If there’s one good thing to take away from this season for Jazz fans, it’s that the tanking project worked and Utah will more than likely have a top-five pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
This upcoming draft is regarded as one of the deepest drafts in recent history and the Jazz have two first-round picks. They will have a real chance to land at least one key player for their roster.
Salt Lake City doesn’t provide the Jazz the luxury of attracting big-time free agents, so they are going to have to largely rebuild through the draft and that process starts this year. With some young talent already on the roster, if the Jazz can draft smart, they could very well be back in playoff contention next season.
Utah’s most blatant need is at the power forward position, and they could also use help by adding another scorer on the wing.
According to draftexpress.com, if the season were to end today, Utah would have the No. 4 and No. 23 overall picks.
Let’s take a look at their best options.
Best Options with the Lottery Pick
Although currently slotted at No. 4 overall, the Jazz could very well get lucky in the lottery and get moved up even further on the board, or possibly slide down a little. So it is safe to say that any player is fair game at this spot until we find out the lottery results.
Let’s take a look at the most ideal options for the Jazz.
Jabari Parker: Duke, Freshman Small Forward
If Jabari Parker is still on the board when the Jazz are picking, they will be absolutely ecstatic. Parker is arguably the most NBA-ready player in the entire draft and is projected to be a superstar in the NBA.
At 6’8” and 240 pounds, Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds at Duke this season. He is incredibly skilled and can score from anywhere on the floor. He has an elite basketball IQ, is a great passer and a very solid rebounder.
He is a high character guy with a good motor, and if the Jazz get lucky in the lottery, then he will more than likely be their first selection. He could be a franchise-changing type of player for the Jazz.
Julius Randle: Kentucky, Freshman Power Forward
At 6’9” and 250 pounds, Julius Randle is a monster. He is a strong, physical and imposing power forward. He can score with his back to the basket or he can face up and attack.
Randle averaged a double-double at Kentucky this season with 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He is an elite rebounder and possesses a relentless motor. He will need to improve his defense and he sometimes struggles against longer defenders, but Utah would be thrilled to land him.
Randle would come into Utah and compete to start at power forward immediately, providing a physical presence in the paint while being able to bang down low, rebound and score.
Noah Vonleh: Indiana, Freshman Power Forward
If private team workouts go well for Noah Vonleh, he could end up jumping ahead of Randle on many draft boards, as he has all the potential in the world. At 6’10” and 240 pounds, Vonleh is a long power forward with a 7’4” wingspan, and he has an excellent motor.
He is still a little raw offensively but he is an absolute warrior in the paint as well an excellent rebounder. He averaged 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds at Indiana this season.
He would be embraced in Utah and would be given every opportunity to start right away. He would provide defense, rebounding, energy and the upside and potential to turn into a star in the NBA.
Other Big Stars
Obviously if Utah gets lucky in the lottery, depending on their draft spot, then Kansas stars Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will be heavily considered as well.
Wiggins could come in and potentially be a star on the wing in Utah, although Parker is more NBA-ready. Embiid might have the most potential in the whole draft, but for the Jazz specifically, power forward is more of a need right now and Randle is more NBA-ready.
Lastly, I chose to profile Noah Vonleh as well because although he is mainly about upside, he is the most realistic player of the bunch to still be on the board regardless of where the Jazz’s lottery selection is.
Best Options for the Jazz’s No. 23 Selection
Whichever player Utah takes at this spot, will largely be determined by who they take with the lottery selection, but the same needs still apply. They should be looking for a power forward or a versatile, scoring wing player.
Rodney Hood: Duke, Sophomore Small Forward
Rodney Hood played second fiddle to Parker many times at Duke this season, but that should not take away anything from his game. At 6’8” and 210 pounds, Hood has ideal size for an NBA small forward.
He can really score the ball averaging 16.1 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from downtown on the season. He is a smooth lefty scorer with deep range on his jumper. He also has the ability to take it to the rack or pull up with a nice mid-range game.
He needs to add a little strength and improve on defense, but he would do great things in Utah. With a fantastic arsenal of ways to score, Hood would provide the Jazz with an immediate scoring presence and compete right away for a starting job.
T.J. Warren: North Carolina State, Sophomore Small Forward
T.J. Warren is one of the best pure scorers in the 2014 draft class. He averaged 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game this season at NC State.
He is a big, strong and physical forward that can score in a multitude of ways. He specializes in attacking the basket and finishing in the paint and loves to shoot floaters over bigger defenders.
He can get better on defense and improve his jumper, but if he is still available at No. 23, Utah will definitely take a hard look at him. He would provide a tremendous scoring threat and could possibly step into the starting line up, or provide a great scoring boost off the bench.
Kyle Anderson: UCLA, Sophomore Point Forward
At 6’9” and 235 pounds, Kyle Anderson is the most unique player in the entire draft. He has Magic Johnson-like abilities at point guard. This season at UCLA he averaged a ridiculous stat line of 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He has perhaps the best court vision of any player on the board and can play any position one through four. He is a good rebounder with great length, and he is a solid shooter from mid-range and from the three point line.
The one obvious knock on him is his lack of athleticism and uncertainty on defense, but with the right system he has the potential to be special in the NBA. For the Jazz, he could come in and back up Trey Burke at the point, or he could even seriously contribute on the wing or at the four. Utah would greatly profit from the immense versatility that Anderson offers.
Adreian Payne: Michigan State, Senior Power Forward
Adreian Payne has the makings to be a very successful NBA power forward for years to come. At 6’10” and 245 pounds, Payne has the size and strength to play in the post, as well as the athleticism and shooting stroke to step out and knock down three pointers.
He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds for Michigan State this season while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from long range. Payne is an explosive leaper as well as a good defender and rebounder. He is experienced, proven and NBA-ready.
Depending on whom Utah takes with their lottery pick, if Payne is still there at No. 23, they will have a very hard time passing on the Spartan big man. He would come into Salt Lake and seriously compete for the starting power forward position right away.