Which Utah Jazz draft class ranks the highest?
Playing in a small market, it has always been difficult to attract free agents to come to play in Utah. It seems that over the years there have not been many players who have made the Jazz their first destination.
While the Jazz have been active in making trades, at times, they have fared no better. Late in his career Derrick Harper put an end to a trade when he said, "You go play in Utah." It was obvious he did not want to be in Salt Lake City.
Orlando Magic center Rony Seikaly reacted similarly when he refused to play in Utah following a trade from Orlando. The Jazz were forced to take back Chris Morris and Greg Foster who had already said goodbye to the team.
For the Utah Jazz, the NBA draft has been very important for the health of the franchise. While they have not always picked the perfect player, they have made some great decisions with the positions that they have drafted in.
The following slides outline the 10-best draft classes for the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz held the 27th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.
With that pick they selected Jacque Vaughn from Kansas.
With John Stockton in the prime of his career, there was not much hope that Vaughn would become the starting point guard on the team. What he did become, was a much-needed backup player that could consistently come in and give Stockton a good break.
Vaughn spent four seasons with the Jazz and 12 seasons in the league. That is longer than several of the players drafted ahead of him.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1997: Nate Erdmann
Players drafted before Jacque Vaughn: Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Brevin Knight, Chris Anstey, Ed Gray
In last year's draft, the Utah Jazz held a lottery pick that they received from the New York Knicks several years earlier. With that pick the Jazz selected Gordon Hayward in the ninth spot.
While it is difficult to fully evaluate this draft class, Jazz fans caught a glimpse of Hayward's future during the last part of the season. He showed his potential and athleticism and gave fans a reason to be hopeful moving forward. He is currently one of the main building blocks of the franchise.
With the 55th overall pick the Utah Jazz chose Jeremy Evans from Western Kentucky. Due to injuries to the team, he played more minutes than many Jazz rookies of the past. His incredible leaping ability and skill in finishing the alley-oop quickly turned him into a fan favorite.
Hayward and Evans are two of the young players that make the future of the Utah Jazz look bright.
Players drafted before Gordon Hayward: Ekpe Udoh, Greg Monroe, Al-Farouq Aminu
With the seventh pick in the 1983 NBA draft, the Utah Jazz selected Thurl Bailey from North Carolina State.
Although Bailey led the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding during their championship season, many Jazz fans were not happy with the selection feeling that the Jazz needed to draft for a different position.
"Big T" went on to play 12 seasons with the Jazz, and was later traded to the Timberwolves with a second-round pick for current Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin.
Would Corbin be the coach today if this trade had not taken place?
After playing oversees, Bailey returned to the Jazz just before he retired. Bailey has made a home in Salt Lake City and now works for the franchise on their television broadcasts.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1983: Bobby Hansen, Doug Arnold, Gerald Kazanowski, Ron Webb
Players drafted before Thurl Bailey: Steve Stipanovich, Sidney Green, Russell Cross
In the 2008 draft, the Utah Jazz felt they stole a player who had fallen down the board. They were excited to draft Kosta Koufos, a young center who spent one season at Ohio State.
As Jazz fans know, Koufos did not work out as planned. He spent most of his time with the team either on the bench, or playing for the D-League's Utah Flash.
With that trade, the Jazz were able to bring in a player who will star on the team for several years. Jefferson carried the team late last season, and is a major asset to the Jazz.
Another player that was drafted that year is Ante Tomic who continues to play in Europe. He is an exciting player that many compare to Pau Gasol. If he is able to come to play for the Jazz, it will be a very big positive for the team.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 2008: Tadija Dragicevic
Players drafted before Kosta Koufos (but not as good as Jefferson): Brandon Rush, Joe Alexander, Alexis Ajinca, Ryan Anderson
The 2006 draft turned out to be a strong one for the Utah Jazz. After taking Ronnie Brewer with the 14th overall pick, the Jazz did not select again until late in the second round.
With two consecutive picks they selected Dee Brown, and a guy named Paul Millsap.
Brewer spent some good seasons with the team, and Dee Brown found a way to stay with the Jazz.
The story of this draft class is Paul Millsap. By selecting him, the Jazz found one of the best late-draft players they have ever had.
It did not take long to see the value they got in Millsap, and it did not take long for the rest of the league to wonder why they passed on him. If the 2006 draft were re-ordered today in terms of player success, Millsap would be a lottery pick.
Players drafted before Ronnie Brewer: Adam Morrison, Mouhamed Sene
Players drafted before Paul Millsap: Paul Davis, Steve Novak, Lior Eliyahu, Craig Smith, P.J. Tucker
In one of its biggest draft finds in a late draft pick, the Utah Jazz selected Andrei Kirilenko from Russia with the 24th overall selection.
