SALT LAKE CITY — So now that the Utah Jazz know they will be picking No. 5 in next month’s NBA draft — where the odds said they would — who are they likely to select?
It’s safe to say the two Kansas players — forward Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid — and Duke’s Jabari Parker will all be long gone by the time the Jazz make their pick. Also, most experts are pegging Australian point guard Dante Exum to be taken in the top four.
That leaves the Jazz with four likely picks — Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon or Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.
The first three are big men, while Smart is a 6-foot-3 point guard, a position where the Jazz are less likely to need help with Trey Burke in the fold.
Most fans around Utah have probably not heard much about Vonleh, a 6-foot-9, 247-pound power forward who was a McDonald’s All-American in Massachusetts before enrolling at Indiana. He played one year for the Hoosiers, averaging 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent from the field. He also showed an ability to shoot from outside, making 16 of 33 3-pointers (48.5 percent).
Vonleh is a longer player than Randle or Gordon, as his wingspan was measured at 7 feet, 4 inches at the recent NBA draft combine, the second-longest among 60 players. (Randle and Gordon were around 7 feet.) He also had the largest hands in terms of length and width.
When he declared for the draft, Vonleh said, “I've heard the fourth pick to the 12th pick is wide open. (I think I'll be selected) anywhere in that range."
Randle is more well-known since he played for Kentucky, which made it to the NCAA championship game. He is similar in size to Vonleh at 6-9, 250 pounds, but is more of an inside player. He averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. He did not make any 3-pointers.
Local fans are familiar with Gordon since he played against the University of Utah three times this past season. Gordon was measured just under 6-9 at the NBA combine and 220 pounds. This past season, he averaged 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. He shot 51.3 percent from the field, but was just 42.2 percent from the foul line.14 comments on this story
Smart would most likely have been a top-five pick in last year's draft, but he opted to play one more year for Oklahoma State. He put up good numbers for the Cowboys this year as he averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. However, he also got in an altercation with a fan, which caused him to be suspended for three games and made some folks wonder about his poise.
Going by past history, the Jazz should get an excellent player with the No. 5 pick. Over the past decade, the No. 5 pick has yielded some solid picks such as Raymond Felton in 2005, Kevin Love in 2008, Ricky Rubio in 2009, DeMarcus Cousins in 2010 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2011.
The only dud at No. 5 over the past decade came in 2006 when Duke’s Shelden Williams was taken by Atlanta. He played parts of seven seasons in the NBA, but never averaged more than the 5.5 ppg of his rookie season.
The jury is still out on the past two No. 5 picks: Alex Len, who was taken by Phoenix out of Maryland, and Thomas Robinson of Kansas, who was selected by Sacramento but has since been traded to Houston and Portland.