All in preparation for this summer’s pro draft.
The NCAA Tournament is "money time" for the top college basketball players entering the draft. Their stock will rise or fall over the "forty minutes of hell" it usually takes to decide who moves on and who goes home.
For Jazz fans, this year’s tournament is more than just a good excuse to play hooky from work. It’s a chance to glimpse the future, hone in on the best player available for Utah’s lottery pick.
Here’s my line of thinking Jazz fans: Lottery picks don’t often come to successful NBA franchises—so don’t screw it up Utah.
Now who will the Jazz target with their rare lotto pick? Well, that will largely be determined by where New York finishes in the final standings. The Knicks (24-44) are currently tied with Philadelphia for the eighth worst record in the league, which could translate into a top 10 draft pick for the Jazz.
On the other hand, if the ping-pong balls fall Utah’s way, the team could be looking at consensus No. 1 pick John Wall from Kentucky.
Regardless of how it plays out, Utah will still have a good pick and chance to climb into elite company, via the draft—but only if the franchise can identify and select the right player.
The Jazz have to be thinking big…
Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins and Georgetown power forward Greg Monroe are both considered to be top 10 selections. Finding out who fits the Jazz system best is the task at hand for Utah general manager Kevin O’Connor and his team of scouts.
The NCAA Tournament has become a spring board for prospects to get notice. Nobody will forget Andre Miller leading the Cinderella Utes on a roller-coaster ride to the championship game in 1998.
Nor will they forget Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA regional final. It’s remembered as one of the greatest clutch shots in tournament history and it made Laettner a rich man.
So Jazz fans, my recommendation is to sit back, relax, and keep a sharp eye out for these five players. Because one of them could be wearing a Jazz uniform next season.
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
One of the most interesting players on the board, at 6’10” and 247 pounds, Monroe is being called a poor man’s Lamar Odom.
The Hoyas run their Princeton-style offense through Monroe, which means the left hander must have great court vision, be an excellent ball handler, and be a versatile offensive player.
The Jazz would be a nice fit for Monroe’s skill set. He could easily adapt to Jerry Sloan’s pick-and-roll offense. The power forward is only a sophomore but he’s got great potential—averaging 16 points and nine rebounds this season.
Scouts say he must become more assertive in games and look to dominate more; Monroe was way too passive for his ability. The Hoyas forward should receive plenty of attention from O’Connor and according to several mock drafts, Monroe should be there when the Jazz draft.
Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
He’s compared to former NBA great, Alex English. The small-forward became a scoring machine for Big East champion Syracuse. Everything about Johnson’s game has a “smooth” feel to it. He has a great mid-range jumper and moves well without the ball.
He’s well coached by Jim Boeheim and has a ready made game for the NBA.
The only knock on the 6’7”, 205 pound junior is his weight. He needs to gain some muscle if he’s going to compete at the next level.
NBAdraft.net has Johnson’s stock on the rise.
He shot 39 percent from three-point range and averaged 16 points per game. Johnson made his mark by out dueling Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds for Big East Player of the Year.
He’s a lock to be drafted in the top five.
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
The superior athletic ability of this 6’9” power forward propelled the Yellow Jackets to the ACC Championship Game and turned Georgia Tech into a worthy NCAA team.
Only a freshman, Favors is tough in the post and a vacuum on the boards. He’s averaging 12 points and eight rebounds in the basketball hot-bed of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Defensively, he’s a decent shot blocker, averaging two blocks per game. Lots of potential here; scouts liken him to Al Horford.
Favors is projected to be the top forward in the draft and could go as high as No. 3 overall.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Some say the freshman’s stock is sinking. Still, if the 6’11” center helps the Wildcats to a national title, he could be back on the rise.
The Cats center can score easily on the blocks, with a variety post moves. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for John Calipari’s team.
On the downside, the jury is still out on his ability to score against NBA talent. It’s great to beat the competition in the SEC, but can he do it against the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, or even Andrew Bogut?
Scouts also question his conditioning. The big man has a bad habit of disappearing in games. At one point, Cousins was projected in the top five, but his stock has taken a nose dive because of questions regarding his conditioning or lack there of.
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Perhaps the best all-around center in college basketball, Aldrich is a good athlete, with a lot of upside. At 6’11” the Kansas center has command of the paint, averaging nearly three blocks per game.
He played well as a sophomore, but now appears ready to compete at the NBA level. He’s a fundamentally sound player, with a knack of getting the ball in the hoop. Aldrich shot 60 percent from the field, and averaged 11 points and nine rebounds as a junior.
His demeanor is that of Tim Duncan but his ability is closer to that of Joel Pryzbilla. He still needs to bulk up to reach his full potential. At 245 pounds, the Jayhawks center is still too lean to dominate the paint.