10 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Utah Jazz Must Target
Unfortunately, fate—or in this case, the lottery—was a cruel mistress. The Jazz had the fourth-worst record in the league and a 10.4 percent chance of landing the top pick, but they wound up at No. 5.
Management is faced with a difficult decision there, as players' futures become a lot harder to forecast after the consensus top four of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum.
Utah will have options aplenty with the first selection after that group and plenty more when it's on the clock again at No. 23—a pick which was acquired from the Golden State Warriors last summer.
This slideshow is an endeavor to explore some of those options and will be organized into two groups. The first five slides will cover some options available to Utah at No. 5, while the next five will focus on who might be available at No. 23.
No. 5 Pick, Option 1: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'9", PF, Freshman
We're all sick of the word "upside," but when someone oozes as much of it as Noah Vonleh, it's pretty tough to avoid.
It's tough to judge Vonleh on conventional stats because he was the third wheel on a team with two more experienced players. His 11.3 points and nine rebounds per game probably don't say as much as the typical "upside" numbers attached to him.
The Big 10 Freshman of the Year has seen his draft stock rise since last month, when he wowed scouts at the NBA's pre-draft combine in Chicago. He measured 6-foot-8 without shoes and has a 7-foot-41/4 wingspan. His hands were the second largest ever measured at the combine. Vonleh also had a 9-foot standing reach and a 37-inch standing vertical — an inch and a half better than Kentucky's Julius Randle, another highly rated power forward.
Those physical tools possessed by Vonleh give him the potential to be a game-changer on defense, something Utah desperately needs.
The Jazz had the worst D in the league, surrendering 109.1 points per 100 possessions. Vonleh's size and length around the rim could help turn things around on that end.
No. 5 Pick, Option 2: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman
The Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones called Aaron Gordon "a shining star in the upcoming NBA draft, a 6-9 ballplayer featuring hybrid skills whom the Utah Jazz are seriously considering with their No. 5 overall pick."
The "hybrid skills" Gordon brings has already led many to compare him to four-time NBA All-Star Shawn Marion. Count Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien—who compiled a list of reports making the comparison—among that group:
One exec I talked to compared Gordon to Shawn Marion. Would guess any team would be happy with that.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) February 15, 2014
Gordon reminds me a lot of a young Marion. Great athlete. Defends mult positions. Hybrid SF/PF. Does a lot of things well. Unorthodox game.— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 28, 2014
Kudos to @franfraschilla for nailing the Aaron Gordon comparison early. Shawn Marion esque.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 15, 2013
Jazz fans might find it easier to draw the comparison to Andrei Kirilenko, another 6'9" combo forward who could guard just about every position on the floor.
That kind of utility player could go a long way toward helping Utah with its severe problems on the defensive end.
No 5. Pick, Option 3: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Sophomore
Marcus Smart wowed at this year's combine, measuring 6'3.25" tall in shoes and weighing in at 227 pounds, per DraftExpress. That's huge for a point guard, so you'd expect him to be strong. Even still, his performance on the bench press was extremely impressive:
Marcus Smart also bench pressed 185 pounds 19 times, tied for 3rd best at the NBA Combine this year. One of best ever among PGs historically— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 16, 2014
Given the fact that Trey Burke struggled with the size and athleticism of NBA point guards, Smart is a player Utah should definitely target.
Sadly, Smart has mentioned that the Jazz aren't interested in him:
He deleted the tweet shortly after posting, but as is always the case in the Twitterverse, it was caught with a screen capture.
No. 5 Pick, Option 4: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995
I know I said at the outset that Exum is likely going to be gone by the time Utah comes on the clock at No. 5, but things have shaken up recently.
So if Exum is still on the board when it's Utah's turn, the team would be borderline nuts not to take a look at the 6'6" point guard who's already drawn comparisons to Anfernee Hardaway.
When trying to project Exum's ceiling, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman said, "Like Penny, he's got the size, handle, passing and scoring instincts to take over a game in any way."
Sure, the team is high on Burke, but it has a chance to upgrade from a potentially solid point guard to a potential superstar.
No. 5 Pick, Option 5: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF, Freshman
- Embiid to the Cleveland Cavaliers
- Exum to the Milwaukee Bucks
- Wiggins to the Philadelphia 76ers
- Smart to the Orlando Magic
- Parker to the Jazz
It's highly unlikely, maybe even approaching impossible, but there's still a sliver of hope that this perfect draft match happens.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones laid out the possible scenario as follows:
Obviously, the entire situation hinges on Milwaukee reaching for Exum, something that would only happen if he wows in workouts.
