Utah Jazz host 27 free agents in search of diamonds in the rough
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz invited 27 unheralded free agents to a minicamp this week with a lofty goal in mind.
“We’re looking for Danny Green. We’re looking for Chris Andersen,” said David Fredman, the Jazz’s director of pro player personnel. “(Both are) guys who are playing in the finals who’ve come through camps like this.”
The Jazz are also looking for diamond-in-the-rough players who could fill their summer league and fall camp rosters, for up-and-comers who might be good fits with their new D-League affiliate in Idaho, and for guys who might make their team one day.
Five players who participated in the Jazz’s inaugural free agent workout last summer ended up on NBA rosters during the 2013-14 season: Toure Murry (Knicks), Henry Sims (Sixers), Chris Wright (Bucks), Jorge Gutierrez (Nets) and Arinze Onuaku (Cavaliers).
That’s a good percentage, considering the Jazz invited 24 under-the-radar types to that camp last June. Fredman recited that list of success stories to this year’s camp invitees before the players began participating in drills and scrimmages while being observed by general manager Dennis Lindsey and new coach Quin Snyder.
“We felt like that was a good track record from our standpoint,” Fredman said. “Now we’ve just got to get them to play for the Jazz and we’ll really be doing good.”
The longtime Jazz scout admitted his job was easier this year because Utah only has seven players under contract for the 2014-15 season. The team has three draft picks in two weeks, but there will be spots up for grabs.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” Fredman said, “so we were able to get a lot of good players.”
Included in the group are three former Utah college players: Weber State’s Nick Covington, a fall camp invitee who had to cancel due to since-resolved health issues; ex-Ute Carlon Brown, who transferred to Colorado and briefly played with the Warriors; and 2013 U. alum Jason Washburn, who’s played pro ball in Belarus and Ukraine.
Darius Morris, Trent Lockett, Tyler Honeycutt, James Nunnally, John Shurna, Tony Mitchell, Dee Bost, Trey McKinney-Jones, Courtney Fells, Tim Ohlbrecht and Orlando Johnson are among participants with NBA experience.
Other players at the camp include Jonathan Gibson, Chris Kramer, C.J. Williams, Frank Gaines, Scott Suggs, Tyler Brown, Patrick Christopher, Amath M’Baye, Christian Burns, Mitchell Watt, Jack Cooley, Ahmad Nivins and Brock Motum.
This camp is on top of the slew of pre-draft workouts the Jazz host, including another one Thursday with UCLA guard Jordan Adams, Princeton guard T.J. Bray, Wisconsin-Green Bay big man Alec Brown, Missouri guard Jabari Brown, UMass guard Chaz Williams and Florida center Patric Young.
“It’s been quite a commitment financially from the Miller family to give us the opportunity to look at a lot of these players,” Fredman said. “I definitely think (it helps). It’s very difficult to compete on the same level without.”
Keeping track of these players and other potential additions is a year-round process, Fredman said. He spends more than 20 days a month on the road scouting for players for the Jazz team and its various camps, workouts, open-gym sessions and summer league/fall squads. Now his staff has the added duty of filling the Idaho Stampede’s roster each fall.
“It’s a lot more interesting,” Fredman said, referring to the D-League addition. “It’s what I envisioned it to be back in 2007 when I took the job in the D-League (with the Utah Flash). It’s becoming a Triple-A type of situation like baseball has. It’s going to be very important to the development of young players.”
Before the Jazz put that roster together, however, the staff is tasked with assembling a team for the Las Vegas Summer League. Returning players Trey Burke, Ian Clark, Rudy Gobert, Erik Murphy, Diante Garrett and Malcolm Thomas could all see playing time along with the new draft picks.
The Jazz will likely invite between 18-20 players to a summer league camp to be held at Zions Bank Basketball Center next month. The roster will then be trimmed before the team travels south for at least five games in the tournament-style event, which runs from July 11-21.
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