Utah Jazz, Kevin O'Connor relying on an old standby as guide for NBA draft pick
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to what the Utah Jazz are looking to pick up with their only selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, general manager Kevin O'Connor has a simple mantra that you might be able to recite.
A small forward or point guard?
Then again, with the No. 47 pick in the second round, the Jazz could choose a center or power forward or …
"I think we just look at the best player available," O'Connor said.
Ah, yes, the old standby.
The Jazz GM did add a caveat about their potential second-round selection.
"He's got to be good enough to make the team," he said.
So, is there a player (or players) that fit that mold the Jazz think will still be on the board when their turn to pick finally comes around?
"I don't know. We'd like to think so," O'Connor said Wednesday night after reviewing more film of prospects. "That's going to depend on the first 46."
Today will be a busy day for O'Connor dealing with other GMs in regards to some of those picks. The Jazz don't have a first-round pick — it went to Minnesota to finish off the Al Jefferson trade — but that's not to say they won't end up with one via a trade.
For now, all options are being considered by Jazz brass.
The Jazz have been and will continue to prepare themselves to make that No. 47 selection, but they'll also be ready to move if something enticing comes along in the meantime.
O'Connor isn't ruling out Utah jumping into the flurry of trades likely to happen today.
"Our attitude," he said, "is to continue to explore all opportunities to improve our team, but not to make decisions based on short-term gains."
The Jazz find themselves in an interesting position.
They have a solid foundation of young players to build on, including Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter.
And they also have their three highest-paid players — Al Jefferson ($15 million), Devin Harris ($8.5M) and Paul Millsap ($7.2M) — in the final year of their deals.
"I think we like who we have," O'Connor said. "That doesn't mean we won't try to improve our team. I know that sounds like garbage because you say it all the time, but we mean it all the time. If we can improve the team, we will."
The biggest key is that the Jazz feel prepared coming into this critical time period, which includes Thursday night's draft and the free-agency period that begins Sunday.
Utah didn't know until May that it wouldn't have a first-rounder — first because it lost its own by qualifying for the playoffs, then by not acquiring Golden State's top-seven-protected pick when the Warriors remained in their No. 7 lottery spot.
The possibility of having two lottery picks had the Jazz scouring the collegiate and international basketball scenes — during the season, at tournaments and at combine-type, pre-draft workouts.
As usual, the Jazz staff has watched countless hours of game tape to evaluate talent along with bringing in players for up-close-and-personal tryouts in Salt Lake City the past couple of weeks.
"That's exactly what you don't do — you prepare like you have the third pick," O'Connor said. "And you go from there."
O'Connor even dismissed the notion that it made their jobs more difficult because some of the players they'd like to have visited with in Utah and worked out didn't want (or their agents didn't want them) to come because they believe they'll be long gone by No. 47.
"Most of them are older, so we have more tape and more preparation for them," said O'Connor, who watched many NBA hopefuls in workouts in Chicago, New Jersey, Minnesota and Europe. "We just had to chase them."
O'Connor did say the Jazz have probably spent more time focusing on the second-round pick than usual since finding out they wouldn't have their own first-round selection for the first time since 1994.
"When you have two (picks), you have to split the time a little bit," O'Connor said. "Now you're focused on your second-round pick."
At the same time, the Jazz have been digging deep into learning all they can about this supposedly loaded draft. Their "war room" will include a white-erase board with their rankings from players 1-60, individual position rankings and guesstimates of what other teams will do.
"We had prepared for it. Who knows what can happen?" O'Connor said. With a chuckle, he added, "Stay tuned."
2012 NBA Draft
Thursday, June 28,
Jazz Draft Day Party
The Jazz's annual draft party will take place tonight at EnergySolutions Arena. Doors open to the public at 5 p.m., and the draft begins at 5:30 p.m. in New Jersey (also televised on ESPN).
The event is free to the public, with the first 1,000 receiving a certificate for a free hot dog and a Salt Lake Bees voucher. Jazz tickets and merchandise are among the prizes that will be given away at the party, which includes balloon artists, concessions and autograph opportunities with Bear and the Jazz Dancers.
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