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Utah Jazz 2014 NBA Draft Tank #1

Last night the nation was introduced to the 2014 Fab Frosh Draft Class, as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle made their national television debuts on the fifth night of the 2013-14 college basketball season.

None of them disappointed:
Julius Randle posted 27 points and 13 rebounds (along with 8 turnovers), looking like a young (and quicker and more explosive) Zach Randolph in the 2nd-half. He showed an impressive handle and drive game where he was always able to come back to his right-shoulder (left hand) and finish inside. He also showed the ability to jackknife and move the ball around while finishing inside against taller defenders (like 6-10 long-armed Adreian Payne).

Jabari Parker came out on fire, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points in the 1st-half to go along with 9 rebounds on 9-18 shooting and 4-7 behind the arc. He showed good vision, a tight handle and a silky smooth shot while making an assortment of jumpers (both off-the-dribble and catch&shoot) and drives that showcased more athletic ability than perhaps was expected from him.

Andrew Wiggins didn’t initially show the same offensive polish Parker did but he didn’t over-handle and quietly picked his spots scoring on quick cuts, runouts and post-ups inside when matched up with a smaller guard. He showed a nice drive-game and spin-move arsenal in the lane. He showed he could run like a gazelle and get off the floor as quickly as anyone. When the game was in the balance, with Kansas leading 83-81 with 1:33 to play, Wiggins showed more of his game – swinging the momentum by first hitting a step-back 20-footer from the wing and then finishing with an emphatic dunk in transition while also being fouled by Parker (who fouled out on the play).

Jazz Draft Lottery Odds

With the Jazz playing historically bad basketball at 0-8, they appear to be in the driver’s seat to finish with the league’s worst record and in prime position to land the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While fans spent the night binge-tweeting about Parker and Wiggins, it’s far from a foregone conclusion one of them will be on the 2014-15 Jazz roster. Here’s a quick refresher on the NBA draft lottery.

The team with the worst-record does have the best chance to obtain the #1-overall pick – as well as the highest percentage of securing a top-3 pick. However, “best chance” doesn’t necessarily mean a “good chance.” Here are the probabilities:

1. The team with the worst-record has a 25% chance at the #1-overall pick – also meaning they have a 75% chance of not having the #1 pick.

2. The team with the worst-record has a 64.3% chance of having a top-3 pick – also meaning they have a 35.7% chance (better than 1-in-3) of falling to the 4th-pick.

The 25% and 64.3% chances are better than any other team possessing a single lottery pick – but they are not sure-fire bets, and it’s slightly disconcerting that you have a better chance picking 4th than picking 1st.

NBA Draft Lottery History

In 1993, the NBA adopted the system presently used today for the Draft Lottery. In the 20 Draft Lotteries since, the average draft position for the team with the worst-overall record was 2.7. While that is higher than the average draft position of the 2nd-worst (3.6) and 3rd-worst (3.3) teams – you’re still taking the backseat. In a draft you absolutely can’t blow, you’d obviously rather be at #1 where you pick the guy you like best instead of at #2 or #3 where you’re taking the guy the top team(s) like the least.

Here are the percentages for teams with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd…ect.-worst records finishing with the #1-overall pick. (Note: #1 = Worst record; #2 = 2nd-worst record, ect. Additionally, several times picks 2-9 have varying odds if teams finished tied with the same record, but the theoretical percentages for the worst-overall record never changed).

Percentages of the Top-9 Worst Teams Picking #1-Overall (1993-2013)

#1-Pick #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9
Theoretical 25.0% ~19.9% ~15.6% ~11.9% ~8.8% ~6.3% ~4.3% ~2.8% ~1.7%
Actual 10.0% 5.0% 30.0% 10.0% 20.0% 10.0% 5.0% 5.0% 5.0%

The 10% for the worst team is most startling. The team with the worst-overall record has ended up with the first-overall pick only twice in the past 20 years and not since 2004. The worst-team also ended up with the #2-pick eight times – resulting in a 50/50 outcome of drawing a top-2 pick (with 2014 potentially a Parker/Wiggins draft).

2013-14 Jazz

Jabari Parker certainly looked as close to an NBA-ready franchise player as we’ve seen in recent years. Andrew Wiggins showed the athletic ability and franchise-type potential that he was billed to have and Randle showed all-star PF potential. Based off what we’ve seen of those two so far (which isn’t much) I would be ecstatic if the Jazz can add a Parker or Wiggins next year and a season of terrible Jazz basketball would be more than worth it.

