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Gordon Hayward's free agency makes Jazz's draft decisions even more difficult

Published June 18, 2017 10:13 pm

In chicken or egg scenario, the Jazz will draft without knowing what becomes of Hayward, Hill and others.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the Jazz pick in Thursday's NBA draft, general manager Dennis Lindsey will do so knowing his team could look significantly different shortly after he makes Utah's selections.

That puts Lindsey in a bind. Does he select a point guard, not knowing if George Hill leaves in free agency? Does he draft a small forward and put together a contingency plan in the event Gordon Hayward leaves as well in free agency? Or does he trade his pick and secure a veteran before July 1 in an attempt to convince Hayward to stay?

Lindsey has earned the reputation throughout the league as a meticulous GM who doesn't leave much to chance. But the draft coming before free agency leaves him and a lot of other league executives guessing.

"I — and many league executives — would prefer free agency come before the draft," Lindsey told The Tribune this week. "Free agency both fills voids and creates holes, so I think we'd like some clarity before the draft."

Utah's draft mantra Thursday is clear: It will select the best player available at picks No. 24 and 30 of the first round. Utah has two more second-round picks, but it is uncertain if the Jazz want to have four rookies on the roster.

Lindsey has long been a proponent of the draft coming after free agency. But this is the first time in his tenure with the Jazz he'll be directly affected.

Hayward, who has emerged as one of the best small forwards in the NBA, will opt out of his contract on June 30 and become an unrestricted free agent — and one of the biggest names on the market. Shooting guard Joe Ingles will be a restricted free agent. Hill, who was instrumental in Utah's rise as a Western Conference playoff team, will be an unrestricted free agent. Reserves Shelvin Mack and Jeff Withey will be free agents as well.

Lindsey is aware of Utah's reputation for picking the best player available, regardless of position. However, he'd also like to know if he's going to need to draft a point guard — or if he's going to have his star on the roster come training camp.

"The league knows how a lot of people feel," Lindsey said. "They've heard both sides, and I think there are positives and negatives to both sides of the issue. But this is what it is, and we all have to make the appropriate projections."

Under Lindsey, Utah has gone in different directions on draft night. In 2014, the Jazz picked point guard Dante Exum at No. 5 overall, one year after trading up to get point guard Trey Burke. But in 2015, Utah went for a need in the post and picked Trey Lyles over Devin Booker, who went to Phoenix one pick later and has blossomed into one of the best young shooters in the NBA.

As always, the Jazz have been diligent in their pre-draft process, bringing in dozens of prospects for workouts so that they have plenty of scouting evaluation work done on players, leaving nothing to chance.

Among point guards, first-round prospects Jawun Evans and Derrick White have worked out for Utah, and former Lone Peak star Frank Jackson came in to take a physical and interview with the front office. Shooting guards Donovan Mitchell and Dwayne Bacon have come in as well. The Jazz have brought in small forwards Semi Ojeleye and Sindarius Thornwell this past week. Power forward prospects include former Utah star Kyle Kuzma, along with Tyler Lydon, TJ Leaf and Jordan Bell. Centers Tony Bradley and Thomas Bryant have also showcased their skills.

"You're always looking for certain things in the draft, but sometimes, what you're looking for is dictated by the draft," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. "In this draft, you have great point guards and a lot of really good big men. There aren't a lot of wings, so you have to a lot of the time go by what's available to you."

There are other sides to this as well, with agents trying to find the best fit for their clients. If an agent doesn't see a fit with a team, he won't let his guy work out — among current Jazz players, Exum and Rodney Hood are notable players who did not visit Utah before the draft.

"It all depends on where a team is drafting at," said Travis King, Hood's agent. "But there's always guesswork, because a team that drafts you may not look the same after free agency, and that's the risk."

The Jazz were able to secure workouts from an impressive group of prospects in part because they are coming off a 51-win regular season and a first-round playoff series win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Eyebrows were raised when Mitchell came in because he is projected to go in the lottery, not the bottom of the first round.

"I just wanted to work out with the Jazz," Mitchell said. "I love the organization. I talked to my agent, and he said he liked the people, the group."

The good news? Utah was a deep team this past season, so on paper, there isn't a specific need, which should make the drafting easier.

The bad news? There could be a significant need in the next three weeks.

tjones@sltrib.com Twitter: @tribjazz —

Past three Jazz drafts


• Selected Dante Exum, No. 5

• Selected Rodney Hood, No. 23

• Selected Jarnell Stokes, No. 35, traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies.


• Selected Trey Lyles, No. 12

• Selected Olivier Hanlan, No. 42

• Selected Dani Diaz, No. 54, traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers.


• Selected Taurean Prince, No. 12, traded him to the Atlanta Hawks.

• Selected Joel Bolomboy, No. 52

• Selected Marcus Paige, No. 55

• Selected Tyrone Wallace, No. 60






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