Utah Jazz finally get a look at a possible top-5 NBA draft prospect
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Finally, the Utah Jazz brought in some players for their pre-draft workouts that most local basketball fans have heard of.
Guys named Stockton and Gordon were among the nine players who worked out for Jazz coaches and executives Saturday morning and afternoon at Zions Bank Basketball Center.
David Stockton, son of Jazz Hall of Famer John Stockton, was on hand, as well as Aaron Gordon, a projected top-10 pick in this year’s draft who Jazz vice president of basketball operations Walt Perrin indirectly compared to former Jazz great Karl Malone in one aspect of his game.
Stockton isn’t expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and play point guard for the Jazz anytime soon, although he could possibly play on the Jazz’s summer league team.
Gordon, on the other hand, is one of a handful of players the Jazz are looking closely at for their first pick of this month’s draft. The former Arizona standout is expected to be available when the Jazz pick at No. 5 and is not expected to drop out of the top 10.
Both were impressive in their workouts Saturday, although Gordon is the one who could have a big impact on the future of the Jazz team.
Perrin couldn’t say enough good things about the 18-year-old, who is the youngest player in this year’s draft, after his hourlong workout.
“He bring athleticism, he brings enthusiasm, he brings defense, he brings rebounding, he brings a lot of things,’’ Perrin said. “He’s very intelligent and mature for his age. With his work ethic, his ceiling can be pretty high.’’
The one thing Gordon needs to work, on according to Perrin, is his shooting, although it is getting better.
“He has to improve his shooting,’’ Perrin said. “I saw him play in Prague at the Under-19 championships last year and since then he has really, really improved his shot. His shot form is a lot better. His consistency has to get a bit better, but he shows he can knock them down.’’
Gordon agreed when asked what he needs to work on the most.
“Simple — jumper and free throws,’’ he said.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Gordon shot decently in his only season at Arizona, where he averaged 49.5 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Where he really struggled was at the free-throw line, where he only managed 42.2 percent.
“It can only go up,’’ he said. “I’m working on it every single day. It feels better, more in rhythm with all of the rest of my jumpers.’’
Perrin, when asked about it, made the Malone reference, saying, “If I remember right, a power forward who played here awhile ago didn’t shoot very well in college, but he got to be an 80 percent free-throw shooter. (Gordon’s) shot will get better and he has the dedication.’’
While Gordon is known for his athleticism, defense and rebounding (8.0 rpg at Arizona), he didn’t want to be pegged as a small forward or power forward when asked.
“I’m whatever they want to play me,’’ he said. “I’m a basketball player. I can defend wherever they want me to play, so that’s the main thing. I feel I can fit in a lot of different systems and excel. If I come here I’m going to find my niche and I’m going to thrive.’’
Gordon has already worked out for the Lakers, who hold the No. 7 pick, and Sacramento, which has the No. 8 pick. He also has plans to work out for Orlando, which has the No. 4 pick, and Boston, which has the No. 6 pick.
He was one of just three players in Saturday’s second session as Perrin acknowledged that some of the higher projected picks like Gordon prefer not to work out against other players.
Stockton was wearing a Jazz jersey with the number “60’’ on it as he worked out with his father’s No. 12 hanging on the wall above the court. It was young Stockton’s first workout for an NBA team and he was happy for the opportunity.
“It’s an honor to put the jersey on and show your skills and having my favorite team on the logo is pretty cool,’’ he said. “It’s a great opportunity to come back home and play the game I love so much. It’s just a really fun time. They wanted to see me play hard and show that I’ve improved and that I can handle the speed. I think I did that today.’’
Stockton averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 assists as a senior at Gonzaga last year. At 5 foot 11, 165 pounds, he may be too slight to play in the NBA. Perrin said “he will play pro somewhere,’’ but not necessarily in the NBA.
“He has the Stockton genes, he knows how to play the game, and he knows how to make his teammates better,’’ said Perrin. “He plays hard and is in great condition.’’
Perrin said “it’s up for discussion” as to whether Stockton might join Utah’s summer league team in Las Vegas next month.
“I want to play at the highest level I can if I get the chance,’’ Stockton said. “I’m working hard to get there. I wanted to be ready for these workouts and hopefully get on a summer league team and go from there.’’
Other top players who worked out Saturday included likely first-round picks Adreian Payne of Michigan State (6-10, 245) and Jerami Grant of Syracuse (6-8, 210), as well as Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble, Tennessee State’s Patrick Miller, Baylor forward Cory Jefferson and UNLV forward Khem Birch.
Another group of players scheduled to work out Sunday morning includes Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, San Diego State’s Xavier Thames, Washington’s C.J. Wilcox, Youngstown State’s Kendrick Perry and P.J. Hairston of the NBA D-League.
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