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SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA draft is little more than a week away and, as is the case in most drafts, knowing exactly what to expect from a team drafting in the lower third of the first round is a long shot. The Utah Jazz, drafting at 21 overall, would usually fall under this mysterious shroud as well, understanding that at this point in most drafts, each team’s ranking of available prospects will start to vary more widely.
However, this year does present a bit of a bizarre anomaly. Outside of the draft’s top 14 lottery picks, it’s loaded with good shooters, and it’s hard to imagine the Jazz walking away from the draft without adding a player who can help them spread the floor offensively. With the NBA being driven by analytics more than ever, shooting has become not just a premium skill in the NBA, but a necessity.
Looking at ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects, the number of above-average shooters is remarkable. Here’s a list of their 3-point shooting percentages in order of ESPN’s draft rankings:
- Miles Bridges: 36.4 percent
- Zhaire Smith: 45.0 percent
- Aaron Holiday: 42.9 percent
- Jerome Robinson: 40.9 percent
- Troy Brown: 29.1 percent
- Dzanan Musa: 36.4 percent
- Kevin Huerter: 41.7 percent
- Elie Okobo: 39.4 percent
- Keita Bates-Diop: 35.9 percent
- Mitchell Robinson: 28 percent
- De’Anthony Melton: 28.4 percent
- Josh Okogie: 38.0 percent
- Donte DiVincenzo: 40.1 percent
- Grayson Allen: 37.0 percent
- Jacob Evans: 37.0 percent
- Khyri Thomas: 41.1 percent
Of the 16 players listed, all could potentially hear their names selected by the Jazz at 21, and with a few exceptions, notably Troy Brown and De’Anthony Melton, all of these players can be at worst, adequate shooters.
Mitchell Robinson is the only other below 30 percent 3-point shooter; but as a true center, he’s unlikely to be drafted by the Jazz, who already have Rudy Gobert under contract and having drafted Tony Bradley in the draft’s first round last year.
Otherwise, 13 of the 16 best prospects available outside of the lottery are at least 35 percent 3-point shooters or better. Six of those 13 are elite shooters, averaging 40 percent or better from beyond the arch. The average of the 16 players overall is an impressive 37.3 percent.
For reference, just five players total were drafted in the first round last season who shot 40 percent or better from the 3-point line in college (Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Lauri Markkanen and Luke Kennard), and only Josh Hart was drafted outside of the lottery.
Considering Gobert is a mainstay in the Jazz lineup, a total non-shooter, as is Donovan Mitchell, who shot just 34 percent as a rookie, the Jazz could add another shooter to their roster.
Despite having three players who shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc last season (Joe Ingles, Jonas Jerebko, Raul Neto), the Jazz could certainly improve upon their 36.6 percent 3-point shooter average as a team last season, which was decidedly middle of the pack in the NBA, finishing 12th among all NBA teams.
While it’s still unclear who the Jazz will draft at 21, with few exceptions, it appears likely they’ll add a shooter to the mix. With the NBA’s dependence on long-distance shooting and the Jazz current roster makeup, it’s an ideal draft to be selecting in the bottom half of the first round.