It’s time we stop arguing which college football team is worse this year, Utah or BYU, and start focusing on that other college sport. In case you haven’t noticed, college basketball has started up once again and it’s never too early in the year to start discussing what the Jazz could do in the upcoming draft.
The Jazz should have 2 first round picks in this draft. They will have their own pick, which most likely will fall in the middle of the first round, and they will also receive Golden State’s pick, as long as they don’t tank as well as last year. It is top-six protected. Depending on everybody’s favorite coach, Mark Jackson, this pick from Golden State should end up being a late lottery or a mid-first round pick. (If you are still mad at Mark Jackson, @JacksonMark13, log onto twitter and let him know how big of a tanker he is. He loves to hear from Jazz fans!)
With these two picks the Jazz should be able to solidify an already-strong young core.
Throughout the next couple months you will be introduced to some of the prospects that may end up someday being part of our Utah Jazz. Over the next 6 weeks you will have available write-ups on the top 30 prospects from this year’s draft.
This week you’ll get to know the top 5 draft prospects, two weeks from now, prospects ranked 6-14, and 4 weeks from now, prospects ranked 15-30. Before we dive into the top 5 prospects from this year’s draft let’s take a look at both the quality and quantity of players in this year’s draft according to position.
This draft is littered with big men with potential. There are ten big men that could end up being drafted in the lottery (Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, James McAdoo, Rudy Gobert, Alex Len, Steve Adams, Isaiah Austin, Mason Plumlee, Anthony Bennet and Cauley-Stein). The scary thing is all of these players, with the exceptions of McAdoo and Bennet, are either seven feet tall or very close thereto. Most of these prospects are very raw as well; you won’t get much out of them their first couple of years in the NBA.
What does this mean for the Jazz?
It seems pretty safe to say that either Jefferson or Millsap will not be wearing a Jazz jersey next year. Under this assumption, the Jazz will need a 4th big guy to go along with Favors, Millsap/Jefferson, and Kanter. With the number of big men available this year, the Jazz may be wise to use one of their picks to snatch one. It may be preferable if the Jazz instead find a big man in the free agent market instead of the draft.
Don’t get your hopes up that we will be finding the point guard of the future in this draft. There are only three point guard prospects in this draft that have potential to find themselves in the lottery (Marcus Smart, B.J. Young, and C.J. McCollum).
What does this mean for the Jazz?
The Jazz have a promising, young player at every position on the floor except point guard. Unfortunately this isn’t the best draft to try and find that promising, young point guard. If the Jazz find themselves positioned to draft one of these few point guards then it doesn’t matter that it’s not a deep draft for point guards.
This draft has seven wing players that could find their way into the lottery. (Shabazz Muhammed, Alex Poythress, Tony Mitchell, Otto Porter, Archie Goodwin, Adonis Thomas, and Dario Saric) While these prospects may not all be knock-down shooters, it appears that many are legit lockdown defenders.
What does this mean for the Jazz?
Randy Foye is not the long term wing solution for the Jazz. Foye’s position is a void that Jazz will need to fill. A sharp shooter to spread the floor would help fill this void. Without many shooters in this draft, however, the Jazz may have to instead settle for a high-energy lockdown wing defender instead.
This isn’t the strongest draft class for the Jazz to have two first round picks, but, just like any draft, gems can be found. Don’t think for one second that we can’t find good contributing players in this draft. I like to look at the 2000 draft to prove this point. The top five picks that year were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer and Mike Miller. These top five were weak and the draft didn’t improve much thereafter. However, a few gems were discovered. Jamal Crawford was drafted 8th, Hedo Turkolu 16th, Quentin Richardson 18th, and Michael Redd 43rd. Even though the Jazz may not find a superstar in this draft, quality players that can start on contending teams will be available. It’s up to the Jazz scouting department and front office to find the gems. Good luck to them!
As promised, the unveiling of Utah Sports Net top 5 draft prospects:
- 1. Shabazz Muhammed, UCLA
- Right now, there is no clear cut number one pick. It may become a three-way race between Muhammed,Noel, and Zeller. Muhammed is an athletic wing who plays hard. Playing hard and athleticism translate well in the NBA. Chad Ford of ESPN, likes to compare him to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I see some similarities in his work ethic and motor but I also see some differences. Muhammed will be a better scorer in the NBA then Kidd-Gilchrist. He may not be able to bring the same winning mentality that Kidd-Gilchrist possesses. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Muhammed is okay with losing, but his winning mentality isn’t as good as Kidd-Gilchrist, a proven winner at Kentucky.
- What to watch for in his freshman season: We know he can create opportunities to score, but can he create opportunities for others to score? If he can prove his ability to be a distributor, he can be a star in the NBA.
- Games to watch this season: December 8th vs. Texas (ESPN), December 28th vs. Missouri (ESPN 2), January 12th vs. Colorado (Pac 12 Network), and March 2ndvs. Arizona (ESPN).
- What Muhammed Could Bring to the Jazz: Because Muhammed probably won’t be drafted outside of top 5, there is very little chance he ever dons a Jazz jersey. To draft him, the Jazz would have to trade away some assets to move up and snag him. If that were possible, Muhammed would be a great fit on the Jazz. He would be that reliable wing scorer that the Jazz could use, and he would bring a strong work ethic to the team. I wish he could be had, but chances are very slim.