With that said, last night’s games don’t change my opinion for a second that the Jazz made a mistake this past offseason assembling a poo-poo platter of a cast around the Core-4.  It doesn’t change my opinion that Ty Corbin is a poor head coach who should have been let go last spring. It doesn’t change my opinion that Jeff Hornacek should have been at the top of Utah’s list of replacements for Ty Corbin. And it doesn’t change my opinion that the Jazz are woefully underachieving so far this season.

The Master Plan?

If Dennis Lindsey’s goal was to be historically awful in 2013-14 to maximize Utah’s odds for a top pick – that’s certainly understandable and something that’s been tried throughout the years. However given the odds and historical facts – it’s certainly not a foolproof plan, a safe plan, or even a genius one. It’s a calculated risk – which by definition of the term carries a legitimate chance of failure. It worked for the Cavaliers in 2003 and failed miserably for the Celtics in 1997.

Nevertheless, it’s still a gamble that you have to make work. You have to not only get a high pick but make the right one (and both NBA and Jazz history have shown it’s very easy to pick the wrong guy high). If it doesn’t work out next May, it’s also not a plan you want to reuse by banking on getting lucky the following year unless your goal is to become a perennial doormat (ask the Charlotte Bobcats how well that works).

Throwing away an entire season in hopes of the draft lottery is a little like Russian Roulette. You may start out with a 5/6 chance of striking it rich but if you do hit that 1/6 – and it only takes 1 – you’re SOL. You might have the best odds but “best” doesn’t mean “good” – and if the risk doesn’t pay off the results could be fatal.

There are also other options. The Pacers have shown you can build a serious title contender making brilliant mid-round draft choices and shrewd free agent signings. Jazz management is apparently content with taking a different approach hoping that a year of pounding sand can lead to striking oil next May. There’s alot of uncertainty but the payoff could be huge.

The Jazz have never had a franchise player at the SG or SF position. Adding one to a potential nucleus of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably leaves Jazz fans salivating.

The opportunity to draft a future franchise player is tantalizing, but before everyone starts talking up a Parker/Wiggins wing pairing with Gordon Hayward, remember at this point it’s all still a distant dream requiring good fortune. It’s okay to chase dreams – but remember the bigger they are, the harder they can fall.

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A picture is worth a thousand words. Not these ones, though.

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Bill Simmons 2013 NBA Draft

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #2

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #002

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #4

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #5

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #6

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David Stern 2013 NBA Draft Boos

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #7

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #8

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Speaking of which, further evidence Kevin O’Connor and John Beilein are twins who were separated-at-birth.

Enjoying the NBA Draft…

John Beilein vs Kevin O'Connor

With their point guards…

Kevin O'Connor and John Beilein

Fiery Competitors…

Kevin O'Connor and John Beilein #2

And the sure-fire sign they’re related…

John Beilein No Comment

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Trey Burke Michigan Highlights #1

Today’s post will be short and sweet. It appears the Utah Jazz achieved their best-case scenario in last night’s draft by acquiring the draft rights to point guard Trey Burke (9th overall pick) from Minnesota in exchange for the 14th and 21st overall picks. Rather than sit back and take what will likely amount to two average role players at-best, Utah was aggressive and landed a playmaker widely regarded as the best point guard in the draft and someone who appears to be the perfect fit for their team. While the Jazz also made two shrewd moves in acquiring the rights to center Rudy Gobert (27th overall from Denver) and point guard Raul Neto (47th overall from Atlanta) – the Burke trade alone made their draft a success.

I’ve kept tabs on Burke since he was a senior in high school and think he will provide Utah exactly what it needs as both a point guard and leader. In the coming days I will break down Burke’s game further, but for now here’s a short video profiling his 2013 season in which he was named First-Team All-American as well as Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. The first-half of the video includes excerpts featuring Burke from the Big Ten Network’s “The Journey,” while the second-half includes highlights from his 2013 collegiate season.

Obviously draft picks can only truly be judged several years down the road, but for now the Jazz appeared to have filled a massive hole at point guard with someone who could stabilize the position for the rest of the decade.

Winston Churchill cautioned that “Success is never final, failure is never fatal,” but after the failures from the past several Jazz seasons, celebration and excitement over the last night’s draft success is certainly justifiable.

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DeShawn Stevenson Utah Jazz

In his first NBA draft with the Utah Jazz, vice president of basketball operations Kevin O’Connor selected guard DeShawn Stevenson 23rd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft. For a traditionally conservative franchise, it was a shocking move. Stevenson, at 19 years old, became the youngest as well as the first Jazz 1st-round pick ever selected directly out of high school.