Then, Orlando would have to be more concerned with getting a point guard than a combo forward, which is plausible considering Jameer Nelson's age at 32 and the rise of Tobias Harris.
If that all played out, management and fans in Utah would be ecstatic.
Just imagine the upgrade at that stretch 4 position from Marvin Williams to Parker. His offensive ability would instantly make things easier for everyone else on the team.
More importantly, Parker has the potential to be the kind of superstar a small-market team can build a contender around.
No. 23 Pick, Option 1: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PG/SF, Junior
The Jazz got the steal of the 1984 draft when they selected an undersized point guard from Gonzaga named John Stockton.
Now obviously, I'm not saying Kyle Anderson will be the next Stockton, but if this oversized point guard falls out of the lottery, he could be an incredible bargain.
He has the height and rebounding prowess of a forward and the distributing ability of a pass-first point guard.
Those two things are evidenced by the 8.8 rebounds (good for third in the Pac-12) and 6.5 assists (first in the conference) he averaged last season.
The question on Anderson is whether or not he can defend NBA point guards. Salt City Hoops' Dakota Schmidt said, "Anderson's lack of athleticism and quickness definitely hinders his potential as a perimeter defender."
If he can learn to offset that lack of lateral quickness with his long arms and frame and become a solid team defender, this weakness could become a strength.
No. 23 Pick, Option 2: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
For the Jazz in 2013-14, the stretch 4 position wasn't the only one occupied by a veteran and in need of an upgrade.
Richard Jefferson started 78 games for Utah, and while he exceeded the expectations of some, he was clearly on the wrong side of 30, and his contract is up.
The need for a small forward is a glaring one, and there could be some solid options available at No. 23.
Anderson could fill the role as a point forward, but if Utah wants a more traditional 3, it could go after T.J. Warren.
Warren could help to address Utah's most glaring weakness. According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Warren "anticipates defensively, [is] really good with his hands. He's a talented guy. I could see him being able to defend multiple positions."
That kind of praise from one of the best defensive coaches in the league is a great sign, considering the fact that Warren was known mostly for what he did on the other end of the floor in college.
As a sophomore, he led the ACC in scoring at 24.9 points per game.
No. 23 Pick, Option 3: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, 6'7", SF, Senior
Cleanthony Early is another option at small forward despite the fact he spent a lot of his two years at Wichita State playing the 4.
Cleanthony Early thinks he can play small forward in the NBA. "I always could play the 3, but at Wichita State we lacked the 4 position."— Aaron Falk (@tribjazz) June 8, 2014
During his senior season, Early showed that he has enough athleticism and range—37.3 percent from downtown—to play on the wing.
And if he does occasionally spend some time at power forward in small-ball lineups, he should be all right thanks to his experience in college.
No. 23 Pick, Option 4: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SF, Junior
As is the case with many of the prospects in this slideshow, K.J. McDaniels' ceiling in the NBA is likely to be higher on defense than it is on the other end.
DraftExpress's Mike Schmitz talked about McDaniels' potential in the site's scouting report for him:
Despite the considerable improvement he's shown offensively this season, where McDaniels really shines as a NBA prospect is on the other end of the floor. His size, length, and tremendous athleticism allows him to guard up to four positions at the college level, and give him the potential to emerge as a lockdown defender in the NBA. He's a huge playmaker already, putting up gaudy numbers as a rebounder, shot-blocker and ball-thief, even if he still has room to improve here, particularly with his ability to defend off the ball and stay consistent with his effort.
Utah didn't have anyone who emerged as a lockdown perimeter defender last season. McDaniels could become that missing ingredient.
No. 23 Pick, Option 5: Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8", SF, Senior
OK, this one might be even more unlikely than the Parker scenario, but it's certainly not impossible.
There may be enough apprehension about Doug McDermott's athleticism and defensive ability to cause him to slide a bit, and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey proved last summer that he's not afraid of a draft-night trade.
Utah has the rights to picks No. 23 and 35. Both of those, in combination with maybe one young player, could land the Jazz a second lottery pick. If they don't get a combo forward at No. 5, McDermott could make sense a few picks later.
Shooting is obviously the draw with McDermott, and his ability to stretch the floor would create space around the rim for the likes of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him at @AndrewDBailey.