Draft day alternatives
Jazz select power forward, guard after run on big men drains pool
When BYU product Rafael Araujo was taken by Toronto at No. 8 in the first round of Thursday night's NBA Draft, a groan was heard emanating from the Jazz's planning room.
One big man gone, one big letdown.
Before Utah's first turn to pick rolled around, two more trees would fall Latvian Andris Biedrins going at No. 11 to Golden State, 7-foot California high school star Robert Swift at No. 12 to Seattle.
That's why the Jazz worked so hard for so long to move up.
"We tried like heck to," Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor said later, "especially when we started to hear rumors about who was going up (higher)."
By the time O'Connor emerged from hiding, however, he was singing happy tunes about the two picks Utah did make, University of Minnesota power forward Kris Humphries at No. 14 and University of Nevada swingman Kirk Snyder at No. 16.
And when there was a sour note, O'Connor tried to make it sound better.
"I think that in our positions," he said, "we got kids that maybe there's some questions about, but physically (they) have the talent to be successful in the league."
In Humphries, the Jazz get a 6-foot-9, 235-pound 19-year-old who was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year this past season.
His college coach, Don Monson, calls him a young Karl Malone, a heavy burden especially considering Malone, the No. 13 pick in 1985, is merely the second-leading scorer in NBA history Humphries doesn't seem to mind.
"Being compared to someone like that is a special thing, you know," he said after Utah took him. "Karl Malone is a great player. You know, NBA hall-of-famer. So, I hope to be like him one day. But I've got a long ways to go."
Humphries, a Minneapolis native, even claims to have followed Jazz basketball for quite some time: "I'm a great fan of Coach Sloan, John Stockton, Karl Malone. I had a feel before I came in (to work out for the Jazz), and felt even better when I left."
Fans at the Delta Center seemed to love the pick, cheering loudly when team president Dennis Haslam made the announcement.
But the knock, coming from one ESPN analyst, was this: Humphries was a "me-first" player for the Gophers.
"I've heard all the comments that Jay Bilas said and had about the player, and he's got every right to say that," O'Connor said, "but we disagree with it. We think he's going to be able to adjust to our system.
"We've checked with people who've coached him in junior high, we checked with people who coached him in high school," he added. "You know, if you watched his team play last year to blame a freshman for not winning the Big 10, that's kind of a tough shot."
In Snyder, Utah gets a 6-foot-6 swingman who was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
He sounded thrilled about the chance to toil for Sloan.
"He seems like a nice guy, but when the ball is thrown up he seems like a different person," said Snyder, a native of Los Angeles. "That's honestly what you want to be around, because when the ball is thrown up you have to be competitive and want to be the best."
O'Connor said Snyder could be used much like another former Jazz swingman, current New York Knick Shandon Anderson.
The knock here came in the form of hearty boos from a Delta Center crowd apparently hoping for someone besides Snyder, perhaps either Russian shooting guard Sergey Monya, who wound up going No. 23 to Portland, or someone who can play center.
Other options were a slew of high school players the Jazz passed on, including Josh Smith, J.R. Smith and Dorell Wright. Utah also went with Humphries over another high school star, Mississippi power forward Al Jefferson, who went No. 15 to Boston.
"I think if (we felt) one of the high school players . . . were better at that point, we would have looked at taking them," O'Connor said. "But we didn't feel they were.
"Nobody's going to agree," he added, "with every pick that we make."
As for Monya, O'Connor said there was only one reason Utah did not take him: "Kirk Snyder."
But O'Connor did agree center still is a position of need.
"We just felt we were in a position to be able to use the free-agent market to solidify the center position," he said, "rather than take somebody that we'd consider a little bit of a project."
That "project" O'Connor referenced might be 7-foot-5 Siberian giant Pavel Podkolzine, who is rather big but also rather raw.
Utah did later use its No. 21 pick on Podkolzine, but it did so planning all along to trade him to Dallas for a future first-round draft choice that should wind up being the Mavericks' 2005 pick.The Jazz began thinking Wednesday night about trading their No. 21, and finally decided to do it after making their selections at 14 and 16.
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