Could Jabari Parker be the perfect fit for the Jazz?
For the Utah Jazz, losses adding up also means ping pong balls adding up.
After losing 117-94 to the Miami Heat on Monday night, the Jazz now have a league-high 21 losses and are on the fast track to a top pick in the star-studded 2014 draft.
The current record of 6-21 would suggest that top pick will be headed to a bad situation, but he might actually be the final piece to a puzzle already teeming with young talent.
During the loss to the Heat, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh had this to say about the bunch:
This Jazz team's wayyy better than their record. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks chewing up the Heat inside.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 17, 2013
Alec Burks and Enes Kanter looked great Monday night, and Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke and Derrick Favors have all had showcase games over the course of this season.
|Trey Burke||Dec. 2 vs. Houston||20 points and six assists on 9-of-18 shooting|
|Alec Burks||Dec. 16 at Miami||31 points and seven assists on 12-of-17 shooting|
|Gordon Hayward||Dec. 13 at Denver||30 points, 13 rebounds and five assists on 11-of-18 shooting|
|Enes Kanter||Nov. 13 vs. New Orleans||21 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting|
|Derrick Favors||Nov. 15 vs. San Antonio||20 points and 18 rebounds on 10-of-19 shooting|
Consistency is the problem right now, but that was expected. All five of these guys are 23 or younger and playing in featured roles for the first time in their NBA careers.
Once they overcome some of the growing pains and develop some chemistry, games like those listed above will become more common. I'm not saying they'll average those kind of numbers, but they've all shown they're capable of great production.
So the key to the 2014 draft for Utah is selecting someone who blends with all the talent already on the roster. And there are three prospects in this class who could be the perfect fit.
Jabari Parker, SF/PF
Duke's Jabari Parker could be plugged in at small forward and contribute for the Jazz right now. Offense is his forte, and this is a team in need of a go-to scorer.
Hayward is occupying the role this season, but he's struggling with it. His team-leading 16.9 points a game looks a little less appealing when you consider that he's posting career worsts in both field-goal (40.5) and three-point (26.3) percentage.
He'd be more effective in support of a dynamic scorer like Parker. That's essentially what he did last season when he shot 41.5 percent from three-point range spotting up on the wing opposite of where Al Jefferson played in the post.
Wherever Parker goes, he'll command that kind of attention.
Monday night, he scored 21 points against Gardner-Webb, giving him eight 20-point games on the young season.
Jabari Parker has 8 games with 20 or more points, 3 shy of Gene Banks' Duke freshman record (set in 1977-78 season) pic.twitter.com/1yeDKlx3Uw— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 17, 2013
He's averaging 22.1 points while shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three-point range.
And these aren't a bunch of easy looks. Just watch how many contested shots he hit against Andrew Wiggins and Kansas.
If the Jazz land Parker, his immense offensive talent will take so much pressure off all five of the other core guys.
Defenses might not be able to put their best wing defenders on Hayward. They'll think twice about doubling down against Favors or Kanter. And they'll be more wary of collapsing on Burke or Burks when they get to the lane.
And Parker's versatility will allow Utah to deploy a variety of lineups. He'll almost certainly be a wing in the NBA, but he's currently dominating the college game as a power forward (and occasionally as a center).
Because of that ability to play inside, Bleacher Report's draft guru Jonathan Wasserman recently declared Parker the most complete prospect in this class, saying:
There really isn't a more complete prospect in the country right now. Offensively, he's got the outside game, where he can play off the ball or create his own shot on it. He can separate off the dribble and score on the move, as well as push in transition and put pressure on the defense.
And now, we've seen it all. Parker's post game was too much for Michigan to handle, even if it didn't result in another 20-point scoring effort. He was still able to impact the game on every possession without putting up points in volume.
Parker would be a matchup nightmare at the 4 (a juiced up version of what the Jazz currently have with Marvin Williams). And Utah could spread the floor around him with shooters like Burke and Hayward.
So from a basketball perspective, this match is as compatible as Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Throw in the fact that he'd be instantly embraced as a cultural icon in Utah due to his Mormon faith and this is a no-brainer.
Dante Exum, PG/SG
Yes, Trey Burke looks like he can be Utah's point guard of the future. He's great at taking care of the ball, and it looks like he can shoot the three.
But the intrigue around Dante Exum might be too much to pass up, and there's a chance that the 6'6" guard could spend time on the floor with Burke.
Following the Nike Hoop Summit in April, Draft Express's Matt Kamalsky talked about Exum's ability to play both guard positions:
A 6'6 guard with 6'9 wingspan who appears to have added some 10 pounds of muscle to his frame since last summer, Exum stood out immediately with his speed, fluidity and ball-handling ability. Accustomed to playing the point guard position at the junior level, the strong play of floor general Dennis Schroder required Exum to adapt playing off the ball this week –a challenge he accepted without a second thought in an effort to put his team in the best position to win.
And winning is something he's done plenty of since exploding onto the scene of the 2014 draft class.
In August, he led Australia to a bronze medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships while averaging 18.2 points and 3.8 assists a game.
And this month, his Lakers of Lake Ginninderra College won the national schools championship in Australia. According to Lee Gaskin of the Sydney Morning Herald, Exum dropped 15 dimes in the title game.
Afterward, he said, "I knew coming into this tournament there was going to be a lot of attention towards me, but I just wanted to come out and get my teammates involved because that's what basketball's about."
A 6'6" high schooler who can happily drop that many assists in a single game conjures up visions of a young Penny Hardaway or Magic Johnson.
Andrew Wiggins, SF/SG
Kansas Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins is the "can't-miss" prospect who still hasn't sold me.
My main concern is Wiggins' lack of a killer instinct. He spends pretty long portions of games looking disengaged or disinterested.
The fact that he's still averaging 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds a game is a testament to his great talent. If he was locked in for all of the 30.1 minutes he plays per game, he could comfortably average 20 points.
None of this is to say that landing Wiggins would be a bad thing, though.
He is immensely gifted (particularly athletically) and brimming with potential. If his competitiveness and skill catches up with his physical tools, he has the potential to be a franchise star.
As such, he'd fit well alongside Utah's franchise point guard Burke and its franchise big man Derrick Favors.
What if the Jazz Don't Land a Top-Five Pick?
Parker, Wiggins and Exum all figure to be among the very first names announced on draft night, and the lottery format of the NBA draft means there's no guarantee Utah will have one of those top picks.
Even if the Jazz finish with one of the worst records in the league, fate and bouncing balls could move them down the board.
If that's the case, predicting who Utah would take becomes much more difficult. Assuming the Jazz go with need, small forwards would be in play for them late in the lottery.
Creighton's Doug McDermott would be a fantastic floor spacer from that position. He's averaging 25.3 points and shooting 45.3 percent from three-point range.
Duke's Rodney Hood or Kentucky's James Young could be other options.
Whomever Utah lands should be heading into a better situation than most lottery picks due to the amount of talent with which he'll immediately be surrounded.
He won't have to immediately be a franchise savior, just a very important piece to a puzzle that's already coming together.
For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.