SALT LAKE CITY – The 2024 NBA Draft might be the most realistic opportunity for the Utah Jazz to add their next superstar to the roster.
Last week, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge dropped a subtle hint about the team’s rebuilding timeline and mentioned both the 2023, and 2024 drafts.
“I’m not sure how to rank it against historic drafts,” Ainge said about next June’s even, “but I think it’s better than last year’s draft. I think ’24 is better than ’23, but that’s pretty premature to start judging 16 and 17-year-olds.”
Danny Ainge on the quality of the 2023 NBA draft.
“I think it’s better than last year’s draft. I think ’24 might be even better than ’23.”
—Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) September 12, 2022
It felt like a throwaway line from Ainge at the time, a casual statement about the team’s draft assets as they undergo a full roster reconstruction.
But on Monday, Ainge’s comments got more tantalizing after a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that the league was looking to lower the draft-eligible age for players wanting to enter the NBA.
“The reduced age limit for high school-to-NBA jumps would go into effect as early as the 2024 NBA Draft.” Sharania wrote.
That means in 2024, the NBA would have two classes combined into one, with both the best 19-year-olds declaring for the draft after playing one year of college and high school seniors once again eligible to jump to the league for the first time since 2005.
Sources: NBA and NBPA in serious talks on new items for potential Collective Bargaining Agreement:
– Draft age eligibility from 19 to 18, return of high school-to-NBA
– Measure that allows players citing mental health similar to physical injury
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 19, 2022
Essentially, the amount of talent in the draft would be doubled, giving the Jazz more access to star players in the lottery, without necessarily having to land one of the top overall picks.
The 2023 draft features French phenom Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson who have been penciled as likely stars at the next level, but it will require significant lottery luck to land either player.
Even if the Jazz were to finish with the worst record in the NBA next season, they’d still have only a 27 percent chance of landing one of the top two picks in the draft.
However, a team that finishes with the worst record in the league can fall no further than fifth in the draft, which may be well within striking distance for a star-caliber player in a draft featuring twice as much talent as usual.
Even prior to Monday’s report, the Jazz had extra incentive to lose games during the 2023-24 season.
With the @utahjazz busy offseason you may have lost track of exactly how many draft picks they’re owed, and when.
Here’s a running list of the future draft assets the Jazz own through 2027. #TakeNote https://t.co/SrFJ3t2guX
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) September 2, 2022
Though the Jazz own 15 first-round picks between now and 2029, they have just one pick in the suddenly enticing 2024 draft. And, that pick will belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder if it falls anywhere after the 10th pick, giving the Jazz little reason to start winning over the next two seasons.
While the Jazz front office will certainly do their best to position the team for a high draft pick this upcoming season, the 2024 draft offers the team a unique opportunity to add star talent.
If the team doesn’t end up with an opportunity to draft either Wembanyama or Henderson next June, a deeper class of star talent might be on the horizon just two years from now.