No big names, but Utah Jazz like what they see from draft hopefuls Monday
Charles Rex Arbogast, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SALT LAKE CITY — As has been the case with the Utah Jazz’s first four pre-draft workouts, none of the six players who participated in Monday’s tryout session will be picked by the team in the first round of the NBA draft on June 26.
And certainly not with the fifth pick the Jazz own.
Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin added, "not at 23, possibly at 35."
But Utah brass was impressed with what it saw from Monday’s group, which included Ohio State teammates Aaron Craft and forward LaQuinton Ross, New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow, Canisius guard Billy Baron, Villanova guard James Bell and UNLV forward Roscoe Smith.
“We had some guys who could really shoot the ball, guys that played hard, that pushed through the struggles with the altitude,” Perrin said. “So I thought it was a pretty good workout.”
Perrin reiterated that the Jazz are bringing in 70 or so players in pre-draft workouts to get extra data and to determine if the organization should buy (or trade to get) another pick later in the second round. For now, Utah owns the fifth, 23rd and 35th selections of the 60-player draft.
The Jazz haven’t announced which players are coming in and when, but they’ll be hosting multiple workouts the rest of this week. Although it’s unlikely Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will work out in Utah, the team is hoping to get as many lottery candidates and first-round possibilities in as it can.
Some players are harder to bring in than others. For instance, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart told NBA.com that he only has workouts scheduled with Boston and the Lakers, both slotted behind Utah in the draft order, while auditioning for Sacramento. Smart is a popular choice at No. 5 in mock drafts.
Even if the Jazz don’t get the physical playmaker in for a workout, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t pick him. Point guard Trey Burke didn’t visit Utah last spring ahead of the draft, and the Jazz still spent two first-round picks on him in a trade with Minnesota.
“That’s always an ongoing process; I think more so this year because of the makeup of our team and the positions of where our draft picks are,” Perrin said. “I’m still talking to quite a few agents to see if we can get a few players in.”
Perrin reiterated that the Jazz, as always, “look at the best available player” when it comes to the draft. And he added that Utah isn’t trying to find a possible replacement for swingman Gordon Hayward, who’ll be a restricted free agent come July 1.
“Nope,” Perrin said. “That doesn’t come into our thinking because we think we’re going to have Gordon with us next year.”
As for the players at Monday’s workout, Perrin credited Craft, known for his defensive prowess at the point guard position, for his shooting during this session at Zions Bank Basketball Center.
“He made it better than I thought he would, so he has been working on his jump shot,” Perrin said of the 6-foot-2 guard, who’s a possible second-rounder. “He still has a ways to go.”
Perrin said it was “fun to watch” the competition between Craft and Burke when the two were going head to head at Ohio State and Michigan from 2011-13.
"He was in school for two years and we had some big battles," Craft said of Burke, whose Wolverines lost three of five meetings against his hometown Buckeyes while he was in college. "Obviously, he’s a great kid. He’s a great player. Utah’s very, very lucky to have him. I would love to join him."
If that were to happen, Craft is pretty sure of one thing.
“It would be interesting,” he said. “I think practice would be a lot of fun.”
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