Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Draft Strategy - Utah Jazz

This is a strange draft for the Jazz for a few reasons.
  1. It is rare they draft in the lottery since they normally are a playoff team and don't normally own other team's draft picks.
  2. They probably will be losing Carlos Boozer to free agency, which means they have a lot of low post production go replace.
  3. Mehmet Okur's injury puts in doubt his effectiveness for the short and long term future and
  4. After losing 3 straight years in the playoffs to the Lakers it is clear the Jazz need help in the front court. They just couldn't matchup with the Lakers size and didn't have anyone to guard Gasol, Bynum or Odom.
All of those signs seem to point that to the fact that the Jazz need a big man in the draft. Let's go over their roster to see their positional strengths and weaknesses:

Point Guard - Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the game and is a huge advantage for the Jazz. He is young and as long as he doesn't get upset with the team should be the starting point guard for the next 10 years. Behind him is an average change of pace guard in Ronnie Price. They could certainly use a better backup point guard, but it isn't the most pressing need on the team. Overall the point guard position rated the best on with a +5.0 PER rating over the opponent. The Jazz point guards biggest advantage over their opponents were in field goal percentage and assists.

Shooting Guard - In typical Jazz fashion they found a player in Wes Matthews who wasn't thought highly of in the draft (he went undrafted), but fits in perfectly with the Jazz system. He replaced a former favorite of mine in Ronnie Brewer and while I don't think he played as well I think that he definitely showed signs of a productive NBA player. Backing him up is Kyle Korver and also despite being listed as a small forward CJ Miles would also sometimes play shooting guard. Miles is the only one of those three who is signed next year with Matthews being a restricted free agent and Korver being an unrestricted free agent. It would be smart to try and keep both Matthews and Korver since both were efficient shooters who if they would have had enough shots to qualify would have been in the top 5 in eFG%. Part of the reason they had such a high percentage of made shots is because they didn't shoot the ball that much and when they did shoot it they were usually open. They way they rated out on -0.4 compared to their opponents. The could definitely use an upgrade at this position, but it isn't something that is a must have.

Small Forward - When healthy you can just plug and play Andrei Kirlenko and have a very productive, if slightly neurotic player. Unfortunately he isn't always healthy, which meant that CJ Miles saw a lot of playing next to Wes Matthews. Miles has been with the Jazz for 5 years and still is only *23 years old. He is supposed to be a lights out shooter, but unfortunately the stats show that he only hit 34% from 3 last year. In fact his career shooting numbers are only 44%/34%/77%, which seems to suggest that he is an average shooter. He came around a little at the end of the year, but still he hasn't shown that he can even be an average NBA player. Another problem for the Jazz is Kirlenko's contract. He is going into his last year of a max contract, which means two problems. 1) He is overpaid. and 2) The Jazz can't count on his production after this year. The Jazz had the worst PER difference at this position as the finished -0.6 worse than their opponents. This is definitely an area of concern for the Jazz.

*Miles is only 2 months older than Ekpe Udoh, who is a projected lottery pick from Baylor.

Power Forward - This has been a position of strength for the Jazz with Carlos Boozer being a nightly double double player and Paul Millsap being one of the best young power forwards in the league. Boozer is a poor defensive player (especially against the Lakers), but on the offensive end it is hard to stop Boozer and Deron Wiliams. Millsap is not quite the offensive presence of Boozer, but he is younger and better defensively. Also, more importantly he is signed, while Boozer is an unrestricted free agent who will probably be in Miami or New Jersey next year. They both combined for a great year last year as they had a +2.7 PER differential compared to their opponents. They were able to shoot, rebound and pass better than the opposing team's power forward. Still this duo is probably not going to last and even if it does neither Boozer or Millsap are tall enough to play well against the Lakers big men.

Center - I was surprised to see a +2.9 PER difference at the center position since even before Okur's injury I thought the Jazz needed a young, defensive center. Based on that rating it looks like the combo of Mehmet Okur and backups Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos were above average. The reason for the + PER difference is because the Jazz centers shot better than their opponents by 3.6%. One thing that counted against them was that they had 0.6 less blocks per game. I would rate this the biggest area of need since Okur is old and injured and I don't trust the young backup centers.

Recap - The Jazz could use some more outside shooting at the wing positions, but most importantly the need a post player to replace Boozer and help them try to beat the Lakers. While I would pass over a vastly superior wing player for a post player I would say that if it is even a little close lean towards a big man.

What to do in the draft?
  1. Is there anyway to move up in the draft? I would trade this year's 9th pick and next year's 1st round pick to move up in the top 5. I would trade this year's 9th pick and anyone but Williams and Millsap to move up to the top 5. The reason is that I would love to have DeMarcus Cousins 292 pounds to battle against Bynum and Gasol. Also, I would love to see Cousins and Millsap control the rebounds.
  2. Assuming they stay the 9th pick here is the order of players I would like to draft - Greg Monroe, Cole Aldrich and Ekpe Udoh. I don't really like Monroe, but if he really is as good of passer then it would be great for the Jazz system that really so heavily on passes to open cutters. Aldrich and Udoh don't rate very heavily with Holinger's statistical analysis, but I think that discounts too much the defensive impact those players will bring in the NBA. I love how both were in the top 11 in shot blocking percentage in college. The reason Aldrich is the pick over Udoh (since I don't think Monroe will be available) is because he is taller, stronger and a year and a half younger. All year long I have kind of assumed that Aldrich would play for the Jazz in the same way that I assumed that Deron Williams was going to be drafted by the Jazz after he led Illinois to the title game. Some players seem like Jazz players and after watching him play it just seems like Aldrich is destined for Salt Lake City. He is a better, safer pick than the guy (Udoh) who I mostly remember for dominating against Duke in the Elite 8.
  3. Don't draft Al-Farouq Aminu. He isn't a good player and isn't a good fit for the Jazz. I don't really want the Jazz to add a player who can't shoot from the outside and turns the ball over too much.
  4. While you are at stay away from Xavier Henry (is there any difference between him and CJ Miles?) and Gordan Hayward. I saw a few Kansas games and I can't believe anyone would pick Henry over Aldrich in the draft. I know that he is young, tall and a good shooter, but at best he seems like a spot up shooter. As for Hayward did anybody else see that he shot under 30% from a college 3 point line last year. I know he was the #1 option and that everyone was keying on him, but still to shoot that poorly in the Horizon league on a shorter 3 point line doesn't make me think he is an incredible outside shooter. It is too bad since he is tall and a very good athlete.
  5. If you have to take a wing player then draft Nevada's Luke Babbitt. He is rated 8th in Hollinger's Draft Rater and I am starting to warm up to him being a Jazz wing player. I am worried that he is going to be another Luke Jackson (both are slow, high scoring, white players who played out west) I think he is worth a shot at the 9th pick. The things I liked about researching Babbitt where his high percentages (50% from the field 92% from the line and 42% from 3) despite taking a lot of shots. Also, while his speed is definitely questionable I liked how he had a 37.5 vertical and had only 5.6% body fat. To give you a comparison John Wall had a 39 vertical and Derrick Favors had a 35.5 vertical. I will refrain from making a joke about how I guess this white man really can jump.
  6. In the 2nd round please take Jon Scheyer from Duke. I know this is a homer pick, but he is actually rated very well statistically and could get a spot in the rotation for the Jazz. The Jazz normally do well with their 2nd round picks, so lets hope that continues and that Chad Ford's mock draft is accurate.
Let's see how everything plays out and how the Jazz do in the draft. I am hoping for Aldrich or Babbitt or some type of miracle that the Jazz get Monroe or Cousins.

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