SALT LAKE CITY — Having spent many of my June mornings hanging out at the Zions Bank Basketball Center for the Jazz's numerous pre-draft workouts, I think I have a pretty good feel for who the franchise should draft Thursday night.
No, I didn’t have a chance to watch a single player up close and personal because the workouts were closed. Nor did I get Tyrone Corbin or Walt Perrin or anyone else from the Jazz to give me any special insights about the six dozen players who have been brought in.
But in my business you need to look for more than just talent on the floor. You know, important things like how nice the players are and how well they interact with us media types should also be considered.
Acknowledging that a little bit of basketball ability is also necessary to go along with being media-friendly, here are four guys I would be happy for the Jazz to draft this Thursday:
Shane Larkin, Miami, 5-11 guard
He talked for several minutes about growing up as the son of a Hall of Fame baseball player, telling a story about how his own baseball career ended at the age 8 and admitting how much he enjoys talking to the media and fans.
Besides being very articulate, Larkin was pretty darn good on the floor for the Hurricanes last year, averaging 14.5 points on 48 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent shooting from 3-point range. On most draft boards he’s listed between 14 and 22, right in Utah’s wheelhouse.
His one drawback is his size, but he makes up for it somewhat with his superb 44-inch vertical (the second-best mark ever at the pre-draft combine), his speed (fastest in Chicago), and his playmaking and leadership skills.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6-5 guard
Like Larkin, Carter-Williams was well-spoken and acted very comfortable talking with a large group of reporters. It was easy to see why. He was a communications major at Syracuse University, which has one of the top communications departments in the country.
He’s not known as a great shooter, but is a hard worker and could develop that skill to go along with his pass-first mentality.
The biggest drawback to the Jazz drafting him is that some other team is likely to take him first. It’s hard to find a tall, pass-first point guard from a winning program and Carter-Williams could be long gone by No. 14.
Mason Plumlee, Duke, 6-11 forward
In all my years as a sports writer, I can’t ever remember a player giving high-fives to the reporters and photographers waiting to talk to him. (I guess we should have been more professional than to accept the high-fives, but what are you going to do when a 6-11, 240-pound guy extends his hand from way above your head?)
Plumlee is also articulate and obviously intelligent, coming from Duke, where he was a first-team academic all-American.
He is known as one of the most athletic big men in the draft, and he is also one of the oldest at age 23, having played all four years. He is expected to go in the middle of the first round, meaning the Jazz can probably get him at No. 14 with an outside chance to grab him at No. 21.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State, 6-4 guard
You wonder how good a player from the Summit League can be. But think of the great NBA point guards that came from smaller schools — John Stockton, Steve Nash, Damian Lillard, to name three. Not that Wolters is going to turn out that good, but he could still be a solid NBA point guard.
He averaged 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists on 50 percent shooting, 38 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the line. Perhaps the most impressive stat was that he only averaged a little more than two turnovers while playing 38 minutes per game.
Wolters is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round choice, meaning the Jazz would have to stretch to take him at 21 and won’t likely see him around at 46.
Aside from those four, I wouldn’t mind of the Jazz took Marquette guard Vander Blue, because it would be cool writing his name in stories. Same with Ian Hummer, the 6-7 forward from Princeton.
By the same token, I hope they don’t pick Georgia Tech’s Mfon Udofia, Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye, Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe or Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, names I’d have to look up every time I wrote a story.
The worst, however would be a couple of guys who didn’t work out for the Jazz. Giannis Adetokoubo of Greece, the youngest player in this year’s draft at age 19, is slated to go in the top 15, while Oleksandr Lypovyy of the Ukraine should be available when the Jazz pick in the second round.
So that’s the nightmare scenario for us sportswriter types: Utah drafting Adetokoubo in the first round and Lypovyy in the second.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Larkin and Plumlee.
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