Have the Utah Jazz Angered the Draft Gods?


Some Utah Jazz fans believe the team is due for some good luck in the NBA Draft Lottery. Today, I propose an alternate theory.

The NBA Draft Lottery is upon us, meaning Utah Jazz fans are clutching their lucky charms and praying for a miracle. Many will tell you that the team is overdue for some crazy bouncing of the ping-pong balls that will result in the team leaping into the top three and picking up a franchise player in June’s draft.

They’ll tell you it’s karma. Recompense for the fact that the Jazz have only moved up once since the lottery was instituted in 1985.

Now, I’m not an overly superstitious guy and don’t have any real feeling on this “draft karma” one way or the other, but if it’s true that such a thing exists, perhaps we should consider an alternative truth. Maybe the team isn’t owed anything for its past misfortunes. Maybe the Jazz have bad draft karma.

Maybe they’ve angered the draft gods.

Again I’m not really a believer in such things and I’m not one to bemoan the draft history of the Jazz either–I happen to think they’ve done quite well for themselves over the years–but for the sake of the angry draft god hypothesis, hang with me here.

The one time the Jazz did move up–to the No. 3 spot in 2011–they drafted Enes Kanter. Not Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson or Jimmy Butler. Not even Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker. The team was flush with bigs like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, even Mehmet Okur was still on the roster at the time, but they took Kanter anyway.

They would go on to trade Kanter before the expiration of his rookie deal. Pick wasted. The draft gods are not pleased.

The Jazz also selected Deron Williams over Chris Paul in 2005. Let me make one thing clear–Williams remains one of my favorite players in the league and the Jazz got a lot of good years out of him. Still, it’s Chris Paul we’re talking about. A surefire Hall of Famer and the best point guard of his generation.

He may have ultimately left the team, just as Williams did, but one can’t help what might have happened if the Jazz had made “the right choice” and taken CP3. Another opportunity squandered.

The team’s most recent draft night faux pas was packaging multiple first-round picks to select Trey Burke at No. 9. in 2013. C.J. McCollum was still on the board and went with the next pick. So too were Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dennis Schröder. But the Jazz went with Burke who, like Kanter, has been deemed unfit for the team before the end of his first contract.


For the big crimes against the draft gods, though, we have to go back more than three decades. Twice during the team’s early days as a franchise, the Jazz squandered opportunities to acquire historic-level talents. If the draft gods are punishing our team for their sins, this is where the real fire comes from.

As part of the New Orleans Jazz’ strange quest to become Lakers 2.0, they acquired aging former Laker Gail Goodrich in 1976. The NBA’s rules at the time stated that Los Angeles would receive compensation for the signing and part of that package was a first round pick in 1979.

That first round pick became the No. 1 overall selection which, in turn, became Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Let that sink in for a minute.

The Lakers got perhaps the greatest player ever to suit up for their franchise while the Jazz got Goodrich, who blew up his Achilles in his first year with the team and retired three years later.

A few, short years after the Lakers received the Magic man on a silver platter, the Jazz found themselves with another top three pick. So, they made the obvious choice and selected Dominique Wilkins out of Georgia.

Unfortunately, the team was struggling financially and GM/head coach Frank Layden was also concerned about Wilkins’ indifference about playing in Utah, so the future Human Highlight Film was dealt for the cash they do desperately sought, along with John Drew and Freeman Williams.

Draft gods strike us down!

I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but when a team has so completely bamboozled themselves in the draft, is it really fair to say they’re owed something from some mystical, benevolent force that controls the lottery?

And when that same team actually has capitalized on some good fortune, finding players like Karl Malone, John Stockton, Mark Eaton and, more recently, ones like Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood with middling picks, is it really logical to say that its been slighted and should be gifted a lottery miracle as compensation?

Probably not.

Next: Jazz 2015-16 Review: Gordon Hayward

Still, while superstition and the whole draft karma thing don’t really factor into my thought process one way or the other 99.9 percent of the time, you can bet I’ll be rubbing Buddha’s head and clutching my own lucky rabbit’s foot when those ping-pong balls are bouncing.

Angry draft gods or not, the Jazz need a player!