Grading Utah Jazz' Draft Day Decisions
By trading for Michigan's Trey Burke, the Utah Jazz may have landed the best point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Utah used their picks at No. 14 and 21 to select UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Louisville's Gorgui Dieng. The rights to those players were traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Burke, whom they selected at No. 9.
The Jazz also acquired the rights to French center Rudy Gobert (No. 27) in exchange for Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green (No. 46).
So, just how good were Utah's draft night decisions?
Decision 1: Moving up in the First Round for Trey Burke
The NBA and basketball in general is a guard's game these days. There aren't many big men who dominate offensively anymore. Not necessarily for lack of talent, it's just that the game is trending toward being smaller, faster and quicker, and guards have seized control of offenses.
Look around the league. There are more teams built around point guards than any other position. Over the next several years, we can expect plenty of good battles involving Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook (just to name a few).
Where are the Utah Jazz in that conversation? Well, before tonight, they simply weren't in it. Their starter last year was Mo Williams, who averaged a solid 13 points and six assists, but certainly isn't in the same class as the previously mentioned playmakers.
After tonight? Utah may have exactly the leader they need at point guard to lead their young core into this new era of NBA basketball.
Trey Burke was the National Player of the Year last season at Michigan, where he averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists as a sophomore. He carried a solid Wolverines squad all the way to the National Championship game.
All season long, he demonstrated the ability to score both inside and out (hitting 38 percent of his threes). And on the drives he couldn't finish himself, Burke was excellent at finding the open man. His vision and decision making may be the best of any guard in the draft.
With all three of Utah's current point guards (Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley) set to enter free agency on July 1, Burke should be the game one starter in 2013. This is a perfect fit for both the team and the player.
If they keep them together, the young core of Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could start making serious noise in a few years.
Decision 2: Trading Erick Green for Rudy Gobert
When the No. 46 pick was announced, I started thinking I might have to dish out a couple of A's on this piece.
Erick Green could have easily taken over Randy Foye's role as a sharpshooting combo guard. He led the nation in scoring last year at 25 points a game and led his team in assists with an average of 3.8.
Green was measured just a quarter of an inch shorter than Foye was coming out of college. At 6'3", he'd be an undersized shooting guard, but his 6'6" wingspan and natural scoring ability would help make up for that.
He could have also come off the bench in a combo guard role behind Burke and Burks (there has to be some kind of tandem nickname there).
But, as you can see in the subheading, none of that will be happening because Green was traded to the Nuggets. When the deal was announced, ESPN's Bill Simmons reacted by almost screaming "What?!" My thoughts exactly Sports Guy.
Utah could have potentially had the steals of both the first and second rounds, but opted instead to take another shot on a tall European.
In there defense, this one is really tall. Rudy Gobert is 7'2" with a staggering 7'8.5" wingspan.
He will almost certainly need to get stronger (just 238 pounds on that really tall frame), but his length could make him an instant defensive factor in the NBA. The 20-year-old Frenchman averaged just under two blocks in 23 minutes a game in France last season.
He also shot a red-hot 72 percent from the field, showing he knows his limitations on offense and takes smart shots.
The Jazz must be willing to spend some time developing Gobert. He's not extremely mobile or athletic and will likely get pushed around fairly easily by NBA big men.
However, we just saw what this kind of size can do when Roy Hibbert torched the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I'm not saying he's the next Hibbert, but 7'2" with a 7'9" wingspan screams potential.
I would have liked Burke and Green better, but Burke and Gobert isn't terrible.
Decision 3: Trading for Raul Neto
The Atlanta Hawks picked up Brazilian point guard Raul Neto with the No. 47 pick and then traded him to the Jazz for a future second-rounder.
This deal may go unnoticed for a while, as Neto could play another year overseas before coming to the NBA.
The 6'2" guard played in Spain's top league last year and could benefit from another year of experience there. Last season, he averaged 8.7 points and 2.9 assists in 25 minutes and hit 39 percent of his threes.
This is a pretty low-risk move for Utah. If Neto becomes the next Ricky Rubio (a player he's often compared to), wonderful. If not, they really didn't have to give up much anyway.
Taking all three picks into account, the Jazz had one of the best drafts of any team in the NBA. Trey Burke will likely start right away, and Rudy Gobert could be forced into the rotation as well, if soon-to-be free agent big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap look for work elsewhere.
The home-grown formula has been pretty successful for fellow small market franchises like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. And since trading Deron Williams, the Jazz have steadily built an exciting, young team through the draft.
This year might have been their best draft since that big deal that sent their franchise player to New Jersey.
Overall Grade: B+
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