SALT LAKE CITY — By getting lucky with the pingpong balls and moving up to No. 3 in next month's NBA Draft, the chances of the Utah Jazz drafting BYU's Jimmer Fredette may have increased.
No, the Jazz are not going to take Fredette with the No. 3 pick. However, by moving up from No. 6 to No. 3, the Jazz now would appear to be more likely to take a big man with their first pick in the first round, freeing them up to take a guard with their second pick, at No. 12.
If the Jazz had stayed at No. 6, where they were slated to pick if they didn't move up into the top 3, thanks to the luck of the draw, they might have had the chance to draft either Connecticut's Kemba Walker or Kentucky's Brandon Knight, a pair of guards who are on most draft boards' top five.
Now at No. 3, the Jazz can still take one of those two players, but instead could grab 6-foot-11, 272-pound Enes Kanter, who is the current consensus No. 3 pick in a dozen mock drafts we looked at this week.
The consensus top two picks are Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams. The Jazz would be happy if either of those players fell to them, but Irving, especially, looks unlikely to fall since Cleveland needs a young point guard. Minnesota may not want to pick Williams since it already has a has a couple of top forwards in Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.
Kanter, a native of Turkey who turns 19 next week, signed with Kentucky and enrolled in school, only to be declared ineligible by the NCAA for excess payments he received while playing basketball in Europe.
Last year Kanter dominated the annual Nike Hoop Summit between a select team of International players against the USA Men's Junior Select team, scoring 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He was also named most valuable player of the 2009 FIBA Under-18 Championship when he averaged 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds.
Other top big men, all foreigners, who are expected to go high in the draft are the Jan Vesely, a 6-11 center from the Czech Republic, Jonas Valanciunas, a 6-10 forward from Lithuania and Bismack Biyombo, a 6-9 forward from the Congo. The Jazz could take any of them, but they may not be worth the No. 3 pick.
Now back to Fredette.
Since his poor performance in the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida, his stock has fallen somewhat and some experts have speculated he could fall out of the lottery (top 15) entirely. In looking at a dozen mock drafts, Fredette was listed in the top 10 in only one and only two others had him going as high as No. 12, to the Jazz, while one had him as low as No. 21.
So, there is a decent chance Fredette will still be available at No. 12 when the Jazz pick. One of Utah's biggest needs is outside shooting and several mock drafts have the Jazz taking Colorado's Alec Burks, a 6-6 shooting guard at that spot. However, Fredette is a better outside shooter and scorer, plus Burks could be gone by then.
While Kanter looks like the possible top Jazz pick now, a lot could change over the next month until the draft. According to one report, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor already watched Kanter work out in early March and he'll certainly be brought in for workouts in the coming weeks.
NBA Draft hopefuls
1. Kyrie Irving, Duke freshman, 6-2 point guard — Irving only played in 11 games for the Blue Devils, but showed enough potential, along with his outstanding high school career to be the most coveted player in the draft.
2. Derrick Williams, Arizona sophomore, 6-8 forward — An outstanding NCAA Tournament performance vaulted Williams to a top-two spot.
3. Enes Kanter, Turkey 6-11 center — He originally committed to play for Washington before signing with Kentucky last April.
4. Kemba Walker, Connecticut junior, 6-0 guard — He was second to Fredette in scoring for most of the season and came on strong at the end of the year in leading led the Huskies to the NCAA title.
5. Brandon Knight, Kentucky freshman, 6-3 point guard — He'll try to follow in the footsteps of two other Wildcat freshman guards who have come out the past two seasons — Tyreke Evans in 2009 and John Wall last year.
6. Jan Vesely, Czech Republic, 6-11 forward — He passed up a chance to be a top 10 pick last year, but the athletic Vesely should land in the top 10 this year after a solid season in Europe.
7. Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania, 6-11 forward — He barely turned 19, but as he has put on weight the past couple of years, he has shown that he belongs in the NBA.
8. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State sophomore, 6-7 forward — Local fans have seen a lot of Leonard the past couple of years in his annual visits to Salt Lake City and Provo. He is a terrific rebounder, but may need to develop more of an outside game to play in the NBA.
9. Bismack Biyombo, Congo, 6-9 forward — This 18-year-old native of Congo with a 7-foot-7 wingspan played in the Spanish ACB League and has rocketed up draft charts. He was a relative unknown before the Nike Hoop Summit, where he registered the first-ever triple-double, including 10 blocked shots.
10. Marcus Morris, Kansas junior, 6-9 forward — He's not flashy, but is a versatile forward who does a lot of things well. Averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Jayhawks.
11. Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania, 7-0 center — Played well in Italy last year, but will need to put some weight on his 7-foot frame, as he is listed at just 215 pounds.
12. Alec Burks, Colorado sophomore, 6-6 guard — He grew three inches since he committed to Colorado and has turned into a solid scorer (20.5 ppg), but needs to work on his outside shooting.
13. Tristan Thompson, Texas freshman, 6-8 forward — He has a 7-foot-plus wingspan and has an NBA body already at 235 pounds. But he may not be ready to play for a couple of years.
14. Jimmer Fredette, BYU senior, 6-2 guard — Everyone around here knows all about the Jimmer. Although his draft status might have fallen after his off-day in the Sweet-16 loss to Florida, but the Jazz saw enough of him they may grab him at No. 12 if he's available.
15. Markieff Morris, Kansas junior, 6-10 forward/center — He's actually slightly bigger than his twin brother, but isn't quite as skilled, although he should be a solid NBA player.