It’s a move into reality,” O’Connor said following the selection. “The reality is that players in the NBA are getting younger.” In getting younger, the Jazz acquired a player who averaged 30.4 points, 9.7 points rebounds and 6.2 assists per game as a high school senior.

From 2000-2004, Stevenson would play 222 games for the Jazz. Over the course of his tenure in Utah, Stevenson never blossomed into the player the Jazz envisioned him becoming. He displayed a lot of explosiveness and athletic ability (he finished 2nd in the 2001 Dunk Contest) but suffered from inconsistencies in regards to shooting, defending and sticking with the offense. Injury and sub par play among Utah’s veteran wings enabled DeShawn to make 23 starts in 2001-02 but he was unable to become a fixture in the rotation. In 2003 he displayed impressive toughness by sending a message to Ricky Davis that he didn’t care much for Davis’ cheap attempt for a triple-double which was appreciated by his old-school head coach Jerry Sloan who said afterwards “I was glad DeShawn tried to knock [Davis] down.”

Stevenson’s Jazz days appeared to be over a few months later when he screamed at Sloan for not playing him following Utah’s opening game in the 2003 playoffs. Stevenson was suspended and sent home prior to Game 2, but made appearances in the following (and final) three games of the series.

Following the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone, Stevenson started all 54 games of his games in Utah during the 2003-04 season. He had some good performances (including a 16-point 1st-quarter and team-high 22 points in a road win in Boston) but never quite earned Sloan’s complete trust as Raja Bell often closed out games for the Jazz. Stevenson posted averages of 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists on 45% FG shooting, 67% FT shooting and 23.3% 3pt-shooting for Utah before being shipped to Orlando at the trade deadline in exchange for Gordon Giricek.

Sloan’s willingness to play DeShawn even after they had their run-in demonstrates Jerry’s willingness to not harbor grudges and move-on in a professional manner (Jerry gave players such as Chris Morris and Greg Ostertag similar opportunities after ugly sideline incidents).

9 years and an Abraham Lincoln neck-tattoo later, Stevenson is still in the league and has a championship ring in tow. He became a competent-starter on several playoff teams by gradually transforming his identity from an inconsistent athletic guard who was a poor shooter to a above-average tough defensive player and decent 3pt-shooter (34% for his career) who came to accept his offensive limitations (was never going to be a bigtime scorer) and fit into a role.

Looking back on his time in Utah, Stevenson credits Sloan for much of his development. “Playing with Jerry Sloan – Jerry’s a strict coach and we had our ups and downs, but I think he made me stronger as a player,” Stevenson said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 2010. “He was tough, but he made me who I am now. If I didn’t go through that kind of system and that caliber of coach, I wouldn’t be in the NBA right now.”

Final verdict on the selection? DeShawn may not have turned out to be a difference-maker for the Jazz but all things considered – he was still a good pick. Better alternatives were not available considering the final six picks of the 1st-round after Stevenson consisted of:

24. Dalibor Bagaric (out of the league by 2004)
25. Jake Tsakalidis (out of the league by 2008)
26. Mamadou N’diaye (out of the league by 2006)
27. Primoz Brezec (8-year career – backup outside of the expansion Bobcats)
28. Erick Barkley (out of the league by 2003)
29. Mark Madsen (9-years – career backup)

The lone draft steal came at pick-#43 where Michael Redd would go on to be an all-star and 20-point scorer for the Bucks but overall 2000 would prove to be an incredibly weak draft with few better options for the Jazz at #23. Furthermore, it could be argued Utah showed wisdom by not making their 2000 draft class (which also included 50th-overall selection Kaniel Dickens who played just 19 games in his NBA career)) any weaker. The Jazz also owned the 26th-overall pick but four days prior to draft night, traded it to Denver in exchange for a future 1st-round pick. The Nuggets used the pick to selected center Mamadou N’diaye.

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With picks #14, #21 and #46 in what has also been called a very weak 2013 draft class – the Jazz could select players that may be nothing more than average starters – yet in hindsight prove to be solid choices based on the overall strength of the draft. The best option however, may be trading out of one of their first-round slots and rolling it over into a future asset. Punting isn’t necessarily a bad choice if you receive good field position and score on the ensuing possession.

