Feb 25, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (22) loses the ball as Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) and guard Allonzo Trier (35) defend during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Article continues below ...
With the 2017 NBA Draft coming up, who should the Utah Jazz target with their first selection at pick No. 24?
The Utah Jazz surpassed many expectations this season, finishing with 50 wins and securing the fifth seed in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Once in the postseason, they continued their success, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games before being swept by the eventual Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors.
All this was an important step in the trajectory of the franchise, but it did push the Jazz further down in the draft than they have been used to in recent years. Utah’s first pick is the 24th overall selection, the furthest back it’s been since 2007, in which they picked 25th.
If the Jazz re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill this summer in free agency, they’ll be more or less set at the point guard, small forward and center positions, but they could use an upgrade or depth at shooting guard and power forward.
That being said, picks late in the draft can’t be counted on to make an impact immediately or fill a hole, as many of them fail to even reach role player status.
For example, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Tyus Jones, and Shabazz Napier were the last three players taken at pick 24. The jury is still out on Luwawu-Cabarrot, but Napier and Jones haven’t yet done much to prove they belong on an NBA roster.
The first round of this year’s draft is full of talented big men, with as many as 10 centers projected to go within the top 25 picks, according to DraftExpress. The Jazz are fairly well-stocked at that position, but they may have to reconsider their objective based on the talent presented to them.
With that in mind, here are five options the Jazz should consider at pick No. 24 in the 2017 NBA Draft, ranked in order of how much value they’d bring to the team going forward.
Mar 10, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Harry Giles (1) reacts during the second half of an ACC Conference Tournament game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Harry Giles
Once considered the top prospect of his class, former Duke freshman forward/center Harry Giles saw his stock fall significantly due to an ACL tear and later surgery that would keep him off the court for all of his senior year of high school and the first few months of his freshman season.
Even though he did not play much (just 11 minutes and three points per game in college), Giles’ physical tools alone are enough to have him in the mid-to-late first round in most mocks.
He projects as a center at the NBA level, standing jut shy of 6’11” and possessing a 7’3″ wingspan, although he could slide down a position if needed. Even while working his way back from an injury that robbed him of his athleticism, he still posted a 32-inch max vert at the draft combine — a decent mark for a big man.
Giles’ best offensive skill is his work as a roll man, having decent hands and the leaping ability to finish over, but not necessarily through defenders. Rebounding is another area where he excels, using his length and quickness to hunt down boards on both ends.
His rawness in terms of offensive skills and IQ would seem familiar to Jazz fans who watched a similarly situated Rudy Gobert develop finesse and touch to go along with his own physical tools. Of course, the Jazz aren’t exactly looking for centers in this draft, but Giles may be too much to pass up on if he falls to them because of his higher ceiling.
The Jazz have dealt with injuries often over the last few years, which could serve to turn them off from a player who has had similar struggles of his own.
Given the upside he has, there’s a good chance Giles doesn’t last until the Jazz pick, which is why he’s our fifth option, along with the aforementioned fit concerns.
Mar 4, 2017; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Jawun Evans (1) drives to the basket as Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) defends during the second half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Kansas won 90-85. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jawun Evans
If the Jazz are to avoid big men with their selection, their best option on the board would likely be Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Jawun Evans.
With George Hill’s free agency situation up in the air, Evans could be joining a very deep point guard position, but he does bring different things to the table than any member of the Jazz’s current backcourt.
Unlike Hill, Raul Neto or Dante Exum, Evans has a game predicated on his quickness and athleticism, using his extra gear of speed to get into the paint and create for teammates.
However, Evans is much smaller than most point guards, measuring just 5’11” at the draft combine. This is usually a limiting factor on defense, as he’ll be unable to switch off of his man or contest jumpers effectively.
Oklahoma State had one of the most potent offenses in the NCAA last season in part because of their vicious pick-and-roll attack spearheaded by Evans, who as his DraftExpress profile outlines, is prolific in executing this key maneuver:
“He showed that he is comfortable attacking the ball screen in a variety of ways, whether by rejecting the screen to get into the lane or forcing a switch to attack a big man off the dribble. He gets into space with a creative change of pace and impressive downhill quickness to bend the defense, and he should be able to seamlessly make the transition to a NBA style offense.”
As a team, the Jazz went to the pick-and-roll on 20.5 percent of their possessions, which ranked fifth in the league in terms of frequency. Evans’ talents here could make him a good fit, as would his ability to space the floor off-ball.
Evans might not be the best player on the board at 24, but he could be a dynamic option if the Jazz want to add a bench creator to their roster.
Mar 10, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; California Golden Bears forward Ivan Rabb (1) look to pass while being guarded by Oregon Ducks forward Kavell Bigby-Williams (35) and forward Chris Boucher (25) during the Pac-12 Conference Tournament at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
3. Ivan Rabb
With Derrick Favors‘ future with the Jazz unknown for now, Utah could act proactively and recoup some semblance of his services in Cal sophomore big man Ivan Rabb.
