Analyzing the Biggest Draft Needs for the Utah Jazz

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Analyzing the Biggest Draft Needs for the Utah Jazz
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Like every other team in the lottery, the Utah Jazz were hoping to land a top-three pick and a chance to draft Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

But it wasn't to be, as the Cleveland Cavaliers employed their special brand of voodoo to win the lottery for the third time in four years. The Jazz are now left on the outside looking in with the No. 5 pick.

That doesn't mean they won't have a chance to draft a player who can help them in this rebuild, though. According to Bleacher Report NBA draft guru Jonathan Wasserman, "the depth of this draft is the real story of 2014—not the star power."

There will be solid options for the Jazz in this draft, not just with that fifth pick, but with the 23rd and maybe even the 35th.

They can use all three to address some needs they have at small forward, point guard and center.

 

Small Forward

USA TODAY Sports

The most glaring need for the Jazz is undoubtedly at small forward, where Richard Jefferson started 78 games in 2013-14. SLC Dunk's editor AllThatAmar recently evaluated Jefferson's season, saying:

Jefferson's career ended a while ago, but this season looked like the postmortem twitching that can happen if you zap a dead body with enough electricity. ... I do not know if he did enough to earn a look from a contender, but he can still hit threes and slash.

The opening analogy sounds harsh, but just try to focus on the meaning behind it. The season before last, Jefferson averaged just 3.1 points per game and was by most accounts done. The fact that he bounced back the way he did in Utah was impressive, but he's obviously not the answer going forward.

Utah could address the problem by re-signing Gordon Hayward and permanently moving him to the 3, where he could play point forward. Or it could look to have a huge wing combo, leave Hayward at the 2 and draft a small forward in June.

Barring a trade, the Jazz will almost certainly miss out on the top two prospects at that position in Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. And the next batch—Dario Saric, Doug McDermott and Rodney Hood—might not make sense until the No. 8-to-No. 10 pick range.

That means Utah could either trade down (not likely to happen with this draft class) or wait until the 23rd pick to address this need.

There, they could have a chance to land UCLA's Kyle Anderson, a 6'9" point guard who could truly embody the role of a point forward at the 3.

He earned the nickname "Slo-Mo" with the Bruins for his calculated approach that led to averages of 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists. Deadspin's Matt Giles analyzed the moniker in March, saying:

Somewhere along the line, Anderson got tagged with the passive-aggressive-but-sorta-cool nickname of Slo-Mo. On first glance, you can see why. He has an old man's game, all angles and position. He doesn't make space for himself by blowing by his smaller defenders; he finds space over and around them. And he looks so smooth in doing so that you process his game as slow. But look a little more closely and you start to see slight shifts, flicks, and stutters. Call him Stop-Mo instead.

In his latest mock, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has the Jazz taking Anderson at No. 23. If he's gone by the time that pick rolls around, Utah could look at other options such as T.J. Warren, K.J. McDaniels and Rodney Hood if they're still available.

 

Point Guard

Bart Young/Getty Images

Yes, Utah traded up to get Trey Burke in the 2013 draft in the hope that he may be a franchise point guard. And that may still prove to be the case.

But at No. 5, the best available players could be at that position, and Burke didn't do enough as a rookie to guarantee Utah won't look at someone such as Marcus Smart or Dante Exum if he miraculously falls past the Orlando Magic.

In his first year, Utah's young point guard struggled mightily as a scorer despite averaging the second-most field-goal attempts on the team.

Among players who put up at least 12.8 shots and 4.8 three-pointers (Burke's numbers), Burke was dead last in true shooting percentage.

He either needs to improve as a shooter or focus more on being a playmaker, something he's quite good at when when he does it. He was the only rookie in the league to average more than five assists and less than two turnovers.

That assist-to-turnover ratio is the best argument for pushing forward with Burke. But the shooting and his size (6'0", 190 lbs) will make it hard to pass on Smart or Exum if he's available.

 

Center

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Shortly after the regular season ended, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News published an article entitled "The big question: Can Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter anchor the Utah Jazz's frontcourt together?"

The question is a legitimate one after Favors and Kanter played together a lot less than fans and journalists expected. According to Genessy:

Four weeks after the third-worst season in franchise history mercifully ended, it's worth pointing out that big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter only played together for 771 minutes. Or 19.5 percent of the time.

Considering the third overall picks of the 2010 and '11 drafts are positioned to be cornerstone players for this team's future, their rare pairing was certainly one of the surprises of the season.

Per Genessy, Kanter addressed the question himself, saying, "I think it's crazy that people think that we cannot play together."

Favors agreed but still thinks there's work to do. He added, "Obviously, we've still got a lot of work to do together. We've still got to work the chemistry thing down and we've still got a lot of work to do together, but I think we can."

The reason it's even an issue is twofold: Both Kanter and Favors could be seen as tweeners, and Utah's defense was even worse than usual when they played together.

Just check out how opponents fared against them:

Opponents' Production Against Favors and Kanter
FG% 3P% TS% Points per possession
Both on the floor 49.6% 41.9% 58.1% 1.16
Both off the floor 41% 31.8% 49.4% 1.01

nbawowy.com

Furthermore, Kanter and Favors made up the second-worst two-man combo on the team, as opponents outscored the Jazz by 13.8 points per 100 possessions when the two were on the floor at the same time. Only Kanter and Jefferson were worse together.

The reason for the disparity is that the two big men had a hard time covering floor spacers when they played together, and Kanter struggles to get into position to be a rim-protector.

Teams could easily spread the floor around one big man and just bomb away on Utah's hapless defense.

As talented as Kanter and Favors are, the evidence that they may not make a great combination is ample. For that reason, Utah could target big men who can defend with the No. 5 pick.

Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon will likely both be available, and either one could improve Utah defensively.

At 6'10" with a 7'4" wingspan, Vonleh has the length to play center, which would move Favors to his more natural position of power forward.

Gordon could play the 4, where he'd be much more mobile than either Favors or Kanter. That would of course leave Favors at center, but the league is trending toward small ball.

Gordon and Vonleh are both solid options at No. 5 but obviously not the only ones. The Jazz will have an opportunity to get creative and help the franchise move forward no matter which need they choose to address.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.

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