Stuck on Cloud No. 9: Utah Jazz Forced To Take a Shot in the Dark at NBA Draft

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Stuck on Cloud No. 9: Utah Jazz Forced To Take a Shot in the Dark at NBA Draft
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So after all these years, this is it? 

After all these years of holding out hope that a monumental bonehead move by Isiah Thomas would prove to be another franchise savior, this is it. 

No. 9.

Not even a team with a rotting Tracy McGrady and a bunch of "who's that?" question marks could help out the Utah Jazz.

This shouldn't come at much of a surprise, though. 

Utah General Manager/Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O'Connor held this pick so close to his heart, one could have confused it for a newborn grandchild. 

The chip that could have helped bring a proven veteran on board over the past few years proved to be the ninth-best pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

For those who were watching the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday, you saw the face of what looked to be a downtrodden, scowling old man that didn't get the ball to bounce his way.

That's not a bingo, Mr. O'Connor.

Now what?

With the future of the franchise as shaky as the earth's crust lately, this is the ultimate sink-or-swim moment for the Jazz and, more importantly, their front office.

The second-highest pick in the last 27 years has to be a hit.

It just has to. 

After watching O'Connor and his cronies flunk more tests than Floyd Landis and Jose Canseco combined, the time is now. If not, something's got to give.

Desperately needing size to compete with the top-flight teams in the league, there's no doubt the Jazz will look to add size and length at the No. 9 spot.

Who will be there? Who will they covet?

Your run-of-the-mill NBA insiders have singled out Georgetown big man Greg Monroe as a "perfect fit" for Jerry Sloan's offense. A 6'11" big player who can make passes as well as  spot up and hit the 15-foot jumper.

Monroe is no doubt skilled and could be a good piece on a good team, but if it's defense and shot-blocking ability Utah is looking for, it wouldn't matter if Monroe was the second-coming. A softer, less-athletic Lamar Odom with less range—that's Monroe.

There's Cole Aldrich out of Kansas, who most Jazz fans view as a potential Greg Ostertag 2.0 disaster. Aldrich really bears no similarity to Ostertag, aside from the body type and hairdo.

Standing at 6'11" and sporting a 7'4" wingspan, O'Connor would undoubtedly be tempted to nab the former Jayhawk and try and morph him into a two-way impact player. 

Rounding out the rest of the possibilities are Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, North Carolina's Ed Davis, and Marshall's raw youngster Hassan Whiteside.

The dish on Udoh is that his athletic ability could help him be a lively defender at the next level, and his offensive game could morph and develop into something impressive over time. 

Davis has always been a lock to be a top-10 pick, but, for the life of me, I couldn't see why. Watching Davis for two seasons, there wasn't much to gawk over. He wasn't the best player on the floor for a horrible Tar Heel team in 2009, and one can only wonder if he just benefited from being a cog on the 2008 national champion UNC squad. 

As for Whiteside, he's the guy with "character issues," as they so often say these days leading up to professional drafts. Scouts have compared his potential to a more athletic Marcus Camby, with a deft ability on the defensive end.

Basically, all the guy needs is a swift kick in the ass and a good coach.

Utah, you have something along those lines, right?

The Jazz would unquestionably drool at the off-chance of a DeMarcus Cousins or Wesley Johnson falling into their laps at No. 9.

That won't be happening. 

If you're looking for a dark horse, look to Butler's gangly star Gordon Hayward. A versatile 6'9" small forward with range and athleticism, coupled with a tireless work ethic. Not to mention he's an Indiana kid. I wouldn't be surprised to see his name at the top of Sloan's favorite-player list of this draft.

Gun to my head, I'd say the Jazz will force their own hand and take Monroe. While the pick could turn out to be a decent addition for the team for years to come, Utah needs to take a long look at these big men and ask themselves, "Who can guard Pau Gasol, or attempt to pester him?"

Seems silly to single out one player, but at this rate, the Lakers are going nowhere but up, up, up, and Utah has done nothing to show it can handle LA's size or even guard the post and contest shots at the rim in regard to playing any team—regular season or postseason. 

I see Aldrich and Whiteside as ultimate boom-or-bust shots, but at this point it's time for the experts and fans to step back and allow O'Connor, Greg Miller, and the Jazz brass to make their move and take a necessary step forward in exorcising the demons of past first-round disasters. 

They have no other choice. 

Who'll be donning the new Utah digs come opening night of the 2010 NBA season? 

The jury is still out.

But you can count on one thing—O'Connor's trigger finger will be tentative. And for good reason.

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