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Ronnie Brewer - 2006 NBA Draft

Ronnie Brewer may have been my favorite draft pick ever. Not speficially because of his play (Ronnie was a solid rotation player for the Jazz who fit very nicely into their system), but because of the hilarious exchange between Dan Patrick and David Stern that preceded his selection. In all the years of televised drafts, it’s hard to recall a more amusing snarkfest between a commissioner and television host.


Now back to Ronnie Brewer.

By his second season Brewer was Utah’s starting 2-guard and developed into a very solid albeit limited role-player. He had world-class athleticism, was a great teammate, a solid defender, a good passer, a great cutter, and fantastic open-court player – but he just couldn’t shoot. He could make the 16-footer but didn’t take them often or make them consistently. Utah was able to mask that weakness by possessing one of the premier shooting bigs in the league in Mehmet Okur. In Utah’s vaunted high screen-roll – Okur filled the “Jeff Hornacek” role as the 3pt-shooter who rolled up on the weakside and Brewer became the dive-man who cut to the rim. It worked beautifully in 2007-08 with Brewer shooting a gaudy 55.8% from the field and averaging 12.0 points per game as part of the league’s #1-offense. Those numbers also translated into the 2008 posteason in which Brewer averaged 10.2 points on 52.0% shooting.

Although Brewer would shoot over 50% in his first three seasons with the Jazz, his lack of shooting-range was magnified when Okur’s body began to break down. Okur missed most of Utah’s 2009 first-round playoff series against the Lakers with a hamstring injury and Brewer’s limitations were accentuated by Kobe Bryant’s unwillingness to defend Brewer outside of 10-feet in half-court sets. Bryant sagged off Brewer and with another streaky perimeter shooter at SF in Andrei Kirilenko and a total non-shooter at center in Jarron Collins – defenses were able to focus all of their attention to collapsing on all-stars Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in the paint which fouled up many of Utah’s sets.

As shown below, Brewer’s primary scoring production came as a paint-finisher where from 2006-10 he converted a stellar 64.4% of his field goal attempts within 10-feet of the basket. He also shot an extraordinary percentage of his shots from point-blank range. (By comparison, in his Jazz tenure only 49.0% of Al Jefferson’s shot attempts have come from within 10-feet of the basket).

Ronnie Brewer Shot Breakdown
  Overall FG% 10-ft % of FG Att FG% Outside
Season FG% or closer Inside 10-ft 10-ft
2006-07 52.8% 66.7% 63.7% 28.6%
2007-08 55.8% 65.6% 61.4% 40.4%
2008-09 50.8% 63.2% 54.5% 36.1%
2009-10 49.5% 63.8% 53.4% 31.5%

It also shows that playing with the Deron-Kirilenko-Boozer-Okur unit clicking on all cylinders in 2007-08 was when Brewer was his most effective. In 2008-09 Deron, Boozer, and Okur missed a combined 69 games and Brewer’s point-blank looks declined. That continued into 2009-10 where Okur’s minutes dipped from the 33-34 range to 29 as his durability and effectiveness began to slip. With Brewer set for free agency in 2010 and a roster featuring five capable wings (Brewer, Kirilenko, C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and rookie Wes Matthews) who all deserved minutes – management shipped Brewer at the trade deadline to Memphis for a protected 1st-round pick that was used in their acquisition of Al Jefferson (the Grizzlies’ pick ended up being F Donatas Motiejunas whose rights were traded from Minnesota to Houston).

Ronnie Brewer has played on 4 teams since being traded and has yet to find a role or system that fit his abilities as well as Jerry Sloan’s system. He was a solid draft pick, a quality Jazz player and a great teammate – and he gave NBA fans the greatest gift of all: an all-out snarkfest between David Stern and Dan Patrick.

I’d be satisfied with a similar haul from this year’s 14th-overall pick – particularly with this being David Stern’s final draft as commissioner.

Come on Bill Simmons, pick a fight with Stern! You know you want to!

David Stern booed at 2012 NBA Draft

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Kris Humphries 2004 NBA Draft

The NBA Draft Lottery was first implemented in 1985 and it took the Utah Jazz 19 years to finally land a lottery pick – which is the price you pay when combining a conservative front-office with one of the great multi-decade runs in NBA history (20 consecutive postseason appearances).

However all good things must come to an end and despite one of the greatest coaching performances in NBA history (in which the Jazz shattered 9-win predictions with a 42-40 record), Utah missed the 2004 playoffs by 2 games and found themselves picking 14th in the 2004 NBA Draft.

