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Utah Jazz need an impact player or two from this draft

Published: Wednesday, June 22 2011 11:30 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY— Kevin O'Connor would be an ideal best friend, because you could tell him your deepest, darkest secrets and he'd never divulge them to anyone — with or without "Scout's honor" or a pinky promise.

Yes, O'Connor would've been a great prisoner of war, too, because no form of torture, it seems, could make him give up any classified information. Nope — name, rank and serial number is all the enemy would ever get out of Capt. O'Connor.

Well, the Utah Jazz general manager has been tortured by — or, rather, has been torturing — members of the media long enough. And tonight, he'll finally reveal that secret, classified information when he tells the world — and NBA Commissioner David Stern — who the Jazz will select with the third and 12th picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.

O'Connor admits that the Jazz braintrust is pretty darned tight-lipped when it comes to sharing company secrets.

"We kind of play it a little more close to the vest than other teams do," he said of the weeks leading up to tonight's draft, which begins at 5 p.m. with the Jazz hosting their annual Draft Party that gets under way at 4:30 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena. "We just try and ... do our homework and figure out who the three best players are and who the 12 best players are and go from there."

The Jazz hierarchy knows that, with two of the top 12 picks, they need to hit a home run in what is the most anticipated, and arguably the most important, draft in franchise history.

That's why they've spent the past few weeks working out young NBA hopefuls and evaluating them — just for this moment.

Utah's top prospects with the No. 3 pick appear to be a couple of foreign big men, Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas, who both stand 6-foot-11; former University of Arizona forward Derrick Williams, or point guards Brandon Knight (Kentucky), Kyrie Irving (Duke) or Kemba Walker (Connecticut).

Then at No. 12, after nervously sitting through the next eight picks by other NBA teams, the Jazz are up again and must decide whether they want the state's favorite son, former BYU shooting star Jimmer Fredette, or ex-Florida State forward Chris Singleton, or guards Alex Burks (Colorado) or Klay Thompson (Washington State) — assuming those players haven't already been taken by somebody else before the 12th pick rolls around.

Or, of course, the Jazz just might choose somebody else. Or, they could swing a draft-day trade and wind up with a different player or draft pick entirely.

"I think we're in a great position to get a couple of great players — good players now that can become great players as they go forward," said Ty Corbin, who'll be going into his first draft as the team's head coach. "But I am pleased with the level of talent that we've seen come through here.

"You see some guys make plays and you're like, 'Wow, that's a little bit above-average.' If they can continue to do that, then they have a chance to be more than just an average player in this league."

As expected, the almighty rumor mill always starts working overtime at this time of year. And on Wednesday, one of the top trade rumors on the internet had the San Antonio Spurs sending guard George Hill to the Jazz for Utah's No. 12 pick.

That could certainly change Utah's draft strategy this evening.

After all, coming up with a consensus opinion among the team's braintrust might be a little like herding cats, but Corbin realizes that this year's draft could help make or break the franchise's fortunes for years to come.

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