Utah Jazz fans at the NBA Draft Watching Party at EnergySolutions Arena were excited as the Jazz picked Dante Exum with the No. 5 pick and Rodney Hood with the No. 23 pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.
Fans were both surprised and pleased to see Exum fall to the No. 5 pick after many thought he would go in the top three in this year's draft. Fans cheered loudly when the Orlando Magic took Aaron Gordon with the No. 4 pick, leaving Exum ripe for the picking.
Charles Baylor, a Jazz fan from New Jersey, was pleased with the Jazz for picking up Exum.
"It's a very smart pick because it gives a lot of versatility to the backcourt," Baylor said. "I think the point guard Trey Burke will have a nice buddy to tag team with in the backcourt. It's a very smart pick. It's a little surprising. I thought they were going with a big man. It's a very smart pick going with a shooting guard."
While most fans were happy with the Jazz's pick, there was at least one fan that was a little disappointed that the Jazz picked Exum. That would be Bruce Griffin, who moved back to Utah from Indiana after 32 years.
"I was hoping the Jazz would take Noah Vonleh from Indiana, who I saw last year," Griffin told me. "He's not going to come to Utah, but I'm glad that the Jazz picked Exum. He's a solid ball player too."
When I asked Griffin if he was more likely to go to Jazz games with Exum on the team, he said, "I would have bought Jazz season tickets with Vonleh, definitely."
Looks like the Jazz missed out on one potential season-ticket holder, but odds are they'll have quite a few more if Exum lives up to expectations. Steve Harron, a longtime season ticket holder, was excited about Exum.
"I'm very pleased with the pick," Harron said. "I frankly didn't expect them to have a chance of picking Exum. I was thinking maybe Vonleh or Aaron Gordon, but we could definitely use a backcourt companion to Trey Burke, so I'm excited."
Harron was even happy that the Jazz decided not to trade up to get fan favorite Jabari Parker. "I saw a lot of the speculation on the trades they would make to move up, and I thought that I can live without Jabari," Harron said with a smile.
Longtime fan Al Rickard was likewise happy with the Jazz getting Exum. "He was one of my four favorites," Rickard said. "I expected him to be one of the first three."
Better still, Rickard said that he'll be attending more games at EnergySolutions Arena in 2014-15. "I'll be more likely to go to games because I think they'll have a better season, and I'm excited to see what a new coach with different kinds of attitudes and thinking can do for teams like the Jazz."
That has to be good news for a team that struggled to fill the stands last season.
Paul McConkie is also happy with the Jazz. "I'm excited. I didn't think he was going to be on the board," McConkie said. "I think more and more the NBA is becoming a guard's game. I think that Exum can really have an impact and help us. I think drafting that guard was exactly what we needed, and now we have three solid guards."
Isi Taualo, a lifelong Jazz fan, seemed to be bursting with excitement. "I'm ecstatic, man. I'm excited," Taualo said. "He's a big guy, 6-foot-6. We need someone who can guard out there, so I'm excited. I'm just excited to see Exum."
Royden Acslop was a bit more analytical about the pick. "High upside. A little bit of an unknown because he's an Australian player, but if it's a home run, then it's a home run," Asclop said. "I think it's great."
Kenny Marsala was happy with both of the Jazz's picks as he sat with his family. "For the first pick, we were looking at Aaron Gordon from Arizona. We were hoping he would come here, but then Orlando picked him up. The best available player was Dante Exum, and he's going to be a surprise for them," Marsela said. "He's a good player, and good on defense."
As for Hood, "He can shoot the three. That's a steal right there," Marsala said. "How are they going to defend him?"
In short, Jazz fans are pleased and excited with Utah's decisions to pick Exum and Hood. As far as final thoughts go, Rickard said it best:
"Go Jazz! This is awesome!"
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.
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