The Jazz had many needs entering the 2004 offseason – the primary one being frontcourt help. The Jazz began the 2003-04 season starting Andrei Kirilenko at PF and Greg Ostertag at C. After losing starting SF Matt Harpring to an ACL injury in early January – the Jazz shifted AK back to his natural SF position and began a PF-by-committee approach that included:
– Michael Ruffin (2.2 pts/33%FG)
-Tom Gugliotta (3.7 pts/38%FG)
-NBDL call-up Mikki Moore (4.6 pts/52%FG) who played well in a reserve role

Needless to say, with Ostertag heading toward free agency the Jazz needed bigs and possessing the 14th, 16th, and 21st overall selections Utah appeared to be in a great position to find at least one. Their top draft target thought to be in their range was Rafael Araujo – a 6-11 280 pound local product from BYU. “Hoffa” was billed to be the physical low-post presence the Jazz needed but he went earlier than expected at #8 to the Raptors.

When the Jazz went on the clock at #14 – they had a choice of two PF’s who were close to equally ranked in Kris Humphries and Al Jefferson. The Jazz opted for Humphries and made him their first lottery selection in franchise history.

Unfortunately for the Jazz, Humphries never compared “favorably to a Karl Malone-type player” despite mentioning the “city of Utah” during his introductory press conference. At the same press conference, Jazz VP of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor remarked “What he brings to the table is some quickness and some strength and some athletic ability.”

Humphries saw his immediate role take a hit when the Jazz were shockingly able to sign restricted free agent Carlos Boozer to a 6-year $68 million contract in July. Humphries still had ample opportunity to earn time when Boozer missed the final 31 games of the season with a foot injury, but he simply wasn’t ready mentally or skill-wise to contribute. He made 4 starts but failed to impress in any of them as Sloan would experiment with starting Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur and even Ben Handlogten at PF to finish out the injury-marred 2004-05 season.
Humphries’ own health was really the only think that wasn’t sick about his game. He shot a woeful 40.4% from the field and 43.6% from the foul line while posting averages of 4.1 pts and 2.9 reb with more turnovers than assists. His selfishness along with the immaturity of fellow first-round pick Kirk Snyder (drafted 16th overall) drew the ire of their head coach. “When they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, you have to start questioning whether their head’s into it the right way,” said Sloan in March of 2005. “This is not a one-on-one contest. A lot of these guys think it is.”

The best description I ever read of Humphries’ Jazz tenure went along the lines of “Jerry doesn’t play him because he shoots the ball every time he gets on the court. As a result he doesn’t play much, so when he finally gets out there, he wants to score so badly that he shoots too much, and the cycle continues.
For a 40% shooter, that wasn’t a wise pattern to repeat.

In the 2005 offseason Snyder was traded and rumors about Humphries’ availability began to surface. Humphries wasn’t moved but his play didn’t change in 2005-06. Not even another injury to Boozer (this time a hamstring that would force him to miss the first 49 games of the season) could prompt significant improvement from Humphries. For the season, Humphries shot an even worse FG% (37.9%) and hovered at just 52% from the foul line.

During the 2006 offseason, the Jazz traded him (along with 2005 2nd-round pick Robert Whaley) to Toronto for the Raptors’ own 2004 draft bust – Araujo – one of Utah’s top draft targets in 2004. “Frankly, we all liked [Araujo]. Larry [Miller] likes him quite a bit, and I did too. We’ve all kept our eyes on him — he might be a sleeper,” said Dennis Haslam who was president of the Jazz for 10 years. On Humphries, Haslam said “things were not going the way we had hoped in terms of [Humphries’] contribution to our team.”

After a few years in Toronto, Humphries gradually developed into a mediocre rotation player before being shipped to Dallas in 2009 and then New Jersey in 2010. In New Jersey – Humphries became a starter for the first time in his career and averaged a double-double two consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12. The most important thing about Humphries’ development was that he finally embraced his new NBA identity as Wally Cleaver an above-average rebounder and garbage points put-back man instead of trying to play like a go-to scorer. He’s not the second-coming of Karl Malone, but he’s a quality backup PF that was solid enough to earn an $8 million salary in the 2012-13 season and a 3-month marriage to Kim Kardashian in 2011.

Humphries, Kris and Kardashian 2

Rafael Araujo never appeared on a reality show and spent the 2006-07 season as Utah’s 12th-man where he averaged 2.6 pts and 2.4 rebs in 28 games. He returned to play on Utah’s 2007 summer league team but wasn’t re-signed due to the selection of Kyrylo Fesenko in the 2007 Draft. Araujo would never play in the NBA again – which caused many to call the Humphries/Hoffa deal a horrible trade for the Jazz.

