Utah Jazz spring second surprise on draft night, trade for French center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz surprised a lot of folks by moving up five spots to take Trey Burke in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft. Then as Jazz followers were waiting for their team's mid-second round choice to happen around 9:30 p.m. MDT, the Jazz pulled another surprise an hour earlier by trading for big man Rudy Gobert, who was picked by the Denver Nuggets late in the first round.
The 7-foot-2 center from France, who turned 21 the day before, worked out at the Zions Bank Basketball Center on June 15 in a group of six players that included Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (21st pick) and Brandon Davies. Apparently he impressed Jazz coaches and scouts that day. He was briefly interviewed by the media on hand, but was overshadowed by Davies and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, who worked out in an earlier session that morning.
“Obviously we like his size and athletic ability and he cares about winning,’’ said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “He picks things up fast — he’s still learning about the basketball game and how we play here in the U.S. He works extremely hard and has a good idea of what makes him effective on the floor, blocking shots, rebounding, setting screens, and his activity on both ends of the floor.’’
Gobert was listed in most mock drafts as a first-round choice — as high as No. 18 on some boards. He played for the silver medal French team at the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-20 championships and was named to the all-tournament team. He most recently has played for Cholet in France’s LNB Pro A League.
Gobert was the tallest player to work out for the Jazz. His 7-foot-9 wingspan is the fourth-longest wingspan in the history of the NBA combine and his standing reach is 9 feet 7 inches, second-longest in the history the NBA combine, meaning his hand is within 5 inches of the rim from a standing position.
General manager Dennis Lindsey says there are “some contractual things we have to work out,’’ but he hopes to have Gobert in camp this summer.
“Rudy was so unique with his length and his care factor you will really appreciate how hard this kid works,’’ Lindsey said. “He’s not in it because he’s tall.’’
SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT: Lindsey said Gobert was high on the Jazz's list of potential draftees and they were considering him with their No. 14 and No. 21 picks.
“We had some heartburn when we gave up those picks,’’ he said. But thanks to a commitment by the Miller family, the Jazz were able to acquire Gobert with cash and the No. 46 pick.
“We were really excited when the Millers OK'd the cash,’’ Lindsey said.
How much cash?
“I can't comment,'' he said. "But it was a significant amount.’’
NIGHTMARES: For Lindsey, it was his first draft as the main guy after working as an assistant general manager for Houston and San Antonio.
He called the hubbub around all the phone calls and trades “crazy” and “a mad scramble” and said it produced nightmares.
“Sometimes you wake up late at night with scary thoughts like, ‘What if all the guys are gone?’ Or, ‘What if the phones don’t work?’" he said. “It’s your worst nightmare that the call won’t come and you skip the pick and get fined and kicked out of the league in embarrassment. Those are the things that keep you up.’’
BONJOUR: With Frenchman Gobert coming to the Jazz, Corbin was asked how good his French was.
“I took it in ninth grade,’’ he said. “Bonjour!’’
NUMBER WARS: Utah’s No. 1 draft pick may have to do some negotiating to be able to wear his college number with the Utah Jazz next year.
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