- 2. Nerlens Noel,Kentucky
- When I see Nerlens Noel I see Deandre Jordan. He is an athletic big guy who can block shots. He is very raw on the offensive side but, unlike Jordan, he has some potential in his offensive game. He may never develop an offensive game but at least there seems to be a chance. Noel isn’t as promising as a prospect of Anthony Davis, but he isn’t that far off. So far this season he is averaging 12.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 3.6 BPG, and 2.6 SPG. Anthony Davis averaged 14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 4.7 BPG, and 1.4 SPG as a freshman. As you can see, their stats are quite similar.
- What to watch for in his freshman season: There is no doubt that Noel will be a good defender; can he be a decent player on the offensive side? Pay attention to his offensive stats throughout the season. Can he continue to average 13 PPG? What is his field goal percentage? When you have a chance to watch him, watch how well he moves off the ball? Is he aggressive on offense? Does he take dumb shots? If Noel wants to be an all-star in the NBA, he must develop his offensive game.
- Games to watch this season: December 29th vs. Louisville (CBS), February 12th vs. Florida (ESPN), February 23rd vs. Missouri (ESPN), & March 2ndvs. Arkansas (CBS).
- What Noel Would Bring to the Jazz: Just like Muhammed, the only chance to draft Noel is by trading up. Noel and Favors would create the basis of scary good defensive lineup. Teams would struggle scoring in the paint against this combo. Additionally, the Jazz would rack up some style points from Noel’s sweet 80’s flat top. Bottom line – don’t get your hopes up for that flat top.
- 3. Cody Zeller,Indiana
- Muhammed’s and Noel’s value starts with potential. Cody Zeller, however, seems more of a sure thing. Zeller and Noel kind of remind me of the 2004 draft when both Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor were drafted 1 and 2. In that year, the Magic had a choice to make; either draft the high potential guy in Howard, or draft the sure thing in Emeka Okafor. Zeller has a solid post game and is a good rebounder. His defense is suspect though. He is a better defender than his brother Tyler but it’s not great. He may become an Al Jefferson type player; borderline all-star who you can rely on to score. He doesn’t have the footwork Jefferson has, but he will end up being a much better passer than Big Al.
- What to watch for in his freshman season: Keep an eye on his passing game. When he gets the ball in the post, is he looking only to score or is he looking to pass? Also, pay attention to the effort he gives on the defensive side.
- Games to watch this season: January 27th vs. Michigan State (CBS), February 2nd vs. Michigan (ESPN), February 10th vs. Ohio State (CBS), and February 26thvs. Minnesota )ESPN).
- What Zeller would bring to the Jazz: Once again, the only way the Jazz would be able to draft Zeller is by moving up in the draft via trade. Zeller would be able to replace Jefferson as our low post scorer. Zeller could become a Marc Gasol type player. A Marc Gasol type player would perfectly compliment Favors’ game. Don’t get your hopes up because he probably won’t fall to the Jazz.
- 4. Marcus Smart,Oklahoma State
- Muhammed, Noel, and Zeller all look like top 5 locks. Positions 4-15, however, seem wide open. A lot of movement on draft boards could occur between 4 & 15. At the start of the year, James McAdoo looked like a solid number four. He has since fallen and Marcus Smart has taken his place as my fourth best prospect. I see a lot of Deron Williams in this kid. He has a very similar body and should be able to overpower many point guards. He is more of a scoring point guard than Deron but just as good a passer. He is surprising people with the fast start he has had to his freshman year. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up.
- What to watch for in his freshman season: Now that he won’t be able to sneak up on his opponents, it will be interesting to see if he can keep putting up the numbers he has early this season. Keep an eye on his shot selection. It’s okay to have a scoring point guard as long as that point guard isn’t taking dumb shots to score his points. This may become an issue for him.
- Games to watch this season: December 31 vs. Gonzaga (ESPN 2), January 21st vs. Baylor (ESPN), February 20th vs. Kansas (ESPN 2), and March 2nd vs. Texas (ESPN).
- What Smart would bring to the Jazz: Unlike Muhammed, Noel and Zeller, there is a chance Smart could fall to the Jazz. If Smart is projected to be selected higher than where Jazz pick, trade-up possibilities would be stronger. The Jazz have two young promising wings in Burks and Hayward, and two promising bigs in Kanter and Favors. The only thing missing is that promising point guard. Without that high-volume scorer amongst our young core, a scoring point guard like Smart may be a good fit. Marcus Smart also brings toughness.
- 5. Alex Poythress,Kentucky
- When I see Alex Poythress I see Nicholas Batum. Poythress is a long, athletic wing always in attack mode. Just like Batum, he will take some time to develop, but he seems a sure thing to become a very good player. He is playing well through his first 5 games shooting 68% from the field and averaging 18 points a game. One concern is that through five games he only has one assist. Why pass if you can hit 68% of your shots? He may be more of a slasher than a shooter though, based on the fact he’s only taken two three-pointers this year.
- What to watch for in his freshman season: Keep an eye on that shooting percentage. It is important that he show patience with his shot selection and doesn’t force things. Also, as a wing in the NBA, he needs to develop the ability to pass the ball. Keep an eye on his passing game and how it evolves over the year.
- Games to watch: December 29th vs. Louisville (CBS), February 12th vs. Florida (ESPN), February 23rd vs. Missouri (ESPN), & March 2ndvs. Arkansas (CBS).
- What Poythress would bring to the Jazz: Just like Muhammed, Poythress would be a wing scorer that could be very useful for the Jazz. He needs to bulk up some to be able to guard some of the bigger small forwards in the league. He is kind of similar to Hayward and the two of them could make a nice duo.
Two weeks from now we will be releasing prospects ranked 6-14. Be ready to learn more about Tony Mitchell, Alex Len, James McAdoo, B.J. Young and others