Throwback Thursday: How a Battle for the basement changed Utah Jazz History

Throwback Thursday: How a Battle for the basement changed Utah Jazz History

by Nico Fiscella

The 2004-2005 Utah Jazz are an easy team to forget when thinking back on the history of Utah. The team finished with a 26-56 record, sitting at 26th in the final NBA League standings. However, on April 8, 2005, the battle for the bottom of the Western Conference took place. The Utah Jazz defeated the New Orleans Hornets 98-87.

With Carlos Boozer not suiting up for the game, it was Matt Harpring who carried the load for Utah. His 28 points were a game-high, while also shooting over sixty percent from the field. 

Outside of Harping, Mehmet Okur and Keith McLeod were both able to add 12 points of their own. Kirk Snyder provided 11 points off the bench in 21 minutes of action.

Harping was one of few bright spots on the struggling Jazz. He finished the season as the second most points-per-game with 14 on the year. Harping was joined by two 23-year-old studs for Utah. Forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer held their own on the season. However, they combined for a total of 92 games played on the season.

When he played, Carlos Boozer was the man for Utah this season. Boozer averaged just under 18 points-per-game on the season and was able to collect nine rebounds per game as well. Boozer was in his third NBA season and was beginning to blossom as one of the league’s best up-and-coming forwards. Two years later, Boozer would reach his first NBA All-Star game at the age of 25.

For the Hornets, 19-year-old rookie J.R. Smith led the Pelicans with 18 points on the evening of the Jazz matchup. The Hornets had four players score in double-digits that night. Alongside Smith were David West (15), Lee Nailon (15), and Dick Dickau (10).

In a defensive-minded NBA back then, the Jazz held New Orleans at bay. The Hornets finished the game shooting 41 percent from the field, and 28 percent from beyond the arc.

When comparing the team statistics, Utah just barely edged out the Hornets in most categories. The Jazz outrebounded the Hornets 35-32 and collected 12 steals on the night. Of the 12 steals, Keith McLeod led the way with four of his own for Utah.


While this win does not seem like much, it did play a part in who each team would select in the following NBA draft.

Heading into the 2005 NBA draft, the Jazz owned the projected 6th pick in the draft, with New Orleans two spots ahead. The Hornets had an 18 percent chance of winning the lottery, while Utah sat at only eight percent. The Jazz traded the sixth pick to the Portland Trailblazers to jump to the third overall pick, while New Orleans stayed at four.

After Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams went one and two, Utah found themselves on the board. With three top point guards available in Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, and Chris Paul, Utah selected the Illinois product, Deron Williams. 

Williams found himself on two All-Star teams with the Jazz. However, picked right after him by the Hornets was none other than Chris Paul.

We all know how history unfolded. Now the question can be asked: what if Utah selected Paul?While a game between two below .500 teams does not seem impactful when looking through NBA history. A change in the outcome could completely change the future of the NBA.

Featured image courtesy Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

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