Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Curse of Mark Eaton

Now that Hibbert has come to town and expressed his desire to continue in the great tradition of Jazz centers, I thought it would be nice to take a stroll through memory lane. While Pasty Gangster feels that the Jazz could do worse than draft the Hoya big man, I think history should be the judge of that.

Let me start by stating two facts:

(1) The NBA over-values centers: the reward of landing a franchise big man is so great, that teams will draft young centers well before their talent indicates they should be taken. Centers with real potential do not stick around in the draft.

(2) Since 1984, the Jazz have had a top 14 selection only once: Deron Williams.

Logic, then, indicates that by the time the Jazz draft, all the good big men are gone. Sure, guys like Boozer and Ben Wallace have slipped through the entire first round, but such slippage is usually due to a perceived lack of NBA size.

However, the Jazz believe that they can beat the system, convinced that the one year that a Duncan, or an Andrew Bynum, or even a Joel Przybilla slips to the bottom of the first round is going to be the present year. All of this wishful thinking has to do with the 1983 draft. To the casual jazz fan, that draft is best remembered not for the Jazz' selection of Dominique Wilkins, but for the 4th Round selection of a 7''4' auto mechanic from UCLA. Big Mark Eaton strolled into town and became the fulcrum in the Stockton-Malone success slingshot. Hell, he was even an all-star! And he loves to cook!

But the Jazz' history of drafting bigs since 1983 has not been a ringing endorsement of the scouting ability of the Jazz front office. So, without further ado, a history of every player the Jazz have drafted in the first round since 1983 that was at least 6''10. Lest we ever forget:

1988: Eric Leckner, 17th overall from Wyoming. To be fair, you used to be able to get a decent center on the cheap from the old Western Athletic Conference (WAC): Theo Ratliff, Greg Kite, Michael Cage. But the warning signs on this guy were obvious - a white guy from Inglewood, CA that played college ball in Laramie? After two lackluster seasons with the Jazz, Leckner became a true journeyman, playing for 8 teams in 7 years. Draft Grade: D+

1993: Luther Wright, 18th overall from Seton Hall. Let's just say this - in a conservative state like Utah, drafting a bi-polar crack addict is a tough sell. However, like many stories of former Jazz mistakes, he has found Jesus. Draft Grade: F

1995: Greg Ostertag, 28th overall from Kansas. Did you know that Double-O tag is fourth all-time on the career games played list for the Jazz? That's something, right? As a four-year letterman for the Jayhawks, Ostertag averaged a paltry 7 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Surprisingly, his numbers were lower in the NBA. However, since Ostertag was actually almost close to being a poor man's replacement for an NBA center, this pick at least resulted in a rotation player. Draft Grade: B

1996: Martin Muursepp, 25th overall from Estonia. Who? Exactly. But the Heat wanted him, so they gave us the pick that became DeShawn Stevenson. Deshawn, for those who choose not to remember, used to start for the Jazz. Draft Grade: B+

1998: Nazr Mohammed, 29th overall from Kentucky. Wait, he was a jazzman? You bet. For a few hours, at least. We dished him to Philly, for the pick that became Quincy Lewis. This one actually hurts though, as Nazr is a decent NBA center who can give you 15 minutes a game (instead of Collins). While Quincy Lewis blew. Draft Grade: D

2002: Curtis Borchardt, 18th overall, Stanford. The Jazz actually didn't draft him, they traded their pick, Ryan Humphries PLUS cash to get him. Unlike the typical Jazz b.s. narrative about a big man underachieving in college but destined to turn it on in the pros, Borchardt was actually good in college. He slipped to the Jazz because he had terrible, stinky, injury-prone feet. In three years with the Jazz he played the equivalent of one season (83 games). Draft Grade: D

2003: Pavel Podkolzine, 21st overall, Russia. The big 7''5' Russian was instantly traded to Dallas for a pick that the Jazz later included in the trade to Portland that in turn netted Deron. Pavel "played" for two seasons with the Mavs while picking up Deron has been a nice thing for the Jazz. Draft Grade: A.

So, what has this little history lesson taught us? Drafting for size at number 23 is a total waste. The Jazz should either (1) trade the pick, (2) take an international player, or (3) take a flier on a swingman that drops. Do not draft any of the following: Roy Hibbert, Javale McKee, Kosta Koufos, or DeVon Hardin. The end.


Draft Guru said...

An absolute gem of a post. The curse is true! Can Hibbert become O-tag? If so, then maybe... Hey, we're talkin' a backup C.

Pasty Gangsta said...

I agree with Kofoed. What I think Crotty's analysis fails to consider is where we're usually picking in the draft. Anything worse than 17th and chances are the guy is not even going to be on the roster in three years, not matter what position he plays. In fact, I would give Ostertag at the 28th pick an A+. The guy had a long NBA career, started for us for years, and helped us a win a few playoff series. You can't hope for more than that out of a pick in the high 20s. If we can get as much out of Hibbert as we did out of 'Tag, I'd take him in a heartbeat.

Orlando said...

Two things:

1. There are players available in the 20s that are legit NBA players every year. Last year, for example, you have Jared Dudley, Aaron Afflalo, and Carl Landry. All nice players that would be great on the Jazz.

2. While Oster was a good NBA backup, we absolutely KILLED our salary cap paying him the money we paid him. Although he was a decent player, we overpaid him so much that we couldn't get a legit small forward in free agency with John and Karl around. The curse of Mark Eaton does not just occur on draft day, it can infect the club's future.

The Golden Griff said...

Please add Trent Plaisted, and his strung-out wife, to the "do not draft" list

Ryan said...

I suggest that we up the grade for drafting OTagg because (1) he had a great hair cut, (2) he brought out the best in Karl Malone, and (3) he donated his kidney to his sister who is like 5'6" and probably now has the biggest kidney in relation to her body size in the world.