We're still two months away from May 17, when the ping-pong balls will bounce and decide the order of the NBA Draft. But all the madness hit stride last weekend, so it's the perfect time to evaluate team needs for the 2011-2012 NBA season.
For the Utah Jazz, uncertainty brings more uncertainty.
The playoff hopes for the Jazz are all but out the door. For the first time since 2005 and only the third time since the lottery's inception, Utah is lottery-bound from its own accord.
But missing the playoffs may not be the worst thing for the Jazz.
The trade that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey surrendered the Nets' 2011 first-round, unprotected pick to Utah. If the Jazz miss the playoffs, they will have two of the first 14 picks in the draft.
But if they manage to make the postseason, they lose their first round pick. Also, they've already sold the rights to their second-round pick to the Chicago Bulls with the sign-and-trade that helped Carlos Boozer arrive in the Windy City.
So if they're going to get work done, it has be in the lottery.
Going on the assumption that Utah fails to make the playoffs, the Jazz will have two lottery picks and eight guaranteed players on their roster.
Mehmet Okur, C
Al Jefferson, PF/C
Paul Millsap, PF
Derrick Favors, PF
Jeremy Evans, PF
Gordon Hayward, SG/SF
CJ Miles (2011 Player Option), SG/SF
Raja Bell, SG
Devon Harris, PG
Nets No. 4-8
Jazz No. 10-14
The Jazz have one of the best front lines basketball can offer, but they lack the outside shooting to maximize Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap's effectiveness. If Utah can strengthen their perimeter shooting and ball-handling, the room in the middle will increase.
Utah doesn't typically draft on a need-first basis, proven last summer when they drafted Gordon Hayward and didn't yet have an answer to the Boozer situation. But since their biggest strengths come from their middle, expect the Jazz to attempt address their perimeter in the draft.
6-10 are the players that the Jazz should target with the projected 10-14 pick, and 1-5 are the players they should target with the projected 4-8 pick.
Al Burks is having an impressive sophomore season at Colorado University to follow up a sensational freshman year.
Having the ability to create for himself off the dribble, Burks is a flat-out scorer. At 20.4 points per game, he leads the Buffaloes in points and is second on the team in rebounds. However, he struggles as a knockdown shooter.
Burks is considered to have all the facets that the modern, successful NBA shooting guard has and with the potential to get substantially better. With the way Utah has molded good two-guards like Ronnie Brewer and Wesley Mathews, Burks could find success with the Jazz.
Brandon Knight is just another sensational freshman point guard coming from Kentucky.
In only his first year in college basketball, Knight is putting up fantastic numbers, and if you've had the joy to watch him play, you've seen how he's doing it. His 17.4 ppg and 4.2 apg show that he has real potential to be a great point guard.
Knight is a blur with the ball in his hands and is longer than the average point guard. With his ball-handling and quickness he could be another addition to an already-point-guard-rich league.
Jimmer Fredette is one of the most fun college basketball players to watch. He's also one of the most talented.
There aren't any guarantees that Jimmer's game will translate into the NBA. But with his skill set, it's hard to believe it won't.
There isn't a better scorer in the country. Defenses swarm, hover and try. Jimmer scores. Off-balance. Twisting. Turning. Fading. It does not matter; Jimmer scores. With 28.8 ppg, Fredette handedly outscores the next best guy in the country by 3.9 points per outing.
The Jazz need shooting, ball-handling and renewed spirits in Utah. The signs are already to be seen in EnergySolutions Arena and they want Jimmer.
It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.
There may not be a more perfect player for Utah's system than Jordan Hamilton.
The Jazz offense blends hard screen with pick-and-rolls and catch-and-shoots. Hamilton catches and shoots with the best of them.
In his sophomore season with Texas, Hamilton has increased his scoring by 8.6 ppg from his freshman year. He's putting up nearly 20 a night and shooting almost 40-percent from downtown.
Kawhi Leonard is the type of athlete that Utah currently needs. He is a hybrid guard-forward who can play on the perimeter as a scorer and rebound in the paint.
A sophomore from San Diego State, Leonard is averaging 15.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg. He is being compared to Gerald Wallace with his athleticism and natural skill set.
With Andrei Kirilenko's contract expiring this summer, Leonard could be a potential replacement.
Despite being rumored as a guaranteed top-10 pick in 2010's NBA Draft, Jan Vesely decided to remain in Europe.
Vesely is a unique player. He's 6'11" but a small forward with tremendous athleticism and length. There are mixed scouting reports about Vesely's overall offensive game, particularly his shooting, but there is a constant all across the board:
Vesely is a supreme athlete and finisher at the rim.
His frail and thin frame is a concern with a skip over the pond and into the NBA, but with a good work ethic in the gym and weight room, Vesely could be one of the highest picks in the draft.
So the Jazz are loaded up front, big deal.
When a physical talent like Perry Jones comes along, you draft him. At 6'11" he is naturally a power forward but with quicker feet and more natural range. Plus he's outstandingly athletic.
Jones is only a freshman for the Baylor Bears but is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds.
There are few players with the same upside as Jones.
Terrence Jones can do a little bit of everything and is another SF/PF hybrid without a clear position. In the NBA he'll likely play small forward and see small spurts of bigger action.
As another Kentucky freshmen, Jones has shown the ability to score, pass, defend and handle the ball. The lefty standout is averaging 16 points, and nearly nine rebounds and two blocks per game.
He's being compared to Michael Beasley with a similar frame and natural skill set. Jones could be a possible replacement for the do-it-all Andrei Kirilenko or his protege if the Jazz choose to re-sign him.
If you haven't seen Derrick Williams play yet, you'll have the opportunity on Thursday when the Arizona Wildcats fight for Elite Eight real estate against Duke. And, you should watch.
Williams is one of the most unique players in all of college basketball and his stock has only gone up since the NCAA tournament began.
During the course of the season Williams is averaging 19 points and eight rebounds while shooting 60-percent from the field and 58-percent from the three-point line.
He's the complete package, standing at 6'8" with a bulky frame and quick first step. His range shows tremendous possibilities to go with finishing capabilities at the rim.
If Williams is available when the Jazz are the clock, there is no way they could pass on him.
Harrison Barnes is an outstanding freshman and may turn out to be the cream of the crop. He is a true scorer by nature, with the ability to catch and shoot and put the ball on the floor.
Barnes is a smaller Durant-archetype of scorer with a long, athletic frame and deep range. He's 6'8" but not nearly as thin as Durant was coming out of Texas.
In his freshman year at the University of North Carolina, Barnes is averaging 16 points and six rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game.
If the ping-pong balls pop the right way, the Jazz could be drafting Harrison Barnes on June 23.