The Utah Jazz have been, for the most part, perennial playoff contenders throughout their history. While the Jazz haven’t won an NBA title since being established as a franchise in 1974, they’ve had a good amount of success thanks to some stellar work in the draft.
Let’s take a look at the best Jazz draft picks of all time.
Honorable mention: Donovan Mitchell
13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft
We just could not bare the thought of having an all-time list without having a spot for Donovan Mitchell. After all, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard has emerged as the face of the franchise since arriving in 2017 as the 13th overall pick in the draft.
Interestingly, it was officially the Denver Nuggets who drafted Mitchell. A deal was struck shortly after, however, with the Jazz sending Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles to Denver on draft night. We all know who emerged as winners of that deal.
The primary reason why Mitchell remains in the honorable mention category is because he hasn’t accomplished enough in his career as of yet. All signs point to the fact that this will change in the near future, though, which should warrant a higher spot on this list. Furthermore, Mitchell gets the prime honorable mention nod over Gordon Hayward because he was picked later (Hayward went No. 9 in 2010) and has had more notable playoff performances already.
5. Rudy Gobert
27th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft
Talk about drafting an absolute steal. Rudy Gobert barely made the first-round cut in the 2013 draft.
Ironically enough, the Nuggets also officially drafted Gobert, just like Mitchell. The big man was then subsequently traded to Utah for the No. 46 pick and cash. Luckily for the Jazz, they were handsomely rewarded for their boldness.
Gobert notched back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year titles in 2018 and 2019. The 7-foot-1 big man finally got the recognition he deserved when he was voted to the All-Star Geam in 2020. Not bad for a late first-rounder, right?
4. Paul Millsap
47th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft
If you thought the Jazz hit the jackpot with Gobert as the 27th pick, then you’d be surprised that Utah did one better some seven years earlier when they scooped up Louisiana Tech product Paul Millsap 47th overall.
How often are teams able to pick up a future All-Star in the middle of the second round? The only downside here is that Millsap elevated his game to an All-Star level the moment he left Utah. In 2013, the 6-foot-7 power forward signed with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent, and this was where he would make four consecutive All-Star appearances.
Nonetheless, Millsap still had a noteworthy stint with the Jazz, averaging 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in seven seasons in Utah.
3. Mark Eaton
72nd overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft
Gobert was a steal at 27th, and Millsap was an absolute win at 47th. However, nothing tops Mark Eaton being selected as the 72nd overall pick back in 1982. As a matter of fact, he might have a case for being one of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history, thus earning him a spot on our list here today.
Eaton was no superstar, but in 10 seasons with the Jazz, he helped the team to nine consecutive playoff appearances. A 7-foot-4 big man, Eaton was a towering figure for Utah, and he even earned a spot in the All-Star Game in 1989. How many other 72nd picks can you say that about?
2. John Stockton
16th overall in the 1984 NBA Draft
Stockton may not have been the 72nd overall pick, but as the 16th pick, the Jazz were still extremely lucky to have one of the greatest point guards of all time fall into their lap this far along in the draft.
Stockton formed one half of one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history with Karl Malone, and their exploits for the Jazz during the ’80s and ’90s are well-documented.
The 6-foot-1 guard holds several franchise records for the Jazz, including most games played (1,504), 3-pointers made (845), assists (15,806; No. 1 all-time in league history as well), and steals (3,265). He’s also ranked second behind Malone in a number of other categories.
1. Karl Malone
13th overall in the 1985 NBA Draft
Just one year after snagging Stockton in the draft, the Jazz got the second piece in what turned out to be the pairing that would nearly lead this team to championship glory in the 1990s. After a tremendous three-year career with Louisiana Tech, Malone was one of the top power forwards in his class. As destiny would have it, Malone was still available for Utah at the 13th spot. The rest, as they say, is history.
Malone finished his career as a 14-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA member, four-time All-Defensive Team member, and two-time MVP. He led the Jazz to back-to-back Finals appearances in ’97 and ’98, where unfortunately for them, they had to go up Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Being one of the most prolific scorers ever, Malone’s 36,928 career points ranks first in Jazz franchise history and second all-time in the NBA, behind only the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.