Utah Jazz: Free agent minicamp helps Jazz evaluate pool of possible players
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There weren't many — if any — household basketball names among the 24 players who participated in the Utah Jazz's free agent minicamp this week.
Not counting Arinze Onuaku and Rasid Mahalbasic, that is.
That doesn't mean there won't be guys from this particular group who get a chance to shine on basketball's biggest stage.
To that point, David Fredman, the Jazz's head scout, thought it was ironic that the NBA Finals were going on at the same time Utah held its first minicamp of this nature at its practice facility.
"There are guys in this exact situation — minicamp players — that are playing in the finals now," he said.
San Antonio's Gary Neal and Danny Green both fit that mold, Fredman pointed out. So does Miami's Joel Anthony.
Those success stories are among the reasons why general manager Dennis Lindsey suggested after coming to Utah from the Spurs organization that the Jazz host a free agent bonanza with a bunch of current no-namers.
If just one of these guys pans out for the Jazz, it will be worth every penny the organization spent on travel, lodging and per diem to hold the three-day event with two dozen D-Leaguers and international players.
Fredman credited Lindsey for broaching the subject and the Miller family for giving the financial thumbs-up, both for a minicamp that he called "not an inexpensive proposition" and for the Jazz's increased scouting budget.
"Our European scouts and our scouts here have seen a lot of these guys (in action)," Fredman said. "There's not a lot of difference between guys on (NBA) rosters and a lot of these guys here."
With the Jazz's roster being so open for next season, there are quite a few opportunities for unheralded players to get a shot, too. Utah only has six players with guaranteed contracts onboard for the 2013-14 season, so it must ink between seven to nine players to deals by opening night this fall.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see a handful of these guys from this camp on an NBA roster on opening night next year. Now, whose roster? I don't know," Fredman said. "These guys are guys that have enough talent in the right place at the right time they could be on an NBA roster easily."
The three most familiar guys to attend the minicamp have spent limited time in the league. Guard Travis Leslie was briefly in Utah on a 10-day contract last season before returning to the D-League's Santa Cruz, while Luke Zeller and Lazar Hayward have also had NBA experiences.
It's likely that several players from this group will be invited to participate with Utah next month at the Orlando Pro Summer League. Fredman said the team will have a tryout in Florida prior to that weeklong development-oriented tournament.
Utah will give more guys opportunities in September in an "open-gym situation" in which NBA hopefuls can scrimmage against some Jazz players.
As far as Fredman's concerned, the more chances the Jazz get to evaluate players up close and personal, the better. They never know when a player might need to be called up as an emergency fill-in, and the minicamp gives Utah a better idea of what to expect if that happens.
"They had some success doing it in San Antonio. Dennis had the idea when he came here to do it," Fredman said. "It's no earth-shattering thing. It's just we're doing it now in Utah."
Coincidentally, Brad Jones, the Jazz's director of player development, ran this week's minicamp after gaining experience doing that in San Antonio when he was the head coach of the Spurs' D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros.
JUNIOR JAZZ: Following in Jeremy Evans' footsteps, DeMarre Carroll will help the organization put on clinics for youths around the Intermountain area for the next two weeks.
The remaining Jr. Jazz road trip schedule is as follows:
Monday: Tabiona, Altamont, Roosevelt; Tuesday: Duchesne, Price, Emery Count; Wednesday: Moab, Monticello; Thursday: Green River, South Sevier, Beaver; Friday, June 21: Santaquin, Tremonton; June 24: Dugway, West Wendover, Ely, Nev.; June 25: Delta, St. George; June 26: Kanab, Orderville, Escalante; June 27: Bryce Valley, Salina, Gunnison; June 28: Mt. Pleasant, Eureka, Brigham City.
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