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What can we learn from Quin Snyder era Utah Jazz drafts?

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The 2023 NBA Draft at long last tips off this week. And with the Hawks holding a mid-first round pick and a mid-second round pick, there are a number of different directions of travel here for the franchise. This will the first draft that head coach Quin Snyder will oversee in Atlanta, but it won’t be the first of his NBA head coaching career.

Quin Snyder was hired by the Utah Jazz mere weeks before the 2014 NBA Draft, taking over for the departed head coach — and one-time Atlanta Hawks player — Tyrone Corbin. During that eight-year stint, the Jazz went from middling performers to consistently at or near the top of the rugged Western Conference regular season standings.

What can we glean from the Jazz during this period of time that could hint at how Atlanta may make moves this Thursday? Some picks are traded — or are reported to have been traded — in advance of draft night, so I will try to keep track of that, as Utah may not have necessarily used their original draft pick.

First Round Picks

  • 2014: Dante Exum (no. 5 overall) and Rodney Hood (no. 23 overall)
  • 2015: Trey Lyles (no. 12 overall)
  • 2016: 12th overall pick used in trade to bring George Hill from Indiana to Utah (Atlanta Hawks fans may remember this deal as the one that sent Jeff Teague to the Pacers in exchange for Taurean Prince, who had just been drafted with this pick)
  • 2017: Tyler Lydon (no. 24 overall, he and Lyles were packaged to move up for the no. 13 overall pick which became Donovan Mitchell) and Josh Hart (no. 30 overall, traded with no. 42 overall pick Thomas Bryant to Los Angeles Lakers for no. 28 overall pick Tony Bradley).
  • 2018: Grayson Allen (no. 21 overall)
  • 2019: Darius Bazley (no. 23 overall, traded to the Memphis Grizzlies who then traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • 2020: Udoka Azubuike (no. 27 overall)
  • 2021: Santi Aldama (no. 30 overall, traded to the Memphis Grizzlies)

After the first three seasons, the Jazz had ascended into the elite of Western Conference, and as such they drafted no higher than 21st overall for the rest of the Snyder era. The obvious home run move was packaging assets to move up to the 13th overall spot to take star guard Donovan Mitchell in 2017. He quickly became a franchise pillar, earning three All-Star nominations while in Salt Lake City.

The highest pick of this regime, Dante Exum, had his NBA career unfortunately derailed by a number of injuries, but the Jazz were able to find a number of other significant contributors lower in the first round such as wings Rodney Hood and Grayson Allen — for one season before a trade anyway — during this time frame.

Second Round Picks

  • 2014: Jarnell Stokes (no. 35 overall, traded to the Memphis Grizzlies on draft night)
  • 2015: Olivier Hanlan (no. 42 overall, never made the regular season roster) and Daniel Diez (no. 52 overall, traded to the Portland Trailblazers on draft night for cash considerations)
  • 2016: Isaiah Whitehead (no. 42 overall, traded to the Brooklyn Nets that summer), Joel Bolomboy (no. 52 overall, made the Jazz roster for one season), Tyrone Wallace (no. 60 overall, never made Utah Jazz regular season roster)
  • 2017: Thomas Bryant (no. 42 overall, traded to Los Angeles Lakers on draft night) and Nigel-Williams-Goss (no. 55 overall, didn’t make regular season team)
  • 2018: Vincent Edwards (no. 52 overall, traded to the Houston Rockets)
  • 2019: Justin Wright-Foreman (no. 53 overall, signed a two-way contract)
  • 2020: Saben Lee (no. 38 overall, traded to the Detroit Pistons)

Second round picks — especially those lower than 40th overall — more often than not do not make the regular season roster. Utah was not able to find any rotation-level contributors with any of these picks, but they stayed active in moving a lot of these players and picks on and around draft night. This may spell some pessimism for the value that the 46th overall pick that Atlanta brings into Thursday, but there is also a great chance that pick could be on the move to find a different advantage.

What does this mean for Atlanta?

It’s important to remember that there are other politics at play — namely various levels of input from the front office, scouting resources, and ownership at large — so not all of the credit or criticism can be directed to the coaching staff.

The Jazz were aggressive in looking for talent from lower draft slots in the first round, as evidenced by the Donovan Mitchell trade. Their wheeling and dealing also at times proved fruitless, as trading away Josh Hart, a solid veteran, and Thomas Bryant for Tony Bradley, who failed to impress in three seasons with Utah, evidenced.

Could the Hawks try to package the 15th pick and a current player(s) to look for the next star in the draft? I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility, especially with Atlanta looking at a tight cap situation this offseason. Either way, it should be exciting times going forward as we pivot toward the future of the franchise.