I disagree with that notion. Unlike Humphries as a young player, Araujo brought a professional work ethic to the team (he lost 25 pounds prior to joining the Jazz) and offered great enthusiasm from the bench. When called upon due to injury, he played hard and physical – including a 5-point/10-rebound effort in a huge road win in Denver during which Bill Walton raved “We have seen [Araujo] do truly incredible things.”

Every team needs reserves who won’t place team-success ahead of individual stats and Hoffa did that. Best of all, trading Humphries opened the door for Utah’s 2006 2nd-round pick – Paul Millsap – to flourish. Millsap came in and from Day 1 was the anti-Humphries – a no-nonsense, unselfish yet efficient go-getter who was perfectly willing to do all the grunt work in relief of Carlos Boozer. As a team the Jazz fully bought into Jerry Sloan’s system, developing great team chemistry in winning 53 games and advancing to the 2007 Western Conference Finals. This trade was a prime example of “addition by subtraction” for the Jazz.

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The hiccups and struggles players like Kris Humphries and Rafael Araujo dealt with early in their careers make the Jazz’s current development of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter even more frustrating. Like many young players, Humphries came into the league with a selfish and inefficient style of play in which he didn’t stick to the offense and was lackadaisical on defense. Derrick Favors is the exact opposite. He doesn’t look to shoot constantly and is already one of the better defensive bigs in the league – yet he plays limited minutes on a Jazz team that is woeful defensively and desperately needs the interior presence he can provide.

Araujo struggled in Toronto due to an advanced age that limited his upside (was a 24-year old rookie), a lack of athleticism and offensive polish, as well as being overweight. Kanter is a 21-year old who is already Utah’s most physical big, is a decent defender, has an inside-outside offensive game and redefined his body and athleticism in the 2012 offseason. No argument can be made that Humphries and Araujo should have played more due to the warts they displayed as young players. The opposite is true with Favors and Kanter – who play the game “the right way” with a team-first mentality where they demonstrate effort at both ends of the floor.

A similar argument can be made regarding DeMarre Carroll – a 4-year veteran who hustles his tail off, makes all the little plays that get his team extra possessions and fully embraces his self-proclaimed “Junk Yard Dog” role. Nevertheless, Carroll still was relegated to the bench in favor of a rusty Josh Howard in the 2012 playoffs and in the 2012-13 regular season received 16 DNP-CD’s (including 9 in the final 16 games in which Utah tried and failed to make a late playoff push).

The attitude, effort, and defensive mindset that Favors and Carroll exhibit should be embraced and rewarded – not admonished and dismissed with terms such as “youth” and “inexperience.”

Regardless of how their careers turn out – at this time I can safely say that neither Favors or Kanter are on track to be a “draft bust,” or a future husband of a Kardashian. On second thought, lets make sure Enes never meets a Kardashian sister. Ever. At this point the only thing Humphries and Kanter have in common is being drafted by Kevin O’Connor, and I hope it stays that way.

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2001 NBA Draft - Point Guards

This was the scouting report on a young foreign point guard drafted in the first-round of the 2001 NBA Draft.

The best thing about [point guard’s name omitted] is his speed, vision of the game, offensive talent for generating his own shot opportunities and above all, that he improves the contributions of his teammates. He needs to improve a lot on defense and his outside shooting needs progressing, but since he is an excellent ball-handler, defenders should not play him too close because he can take advantage of that to penetrate.”

It was not Tony Parker, but rather Raul Lopez that Alex Gozalbo, a Spanish journalist who saw Lopez play multiple times, was speaking on. And as many Jazz and Pacer fans can attest to, the first point guard selected in the 2001 NBA Draft wasn’t Tony Parker. And neither was the second.

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The buzz entering the 2001 NBA Draft was about 3 teenagers, who stood 6-11, 7-1, and 6-10 respectively. With every team seeking the next Kevin Garnett – the Wizards made 19-year old Kwame Brown the #1-overall selection. The Clippers owned the #2 pick, but the Bulls thought so highly of a lanky 7-1 power forward that they traded 22-year old Elton Brand (who had posted 20&10 in his first two seasons) for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler, whom they paired with Eddy Curry (their #4-overall selection) in hopes of building a “twin-tower” frontline similar to San Antonio’s Duncan-Robinson pairing.

The run on bigs (7-footers including Pau Gasol, Desagana Diop, Brendan Haywood, Steven Hunter) and high-profile wings (Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Richard Jefferson, ect) continued without a single point guard being drafted in the first 23 picks.

