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Utah Jazz start pre-draft process with look in the mirror

Published May 3, 2016 11:35 am

NBA • Utah will bring in dozens of draft candidates.
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Perspective. Self-improvement.

Those were the buzzwords coming from Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey on the heels of his team narrowly missing the postseason last month. Lindsey said he would take stock in the disappointment. He said he would fully examine what he could do to better the organization. Evaluations on and off the floor would be forthcoming.

A little less than three weeks later, the pre-draft process appears to be the first major area of self-examination for Lindsey and the front office. In the past two years, the Jazz have been the busiest team in the NBA in this regard, bringing in almost 100 prospects annually.

Lindsey has zero inclination of letting up. Indeed, the Jazz brought their first batch of players in on Saturday, a group that included Utah State junior forward Jalen Moore. But, while working hard, Lindsey also wants to work smartly. Of concern is potentially working out so many players that the staff tires itself out before draft night.

In essence, the Jazz are seeking to straddle the line. They want to be thorough. But they also want to be efficient, and they want to be able to evaluate in the film room as much as they are in a physical workout.

"It's important to learn about ourselves, improve and see what we can do to get better," Lindsey told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I think doing so can lead to better decisions. We can always be more organized and thoughtful. We don't want to overwork ourselves. That can lead to bad decisions."

Pending the results of the NBA's draft lottery later this month, the Jazz are expected to pick No. 12 for the second consecutive season. Yes, Lindsey wants to work smarter. But the results indicate the sheer number of players brought in the past two years have helped the Jazz, rather than hurt.

Two drafts ago, Utah selected shooting guard Rodney Hood at No. 23. That wasn't by accident. Like many teams, the Jazz initially had concerns about Hood's defense coming out of Duke. Those concerns caused Hood to slide down the board — he was expected to be a lottery pick.

A few weeks earlier, the Jazz tried to get Hood in for a workout, and were rebuffed. Lindsey and Walt Perrin persisted.

Hood eventually came in and impressed, and the Jazz were comfortable with taking Hood with the second of their first round picks. Two years later, Hood has established himself as a starter, and is one of the better young shooting guards in the league.

"Obviously we were disappointed in Rodney sliding," Hood's agent Travis King said. "It wasn't a great feeling sitting in the green room for that amount of time. But we never questioned why and Rodney's embraced the opportunity. We think he landed with the right organization, and we certainly don't have any regrets."

As the general manager of a small market team, Lindsey says he has used the team's workouts strategically. Taking a look at as many prospects as possible has been important. Making it even more critical is that the Jazz traditionally haven't attracted top-tier free agents, meaning the draft is the best way to build a competitive roster.

But the relationships have become important as well. And for the Jazz — a team ravaged by injury the past two seasons — those relationships have helped keep the roster afloat. When Utah desperately needed point guard help two years ago, the Jazz were able to pluck Bryce Cotton out of the D-League. Cotton had been in for a workout.

On Friday, when the Jazz needed another player, Perrin didn't hesitate to call Moore, who promptly drove in from Logan.

"It was a great workout," Moore said. "There was no wasted motion. Every moment was accounted for, from the moment we walked into the gym."

Still, there has to be a balance, Lindsey said. Utah's GM wants as many workouts as possible, but also as many strategy days as possible. Those are the days with no workouts where the staff convenes and evaluates. Those days, Lindsey said, are just as important as the days with prospects in the gym shooting jumpers. Lindsey said he's given Perrin the task of striking the balance he's seeking.

The Jazz are expected to continue workouts this week, before heading to Chicago for the annual pre-draft combine. Once the staff returns, workouts are expected to take off with a head of steam.

The draft is now less than two months away. And that means the evaluation period as begun.

"The challenge for us is to come up with the right balance," Lindsey said. "The goal for us now is to get as many quality looks as we can, without completely wearing out the staff."


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Jazz draft update

• The Jazz are expected to pick at No. 12 for the second consecutive year. Last June, they selected power forward Trey Lyles, who became a valuable member of Quin Snyder's rotation in his rookie season.

• Utah has three picks in the second round, including the 60th and final pick of the draft.

• Three of Utah's current starters — Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert and injured point guard Dante Exum — were drafted by Dennis Lindsey.






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