gordon Hayward, is a restricted free agent. The franchise opted to not offer Head Coach Tyrone Corbin a new contract, instead they will be searching for a new leader this offseason, while trying to fill out a roster. The Jazz have only six players under guaranteed contracts for next season.

This is the bottom, Utah. Welcome to it, and good luck getting out.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Where the Jazz go from here depends on a great many factors. One of the largest is that draft position. Ping-pong balls can be finicky, frustrating things when it comes to that Tuesday in late May. Where Utah pans out when the card is flipped to reveal that basketball accented music note will strongly help decide the direction of the franchise.

There would typically be three directions they could head. The best of which is in the turn that takes them on the road to championship contention. Another turn could send them back into the depths of the lottery next year. A third option is something fans got a strong taste of during the Jefferson/Millsap years.

Mediocrity is a plague of sorts, and one the Jazz ownership is trying to distance itself from with the recent moves to not bring back those two big men. The non-renewal of Corbin's contract is another signal of that. As was trading to bring in massive expiring contracts in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins. Along with Marvin Williams, The Jazz will shed about $27.5 million from their books due to those three players alone.

Instead of treading water, Corbin's record was 87-89 prior to 2013-14, the Jazz got proactive about their situation and will now look to make the first big step forward. After making the requisite steps back to set themselves up in proper position, the draft lottery, and later the draft itself, will hopefully start them on a journey towards sustainable success.

A lot of dominoes still have to fall. There will be the free-agency battle over Hayward's services. Depending on how much his market value appears to have risen too, the Jazz will have to decide if retaining him is worth it. They will have the right to match any contract offer he is given, and they have the capital to do it. However, they will have to first decide whether that is a stop along the correct route, or just another cog in the journey back to mediocrity.

Deciding which route to go with their new head coach will be another major decision that could be affected by the lottery. Do the Jazz go for a retread leader with a somewhat positive track record? Or, do they try to find a hot young assistant or college coach to bring in and test the waters.

The Jazz don't have a ton of experience with this whole coaching search thing, by virtue of Jerry Sloan being the guy for 22-plus years. Corbin spent seven years learning under Sloan. This next head coach should truly be recognized as the starting of a new era. Whether he gets to coach a No. 1 overall pick, or something a fair amount lower definitely means something.

Utah also doesn't want to spoil the work they have already put in. Obviously, the wrong coach could do that. As could the wrong contract for Hayward or another free agent. Drafting in the wrong position, or drafting the wrong player is another detriment that is presently threatening this franchise.

Derrick Favors had a solid year starting in the frontcourt for his first season not playing backup to Jefferson and Millsap. He will only be 23 next season and has room to improve. The Jazz also have him locked into a decent extension kicking in in the fall. He'll be making around $12 million annually, which could look really good or fairly bad in a couple of years.

Elsewhere, you have to look at Trey Burke. The No. 9 overall pick from last summer got a late start to his rookie year, but still showed a fair amount by the end of it. The 38 percent clip from the field is disconcerting, but Burke brings a lot to the table.

He is a confident leader on the floor, capable of growing into a solid point guard. At 21 years old, there is hope for his shooting abilities. As a sophomore at Michigan, he shot 46.3 percent from the field. Other point guards have come into the league with questionable shooting and done well improving themselves.

FG% improvements in young PGs
Point GuardYear OneYear Three
John Wall40.9 percent44.1 percent
Rajon Rondo41.8 percent50.5 percent
Chris Paul43 percent48.8 percent
Jeff Teague39.6 percent47.6 percent
Russell Westbrook39.8 percent44.2 percent

John Wall shot 40.9 percent as a rookie, yet he has worked his way into being efficient enough so as not to be a detriment to his team.

Utah has a host of other players in their early 20s, who are still trying to create careers in the league. Alec Burks and Enes Kanter are developing players under guaranteed contracts for next season.

When the Jazz find out where they will draft in June, speculation can and will begin. Who will be available when they pick? Who could find their job or role in jeopardy when Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid comes to town?

The draft lottery can bring a lot of good to franchises. Just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder. It can also bring hurt and disappointment. For that, you can find the city of Cleveland on a map or take your DeLorean back to June 26, 1997 in New England.

That, and more, is at stake when the Jazz experience a rare lottery in the state of Utah.


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