Then came the Utah Jazz and the run on point guards started, with 8 going over the next 17 selections.

Pick #24: Raul Lopez – Utah Jazz

Lopez, who had played professionally in Spain since age 16, first burst onto the national scene in 1998. Playing alongside fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol, the Spanish National Juniors Team brought home the European Championship and the following year won the World Championship. Shortly thereafter in 2000, European powerhouse Real Madrid bought out an escape-clause in Lopez’s current contract with a mediocre Joventut club. At the time, it was the largest buyout a Spanish team had ever made. Lopez began the 2000-01 season as the backup PG (playing behind a seasoned veteran in Sasha Djordjevic) before gradually assuming a larger role and helping lead Real Madrid to the Spanish league finals. By that time, he had worked his way onto NBA draft boards and a few months later became the first PG to come off it.

The Jazz knew all along Lopez would stay over in Europe for at least another year, and with John Stockton showing few signs of slowing down even at age 38, they didn’t mind the wait in order to obtain the prospect they viewed as Stockton’s ultimate successor.

Then in November 2001 disaster struck when Lopez tore the ACL in his right knee on a basic non-contact play. “I turned my body, and I felt my knee start to go. I turned, but my knee didn’t,” Lopez said, describing the injury.

Despite the setback, the future still appeared bright as John Stockton agreed to return for the 2002-03 season which coincided with Lopez and Real Madrid negotiating a buyout that allowed Lopez to come to the Jazz and spend at least one season playing behind Stockton.

Unfortunately, lightning struck twice. While playing an exhibition game as a member of the Spanish National team, a Russian player landed against Lopez’s surgically repaired knee – re-injuring his ACL.

Lopez signed a 3-year contract with the Jazz but would spend the first year of it watching Stockton in street clothes behind the Jazz bench. Nevertheless, he still spoke like a Stockton clone: “I’ve always wanted my teammates to be happy when they play with me. When a player is down, you have to get him the ball more often so he can feel good. The point is for everybody to produce at their best for the benefit of the team.”

Lopez finally made his NBA debut in the 2003-04 season (after Stockton retired) in which he spent the year backing up Carlos Arroyo. While he showed flashes of brilliance, he never regained his blazing quickness and at his diminutive size he took a pounding. As a result, in July of 2004 the Jazz re-signed Arroyo (who had a breakout performance in the same 2004 Olympics Games in which Lopez sat out at the encouragement of the Jazz) to a 4-year contract.

Lopez would miss all of training camp and the first 18 games of the 2004-05 season after having more surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. His return only lasted 31 games before it was announced he would miss the remainder of the season, this time having surgery on his left knee.

For a point guard who had once possessed many of the same traits that reminded them of Stockton, it was more crushing news in an injury-riddled nightmare 2004-05 season. “He was devastated when I talked to him,” said Jerry Sloan in February of 2005. “I feel very, very bad for him.”

Eventually, Lopez began to grow homesick for his homeland and Jazz management came to the realization that he would no longer be the player they envisioned when they drafted him nearly 4 years ago. In August of 2005 the Jazz packaged Lopez in a 5-team trade that sent him to the Grizzlies. He would never play again in the NBA, signing a 4-year deal a few weeks later to play in Girona, Spain.

In June of 2008, Lopez earned a surprise call-up to the Spanish National team.
I want to enjoy this experience. In my career, I have gone through difficult times that have denied me the chance to play for the national team,” Lopez said at the time. “To have made it to this team was one of my aims and I have achieved this.”
Lopez would win a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, backing up another young Spanish point guard prodigy – Ricky Rubio.

Aside: Pure conjecture, but I believe that the injuries to Lopez (and other team members during 2004-05 season) influenced the Jazz to select Deron Williams ahead of Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. While fitting into Jerry Sloan’s system was often the main explanation, numerous times Kevin O’Connor mentioned durability as something the Jazz specifically liked in Deron who went 6-3/208 compared to Paul, who at 6-0/178 was very similar to Lopez’s 6-0/165 stature.

Pick #27: Jamaal Tinsley – Memphis Grizzlies

Jamaal Tinsley’s path to the NBA was nothing like that of Lopez’s. Tinsley began his hoops journey on the playgrounds of New York, where he earned the nickname “Mel Mel The Abuser.” After spending two years at Mt. San Jacinto Community College, he transferred to Iowa State where in 2000 he and future #4-overall pick Marcus Fizer led the Cyclones to the Elite-8. The following season, Tinsley would earn 2nd-team All-American and Big12 Player of the Year honors as a senior. He was viewed as a tremendous distributor and at age 23, the most NBA-ready PG.

