Covering All Bases

Photo: Melissa Majchrzak NBAE/Getty ImagesPhoto: Melissa Majchrzak NBAE/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz has had a couple of surprises up their sleeve this off-season, from hiring Karl Malone as a special coach for the “bigs,” to replacing the ancient jumbotron with a monstrous new HD display and audio system. And while I don’t know how I feel about listening to Gangnam Style and YMCA even louder and clearer, I appreciate the front office’s efforts to “enhance the fan experience”.

However, perhaps the most intriguing move the Jazz has made this summer comes from their scouting and recruiting efforts. As of Tuesday, June 19th, the organization has brought in and worked out and/or interviewed 72 players, with plenty more workouts scheduled. That number obliterates any number of players the team has worked out in recent years. From the perspective of a fan and outsider, this fact tells me a few important things:

#1 – The Jazz organization is still committed to success.

For decades, the Utah Jazz organization has built upon a foundation of routine, stability and, to an extent, predictability. All of these adjectives have been applicable to certain actions, from making the playoffs to rarely shaking up the coaching staff or making too much noise at trade deadlines.

Well, within the last couple years, the Jazz has been about as predictable as the color of Dennis Rodman’s hair.

There’s no more Karl Malone, no more John Stockton, no More Jerry Sloan or Larry H. Miller. We don’t even have a John and Karl 2.0 anymore in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Aside from some promising young pieces, the Jazz don’t have as solid a foundation as we’re used to as fans, and this has been the source of some unrest.

In light of all of this, it’s comforting to see the Miller’s reaching deep into their pocketbooks to fly in and house dozens of players, while team coaches and executives carefully scrutinize the play and personality of each NBA candidate. Add to this the strategic hiring of Rich Sheubrooks as director of global and pro scouting two years ago, and you can tell the Jazz are serious about not only drafting well, but finding that diamond in the rough that other teams may miss.

#2 – The team is keeping its draft options open.

I’ve heard of some media members criticizing this massive recruiting venture as financially unwise and even a little crazy. Well, I like a little crazy in my coffee. To quote the late, great Albert Einstein:

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research would it?”

As a fan who pays for tickets and merchandise, it doesn’t bother me in the least to see that my team’s owners are willing to spend a little in the hopes that it will give the team future opportunities. Of course it’s risky. Of course you don’t know for certain that it will pay off. But that hardly justifies a lackadaisical approach.

The 2013 draft is proving to be one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent NBA history, with no two mock drafts agreeing on much in the way of draft order. It’s not that the draft necessarily will have no all-starts or game changer – it’s just that it’s much harder to really know, in comparison to years past. In preparation for almost any scenario, we’ve seen the Jazz bring in probable lottery picks in Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum to question marks like Dennis Schroeder and Pierre Jackson. They’ve even entertained some locals in Brandon Davies (BYU) and Scott Bamforth (Weber State), who may not even be drafted.

In such a crap shoot of a draft, the Jazz will at least be well educated with their picks, no matter what players are left on the board or whether or not they move up or down in the draft order.

#3 It’s about more than just the draft.

One might note that this is the first year of pre-draft workouts run beneath Dennis Lindsey, who previously worked with the Spurs. The Spurs have always been known for finding that diamond in the rough, from Tiago Splitter to Danny Green. It’s more than just about the NBA draft – thorough scouting and recruiting gives the Jazz a better shot at finding the next Wesley Mathews, a pleasant, undrafted surprise brought up from the D-League when C.J. Miles suffered an injury during the regular season.

Basketball has been undergoing a global renaissance, and with an increase in the crop of talent and the rise of advanced analytics, the field of scouting has become a world unto itself.  It’s an ultra-competitive space, and I believe the Utah Jazz are nothing but practical and savvy in magnifying their efforts, thus proactively increasing their chances at drafting the right guys and perhaps snatching up some gems of potential that other teams pass up on.

Now, if we can just work on that arena playlist…



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