SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz took a lot of the fun out of Thursday’s NBA draft — not to mention next year’s draft, as well — by dealing away picks to acquire veteran point guard Mike Conley, but really who can blame them? When it comes to uncovering a future star in the draft — or even a solid contributor — the draft is pretty much a crapshoot.
The odds are stacked against every team, but especially teams such as the Jazz because of their place in the draft order.
On Wednesday, the Jazz traded away this year’s first-round pick and next year’s first-round pick, plus three players, including Grayson Allen — last year’s first-round pick — to acquire Conley, who is famous for being one of the most overpaid players in history and for never being named an All-Star. Conley is a fine player, but is he worth three first-round picks? Probably, given the club’s history in the draft.
Here is a breakdown of the Jazz’s draft picks during the last 25 years:
— The Jazz have drafted 61 players since 1994, 31 in the first round (not counting players who came to the Jazz through pre-arranged draft-day deals with other teams).
— Twenty-seven of those players never played for the Jazz, and seven others played one year or less.
— Eight never played in the NBA, and five others played 22 or fewer games before leaving the league.
— Only three of them became All-Stars while playing for the Jazz — Andre Kirilenko, Deron Williams, Gordon Hayward.
— Twenty-eight of those 61 draft picks — less than half — became contributors for the Jazz, depending on your definition of “contributor.” Here, it is defined as a player who worked into the game rotation and averaged 10 or more minutes of play.
— Only 14 earned starting roles (not counting those who occasionally filled in due to injuries).
The Jazz’s draft day report card comes with a couple of caveats:
As alluded to earlier, it should be noted that the Jazz acquired at least three players on draft day through draft-and-trade deals with other teams — Donovan Mitchell (Denver), Rudy Gobert (Denver), Trey Burke (Minnesota). They improve the Jazz’s draft-day record considerably. Mitchell has become one of the elite young players in the league. Gobert has been selected as NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-NBA team. Burke was a disappointment and lasted only three seasons with the Jazz. Two out of three is good.
Because of their consistency on the court, the Jazz have had only 11 lottery picks in 25 years — top 14. They have had just three top-eight picks — Deron Williams (3), Enes Kanter (3), Dante Exum (5). Williams became an All-Star. Kanter was a very good player who became expendable with the arrival of Gobert and was traded. Beset with injuries, Exum has become a role player.
Of the Jazz’s 31 first-round picks during that time, their average selection was 18th among the league’s 30 teams. Writing for 82games.com, Roland Beech calculated the odds for the outcome of all 30 picks. He determined there’s a 5 percent chance the 18th pick will become a star; a 15 percent chance he’ll become a solid player; a 25 percent chance he’ll become a role player; a 40 percent chance he’ll end up on the deep end of the bench; and a 15 percent chance he’ll be a complete bust.
A year ago, John Ewing, writing for Actionnetwork.com, produced numbers to demonstrate that the draft is a crapshoot. From 1984 to 2013, he determined that the chance of finding an All-Star is 73 percent with the first pick and 6.7 percent chance with the eighth pick.4 comments on this story
The Jazz have probably done better by signing free agents even though they've often had to settle for the best players when they're at the end of their careers. The Jazz were able to find some talent in the second round, among them Shandon Anderson, Jarron Collins, Mo Williams, C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap (who became a four-time All-Star after he signed with the Hawks). More than 30 years ago, they struck gold in the draft by selecting Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone in back-to-back drafts. What are the odds of that happening again with the 16th and 13th picks, respectively?
Faced with choosing 23rd in this year’s draft and perhaps later than that next summer, the Jazz chose to go instead with a proven player in Conley instead.