Although selected by the Grizzlies, Tinsley would be packaged with Shareef Abdur-Rahim and dealt immediately to Atlanta in exchange for veterans Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight and Atlanta’s 3rd-overall selection: Spaniard Pau Gasol. On the same night, Tinsley would again be traded – this time to Indiana in exchange for the draft rights to Frenchman Boris Diaw.

With the Pacers, Tinsley secured the starting job as a rookie posting averages of 9.4 pts and 8.1 ast. He would win rookie-of-the-month honors twice thanks to those averages that included a 19-point/23-assist performance against Michael Jordan’s Wizards. Tinsley spent the next six seasons battling injuries (in 4 of the 6 he played fewer than 52 games) for an Indiana squad that changed coaches three times and gradually declined from contender to draft-lottery.

Prior to the 2008 season, Tinsley was informed by the Pacers he was no longer welcomed in or around the team. Ownership was looking to clean up the organization’s marred image and Tinsley (who wielded a dust pan during the Palace Brawl, was present for the “Stephen Jackson strip-club” incident, and was also involved in a bar fight – though charges were later dropped) was the last vestige of the Ron Artest/Stephen Jackson/Jermaine O’Neal Era the Pacers were trying to move-on from.

Tinsley was eventually waived, spending one season in Memphis and one season out of the league before resurfacing in the D-League in late-2011. The Jazz saw enough from Jamaal to sign him to a 2-year contract at the conclusion of the NBA lockout. While never a jitterbug point guard, Tinsley’s quickness and athleticism had faded to the point he struggled defensively and mainly relied on guile and savvy as a point guard. Maintaining his excellent vision and handle, Tinsley’s streetball roots still dazzled and as a backup at a more advanced age of 33, he brought much-needed professionalism and leadership to a young Jazz team. The Jazz appreciated his contributions so much that they picked up the option on his second year. In 2012-13, injuries to Utah’s top-2 point guards forced Tinsley to make 32 starts during which the Jazz posted a 20-12 record.

 Pick #28: Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker’s career path is well-known to the point very little needs to be said for the period beginning with Charles Barkley’s astute draft-night analysis and Parker hitting the game-winner against LeBron James last night in Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Of course in between there were 72 up-and-down starts as a rookie, nearly being cast aside for Jason Kidd as a 21-year old (Popovich apparently wanted to move him to SG although Parker doesn’t think he’d still be in San Antonio if Kidd had signed there), winning 3 championships, marrying Eva Longoria, the affair with Brent Barry’s wife, divorcing Eva Longoria, and finally replacing Tim Duncan as the center piece of the Spurs offense while quietly developing into one of the best players in the league.

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Parker’s journey into becoming arguably the best point guard in the NBA (at least for the 2012-13 season) had many twists and turns, but like many great players those minor hiccups will fade with time whether he retires with 3 rings or more than that.

The career paths for Raul Lopez and Jamaal Tinsley weren’t nearly as glamorous, yet both still managed to achieve some degree of success playing professional basketball at varying levels. Fifty years from now, someone will review the draft and Lopez and Tinsley will be a footnote thought of along the lines of a Tony Eason or Ken O’Brien.

If Parker was drafted by Boston (whom Rick Pitino said would have likely selected him if not for Joseph Forte dropping to them), perhaps he is nowhere near the player he is today…If the Spurs signed Jason Kidd, perhaps Parker flames out as a 2-guard…If Raul Lopez stayed healthy, perhaps he has the type of NBA career Parker did…If Tinsley stays healthy and if the Palace Brawl doesn’t happen and he wins a championship with the 2004-05 Pacers…If…

One thing is clear, Tony Parker’s success is a lot about him being a great player and hard worker – but also because many things around him fell just right. Conversely, while Raul Lopez may never have had the same talent that Parker did – a lot of things outside his control went wrong.

Behind every success story is a complicated journey. Similarly behind every “bust,” is an equally complicated journey.

In hindsight those picks were mistakes. At the time though, they made quite a bit of sense.

Footnote: For several years, the consensus choice for the best point guard to come out of the 2001 NBA Draft wasn’t even Tony Parker but rather Gilbert Arenas – who was chosen by the Warriors in the second-round – just two picks after Parker. Arenas wasn’t included because not only was he drafted after Parker – you could probably write an entire novel recapping the strange saga of Agent-Zero’s career.

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