Although the NBA Draft is essentially a crapshoot, the Utah Jazz have struck gold on multiple occasions over the years with inspired selections.
In spite of their humble beginnings in New Orleans, the Utah Jazz eventually evolved into one of the most successful franchises in all of pro basketball. Since arriving in Salt Lake City in 1979, the Jazz have logged 28 trips to the playoffs. In doing so, they went to the Western Conference Finals six times and twice advanced to the NBA Finals.
I wouldn’t call it a hot take to say that they’d probably have a championship banner or two up in the rafters at Vivint Smart Home Arena if not for Michael Jordan and some all-time great Chicago Bulls teams.
The craziest thing about all that success: it’s largely self-made. Utah has rarely been a major player in free agency and hasn’t pulled off a bunch of blockbuster trades, either. Instead, the Jazz have built their foundation the old-fashioned way — through the draft and player development.
Sure, the Jazz have misfired on more than a handful of picks, just as every other team has. However, from Frank and Scott Layden in the ’80s to Kevin O’Connor in the 2000s to the current braintrust with Dennis Lindsey, Jazz GMs have crushed the NBA Draft process and secured diamonds in the rough time and time again.
Whether it’s the Laydens scoring future Hall of Famers in the middle of the first round or Jazz brass catching something every other team missed in the second round (and beyond), the team’s decision-makers have made some incredible picks.
Frankly, it gives one hope that maybe something will be accomplished if the Jazz hold onto their pick in this year’s draft at No. 23.
In any case, in honor of the team’s draft-night steals, I’m here to break down the franchise’s best-ever picks in the NBA Draft. As you’ll see, the list may not sizzle from the start but, in short order, we’ll get into some true draft wizardry.
Two notes — I’ve included some players that were acquired via trade immediately after getting drafted by other teams. While some like to say the Jazz swindled the Denver Nuggets for Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, for example, those picks were made for Utah when deals were already in place.
Also: I’m only looking at the Utah years in Jazz history. Sorry, Rich Kelley fans.
Now, without further ado, here are the top 15 draft picks in Jazz history, as ranked by yours truly.