While he was the best player taken, he was not the team's first pick that year. With the 19th pick they took Quincy Lewis, who played only a short time in the league.
While it did take some time for Kirilenko to come from Russia, the Jazz were happy to wait for him. When he did arrive he brought an athletic game that Jazz fans had not seen before.
His abilities on both ends of the court excited fans and helped keep the Jazz from the long term rebuilding that many thought would happen after the retirements of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
After 10 up and down seasons, and after his now infamous max contract is set to expire, the Jazz must decide what to do with him. He has been and NBA All-Star, a fan favorite, and regarded by many to be one of the top 10 Jazz players of all time.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1999: Scott Padgett, Eddie Lucas
Players drafted before Andrei Kirilenko: Jonathan Bender, Trajan Langdon, William Avery, Frederic Weiss, Cal Bowdler, Jeff Foster
Younger Jazz fans may have a hard time remembering Dr. Dunkenstein playing for the Jazz, but in the 1980 NBA draft the Jazz selected Darell Griffith with the No. 2-overall pick.
Needing a replacement for Hall of Famer "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Griffith rose to the challenge, averaged over 20 points per game, and won the Rookie of the Year award that season.
Griffith was known for his athleticism, scoring ability, and above all his acrobatic dunks.
He, along with Adrian Dantley and Mark Eaton carried the team in the pre-Stockton and Malone days in Utah.
"The Golden Griff" spent 10 seasons with the team and was always a fan favorite.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1980: John Duren, Wally West, Alan Taylor, Kenny Cunningham
Player drafted before Darell Griffith: Joe Barry Carroll
The 2005 draft was a very important one for the Utah Jazz. Due to a dismal season the previous year, the Jazz sat in the sixth position after the lottery.
Feeling that there were only four high-quality players in the draft, the Jazz made one of the best trades in franchise history to move up to the third spot and select Deron Williams from Illinois.
After he joined the team, he was quickly assigned the task of being the point guard of the future for the Jazz.
Williams spent five-and-a-half seasons with the Jazz until he was surprisingly traded to New Jersey for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and a draft pick just before this year's trade deadline.
Williams is a two-time All-Star, was on the all-rookie team, and was a fan favorite in Utah.
Perhaps his real value moving forward is in how well Derrick Favors plays for the Jazz, and who the draft pick turns into.
Also drafted with Williams was C.J. Miles. He was selected in the second round and has been with the team ever since. At times he has been a solid player for the Jazz and had his best season last year as the sixth man.
Other player drafted by the Jazz in 2005: Robert Whaley
Players drafted before Deron Williams: Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams
Players drafted before C.J. Miles: Fran Vazquez, Sean May, Luther Head, Johan Petro, Wayne Simien, Salim Stoudemire
The 1984 NBA draft is viewed by many as the strongest in league history. Not only did it have Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Akeem Olajuwon, there was a player that Jazz fans booed when he was selected.
That player was John Stockton.
Following a career that saw Stockton become the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals, he proved the fans who questioned the selection wrong and became one of the top-two players in franchise history.
With his running-mate Karl Malone, Stockton led the team to two NBA finals, was a 10-time All-Star, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and one of the 50-greatest players of all time.
It did not take long for fans to realize the player they had in Stockton, who quickly became the face of the franchise.
Energy Solutions Arena, the Jazz stadium, now sits on John Stockton Drive in Salt Lake City.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1984: David Pope, Jim Rowinski, Eric Booker
Players drafted before John Stockton: Sam Bowie, Mel Turpin, Lancaster Gordon, Otis Thorpe, Micheal Cage, Jay Humphries
One year after Jazz fans booed the selection of John Stockton, they cheered when then head coach Frank Layden announced that a mailman was coming to Utah.
With the 13th pick in another strong draft, the Jazz selected Karl Malone from Louisiana Tech.
Malone went on to star in Utah for 18 seasons. He was a two-time league MVP, 14-time All-Star, 11-time NBA first-team player, and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.
He is considered one of the best power forwards to play the game, and was named one of the 50-greatest players in NBA history. He ended his career second in the league all-time in points scored with 36,928.
Other players drafted by the Jazz in 1985: Carey Scurry, Delaney Rudd, Jim Miller, Mike Wacker
Players drafted before Karl Malone: Patrick Ewing, Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Detlef Schrempf, Ed Pinkney, Keith Lee (Malone turned out to be the best player in the entire draft that year)
Draft history information found on NBA.com
Chris Johstoneaux is a contributor to Bleacher Report that usually covers the NBA, and Major League Soccer. If you liked this article, please take a moment to leave me a comment and follow me on Twitter at @JazzRSLExaminer.