SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are expected to begin a significant rebuild as soon as they find a trade partner for Donovan Mitchell, with the 2023 NBA Draft signaling the first actual building block in the franchise’s future.
The fast approaching 2022-23 season should serve as a dismantling opportunity for the Jazz as they drop to the bottom of the NBA standings in hopes of landing a top lottery pick in next year’s draft.
In addition to their own selection, the Jazz are owed picks from the Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale trades earlier this offseason.
Shams Charania named the Wizards, Heat, Raptors, Hornets, Kings, and Hawks as teams who have talked to the @utahjazz
Here are six trade offers those teams could make that would rival the @nyknicks.#TakeNotehttps://t.co/Nn3qUKjGU5
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) July 26, 2022
The question is, how good will the Jazz picks be, and how good is the 2023 draft?
The good news for the Jazz is their own draft pick can be nearly as good as they want it to be. Depending on how few games the Jazz want to win, they can suffer enough losses throughout the season to put themselves among the worst teams in the league in hopes of landing a coveted top-five pick in next year’s draft.
The picks they got from both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Brooklyn Nets likely won’t bear so much fruit.
First, the Nets picks is a bit of a toss-up, regardless of what happens with Kevin Durant and Brooklyn this summer.
The pick the Jazz are getting from the Nets will be the least favorable of the Nets, Houston Rockets, and Philadelphia 76ers by way of two separate James Harden trades.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) June 30, 2022
That means that even if Houston finishes among the worst teams in the NBA again this season, and Brooklyn suffers amid a broken culture involving Durant and Kyrie Irving, they’d still need to see the 76ers collapse for the draft pick to offer any significant value.
For reference, the 76ers selected 23rd in this summer’s draft despite playing most of the season without All-Star Ben Simmons before shipping the disgruntled guard to Brooklyn for Harden.
If the 76ers season goes according to plan, the Jazz will likely end up with a pick in the 26-30 range next season, regardless of how either Houston or Brooklyn performs.
The pick the Jazz own from the Timberwolves via the Rudy Gobert trade is far more straightforward. Regardless of where Minnesota finishes in the standings next season, they owe the Jazz their draft pick.
So, how good should the Timberwolves be?
Last season Minnesota finished with the seventh-best record in the Western Conference and the 12th-best record overall, all before adding Gobert who will bring a significant upgrade to the Timberwolves middle-of-the-pack defense.
See Ryan Smith's comments on Gobert here, and all the assets heading the Jazz way in the trade.#TakeNote https://t.co/xyDwX6mnXw
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) July 6, 2022
Teamed with another year of development for young star Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves should be a relatively safe bet to make the playoffs once again next season.
There will be inevitable bumps in the road figuring out how to pair Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt, and the loss of Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt won’t go unnoticed, but a step backward next season would be a major surprise in Minnesota.
The Wolves had the 18th pick this past June (they traded back to select Jazzman Walker Kessler) and should be expected to have a selection in the 18-25 range next season.
The best value the Jazz will find next season will come from their own pick which they own outright despite not having a pick in the 2022 draft.
The team won’t be enamored with the idea of a multiyear demolition projected and would likely prefer to be among the worst teams in the NBA next season to avoid stacking too many consecutive dreadful seasons.
However, that’s not a given with the current roster.
As it stands, the Jazz are far too talented to finish with one of the five worst records in the NBA, even if they were to try to lose games. Ryan Smith, Danny Ainge, Justin Zanik, and David Fizdale all have work to do to deconstruct the roster beyond trading Donovan Mitchell if the Jazz want to bottom out in the NBA standings.
Regardless of any Donovan Mitchell trade, the @utahjazz roster still requires a lot of work before training camp. #TakeNote https://t.co/PL97q0Ydoa
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) August 2, 2022
That involves additional deals for Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and the veteran pieces they got from the Timberwolves in the Gobert trade.
How willing the Jazz are to take less than market value for those pieces may be determined by the return they get for Mitchell whenever he is moved, but each game they help the Jazz win next season only hurts their lottery odds.
Regardless, it’s fair for Jazz fans to expect the Jazz to have a top ten pick next season, and the front office has to be hoping it falls in the top five.
Though the 2023 NBA Draft will undoubtedly look different next June than the current forecast, several early mock drafts can paint a fuzzy picture of who might be available when the Jazz are making their three picks.
Nearly a year out and French phenom Victor Wembanyama is the overwhelming favorite to be selected with the top pick with G League star Scoot Henderson likely to go second overall.
Victor Wembanyama's potential as a shooter at 7'5", especially off movement, is nothing short of special.
Link to the full video discussing this and other parts of his game below! pic.twitter.com/SKbsrgZWWe
— Keandre (Hoop Intellect) (@HoopIntelllect) August 4, 2022
Those two (specifically Wembanyama) have made it easier for teams like the Jazz to begin their rebuilds this season in hopes of getting a potentially franchise-changing piece atop the draft.
But behind those two players, there is a reasonable amount of hype in the top 10.
Twins Ausar and Amen Thompson are expected to both wind up in the top half of the lottery next summer after spending next season in the G League, as are Cam Whitmore (Villanova), Nick Smith (Arkansas), and Dariq Whitehead (Duke), all of whom project as strong young pieces for are rebuilding team.
The further down the draft the more difficult it is to project this far out, but several second and third-year college players have seen their names pop up at this point in the first round.
IMG Academy and Team Thrill's Jarace Walker (6'8" | 235 lbs. | 7'2" WS) was one of the best players in high school basketball last year in a skillset that translates well to Houston and as a draft prospect. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/vo4vEYQz82
— Aneesh (@AneeshNamburi) July 16, 2022
Kris Murray (Iowa), Colby Jones (Xavier), Andre Jackson (UConn), and Justin Strawther (Gonzaga) are names to watch with the Minnesota pick, along with one-and-dones like Jarace Walker (Houston), Leonard Miller (G League), Kyle Filipowski (Duke).
In full transparency, I would be surprised if the Jazz chose to make three first-round picks next season, and would say it’s far more likely they flip this final first-rounder for an additional first in the 2024 draft.
Currently, the Jazz owe their 2024 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the Derrick Favors trade, though it would stay in Utah if the Jazz finish with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA that season.
CALEB LOVE 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0INPkR1H2C
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 26, 2022
But, if the Jazz do end up making their final pick, here’s who they could be looking at.
Harrison Ingram (Stanford) likely would have been selected had he entered the 2022 NBA Draft, but returned to school to prove he belongs in the first round. The same goes for Caleb Love (North Carolina), Jaime Jaquez (UCLA), and Marcus Sasser (Houston).