Rabb pulled out of last year’s draft to return for another collegiate season, with mixed returns. He did not improve much on what he showed as a freshman, which has led to his stock flattening, but his strengths could still assist the Jazz.
At 6’10” with a 7’2″ wingspan, Rabb has the size to play either power forward or center in the modern NBA. However, depending on how his development goes, he could be a tweener stuck between the two positions. His positional future will determine on which direction he and his new team’s staff decide to focus his skills.
Rabb shot 40 percent from three last season, but did so on only 0.6 attempts per game. On free throws, which tend to be a predictor of overall shooting talent, he made just 66 percent of his shots.
If he’s to play center, he won’t be near the defender Favors is, but he shows promise as a heady, smarter player that could become a good team defensive player. His penchant for nice off-ball movement would also come more into play around the basket.
Rebounding is where he truly makes his mark, gathering 10.5 boards in 31 minutes per game. Thanks to his mobility and reach, he’s able to chase boards outside of a center’s normal radius.
We don’t know much about Rabb’s abilities as a roll man or in transition, as he wasn’t used very frequently in either of those capacities while at Cal. In college, he was used mostly as a post-up and dump-off offensive threat.
After stagnating in college, Rabb will be an interesting case to evaluate as he makes the transition to the next level. Whether or not the Jazz front office thinks he has more value to be discovered will determine his draft status.
Feb 23, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins guard T.J. Leaf (22) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Wells-Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
2. T.J. Leaf
Playing in one of the NCAA’s most exciting offenses at UCLA, freshman T.J. Leaf excelled as a souped-up, offensively inclined power forward. Taking stock of the Jazz’s collection of power forwards, particularly stretch-4s, leaves you decidedly less than excited.
The 2015 NBA Draft’s 12th overall pick Trey Lyles shot just 31 percent from deep and watched his minutes drop in a disappointing sophomore season, while free agent signee Boris Diaw began to show his age in a major way, proving to be porous defensively and shooting a horrendous 25 percent from three-point range.
Other players who made appearances at the position, like Joel Bolomboy or Joe Johnson, can’t be counted on for long periods of time or haven’t shown enough talent at the NBA level to be relied on. The hope, should the Jazz draft him, would be that Leaf could step in fairly early and assume an important role.
On offense, Leaf can score in a variety of ways, including spacing the floor, as he shot threes at a whopping 46.6 percent clip in college (although this occurred on just 1.7 attempts per contest).
He can also post up against the right matchup, possessing decent touch and dexterity around the hoop. Strength will be an issue there and any other time he tries to play inside, as he doesn’t have the ability to finish through defenders.
UCLA ran in transition early and often, with Leaf often taking the ball up himself after a rebound. Don’t expect this to happen with the Jazz, as Quin Snyder prefers to play much more methodically. However, he can still use his handle to attack close-outs and face-ups on the perimeter.
Leaf is less mobile defensively than you’d like for a modern power forward, but shows good awareness in making up for his deficiencies. His rebounding is also a bit lacking, although his shorter 6’11” wingspan and athleticism is more to blame for this than his effort is.
His lack of positional versatility and explosiveness somewhat limits his ceiling, but Leaf could be a great find for the Jazz if he were to last until pick No. 24.
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Jaylen Johnson (10) is defended by Michigan Wolverines forward D.J. Wilson (5) during the first half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
1. D.J. Wilson
If not for a surprise NCAA tournament run, Michigan sophomore forward D.J. Wilson likely would not have found his name entering into first round discussion. As it were though, Wilson and the rest of his team rode a late-season hot streak all the way to the Sweet 16 as a 7-seed, gaining him the national spotlight in the process.
After playing just 6.1 minutes per game in 2015-16, Wilson took on a much larger role this year, playing over 30 minutes and scoring 11 points per game. His strengths reside in his offensive skill set, where he can stretch the floor (37 percent shooting from deep), make plays off the dribble (shot 72 percent in the restricted area) and create his own shot.
For someone with the height and length of some centers, Wilson offers little around the hoop in terms of interior scoring, post moves or rebounding.
Even at 234 pounds, he appears lanky and easily moved off the spot by bigger defenders.
Of course, playing next to a great interior player and rebounder in Rudy Gobert would help absolve some of these concerns.
Wilson’s perimeter ability, which is unique for his position, could be utilized in a screen-happy, ball-swinging Quin Snyder offense.
At 6’10” with a 7’3″ wingspan, he has the potential to become a pesky defender or rim protector, already showing signs of being able to switch onto guards on pick-and-roll situations. If he’s able to add the needed strength, he could be a vicious defensive asset on multiple fronts.
His inconsistency will need to be ironed out, as he had the tendency in college to disappear for stretches of games. Wilson has been a late-arriving prospect at every stage of his basketball career, so he’ll most likely be a project for whatever team takes him.
Leaf is more polished now, but lacks Wilson’s physical tools that could make him a force in this league on both ends. He’ll have to refine and adapt his game to the next level, as well as gain quite a bit of strength, but his potential and fit makes him a great pick for the Jazz.