Utah Jazz: Who They Need, Who Will They Take?
If reports by ESPN's Marc Stein are correct, then tonight's NBA Draft will begin to shed some light on the direction of Utah Jazz free agent Carlos Boozer.
Stein is reporting that the New Jersey Nets intend to make a lucrative offer to the two-time All-Star forward and pass on the opportunity to select Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors.
Surprising? Yes, but not shocking. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants an instant winner and doesn't want to wait around for players to develop.
Instead, the Nets will draft the silky-smooth small forward Wesley Johnson of Syracuse and begin their quest for the respectability and the playoffs with a frontline that includes: Brook Lopez, Carlos Boozer, and Johnson.
New Jersey is $27 million under the league's salary cap and would essentially be foregoing an opportunity to land Toronto's Chris Bosh or the Sun's Amare Stoudamire. Instead, the team could potentially go after Boozer and another top-tier free agent, preferably a shooting guard like Atlanta's Joe Johnson.
For Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor, he's all ready planned on this scenario, but now that it's likely to become reality it's more importan than ever for the Jazz to think big in today's NBA Draft.
The names are out there and so are the many draft day scenarios. Will Utah trade up to grab Boozer's potential replacement in Favors? Or can the Jazz get an instant impact player like Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins? Thoughs are the questions as the draft approaches.
Here's a look at the five most pressing needs for the Utah Jazz and a prediction of who they'll eventually select in today's draft.
1. Cole Aldrich or Derrick Favors?
Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech is the flavor of the month in pre-draft workouts. Scouts love his athleticism and potential. In a perfect world, Utah should seriously consider trading up with Phildelphia or New Jersey to grab Favors.
He's on everyone's "hot list" for a reason. Favors can score, rebound, and be a disruptor in the paint. What more do you need from a power forward? He's exactly what the Jazz need and they know it. Utah has scouted Favors over 10 times this offseason.
Could the Jazz trade up to grab the top power forward in the draft? They did it in 2005 to get Deron Williams, so it's within the rhelm of possibility.
Kansas' Cole Aldrich became a proven shot-blocker and rebounder with the Jayhawks. His 6-foot-11 frame would help the Jazz in middle, but memories of Greg Ostertag unfairly leave Jazz fans very skeptical about this selection.
Once thought of as a top-10 pick, Aldrich's stock has been sliding as of late. Most likely he'll be available for the Jazz at No. 9, but he certainly wouldn't be a fan favorite.
Other big men on Utah's radar include: Georgetown power forward Greg Monroe, North Carolina's Ed Davis, and freshman 7-footer Hassan Whiteside from Marshall.
2. Must Find a Shooting Guard
Not since te days of Jeff Hornacek have the Jazz had a trustworthy shooting guard. Ronnie Brewer was drafted in 2006 to be that guy and he never panned out. Nor have players like Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles.
The shooting guard position is a glaring weakness for the Jazz and it could be fixed, if they get lucky and the right player falls their way.
Kansas sharp-shooter Xavier Henry is the highest rated shooting guard after Ohio State's Evan Turner.
The 19-year-old has great range from beyond the arc and has an NBA body. At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds Henry is the prototypical NBA guard, which gives him the ability to be a physical defender as well. Under Jerry Sloan Henry would most likely watch and learn his rookie season but he's got great potential.
Fresno State's Paul George has zoomed up the charts because of his 6-foot-9 frame and ability to shoot from distance. His 44.7 percent from three-point range makes him a tempting choice for teams looking for a shooting guard. However, due to some questionable character issues, George would be a longshot to end up in a Jazz uniform.
Others to keep an eye on include: Nevada's Luke Babbitt and Butler's Gordon Hayward.
3. Utah Still Needs Back-Up Point Guard
Utah drafted point guard Eric Maynor with the 20th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. It was the right pick, but because of a salary dump by Jazz management Maynor was traded to the Thunder in December.
Well the team is still facing the same problems from a year ago. Utah needs a back-up point guard that's not named Ronnie Price. Yes, Price is an athleticly gifted player who can jump out of the gym, but he's a horrible jump shooter and lacks the size to create off the dribble.
If the Jazz were to trade down, they might pick up a real standout in Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe. The 6-foot-2 Bledsoe played in the shadow of a more famous Wildcats point guard (John Wall) but could shine at the NBA level.
Bledsoe needs to develope a better jumper but most scouts agree he warrants a top-20 selection because of natural athelticism and ability to play pressure defense. Nice fit for the Jazz, in an otherwise weak draft at the point guard position.
4. Life After Kirilenko Could Be Al-Farouq
The Jazz and small forward Andrei Kirilenko are in the final season of what's been a dissasterous max-money deal for Utah. The often-injured Kirilenko missed the stretch drive of 2009-10 regular season and most the Jazz's postseason. Injuries have become part of Kirilenko's M.O. over his entire career with the Jazz
He did appear in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals but failed to turn the tide. The Jazz were swept in four games by the Lakers, and coupled with A.K.'s history of injuries and hot and cold production on the court, it's time for the Jazz to move in new direction.
Wake Forest sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu has all the intangiblies to be a superstar. At 6-foot-8, Aminu can score and rebound and he has the wingspan of a seven-footer. Aminu could be everything that AK-47 never was.
He's definitely my sleeper pick of the draft.
5. Is Cousins the Next Zach Randolph?
We saved the best for last.
Yes, there are some NBA experts that believe this phenomenal freshman is the best player in the draft. Cousins has all the size and ability to be a superstar and some call him the best center prospect since Dwight Howard.
However, on the flipside, there's still too many unanswered questions about his dedication to the game and maturity level. Therefore, the comparisons to Randolph are easy to make.
Still, at 6-foot-11, Cousins would be the one player in the draft that could make an immediate impact in Utah. Not only would the Jazz have an inside presence at center (Mehmet Okur, whose career is in jeopardy with a torn achillies tendon), the team would be very close to matching the size and power of the Lakers.
Cousins is projected to be a top-five pick, but if GM's aren't willing to pull the trigger on a potential mistake then he may wind up in Utah's lap.
Predition: No. 9 Utah Jazz - Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-foot-8 SF Wake Forest