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Michael Thomas, Associated Press
Texas forward Tristan Thompson, right, brings down a rebound against Baylor forward Fred Ellis, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, in Austin, Texas. Thompson tied Jordan Hamilton for Texas high scorer with 17 points. No. 3 Texas won 69-60. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

SALT LAKE CITY— Kevin O'Connor would be an ideal best friend, because you could tell him your deepest, darkest secrets and he'd never divulge them to anyone — with or without "Scout's honor" or a pinky promise.

Yes, O'Connor would've been a great prisoner of war, too, because no form of torture, it seems, could make him give up any classified information. Nope — name, rank and serial number is all the enemy would ever get out of Capt. O'Connor.

Well, the Utah Jazz general manager has been tortured by — or, rather, has been torturing — members of the media long enough. And tonight, he'll finally reveal that secret, classified information when he tells the world — and NBA Commissioner David Stern — who the Jazz will select with the third and 12th picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.

O'Connor admits that the Jazz braintrust is pretty darned tight-lipped when it comes to sharing company secrets.

"We kind of play it a little more close to the vest than other teams do," he said of the weeks leading up to tonight's draft, which begins at 5 p.m. with the Jazz hosting their annual Draft Party that gets under way at 4:30 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena. "We just try and ... do our homework and figure out who the three best players are and who the 12 best players are and go from there."

The Jazz hierarchy knows that, with two of the top 12 picks, they need to hit a home run in what is the most anticipated, and arguably the most important, draft in franchise history.

That's why they've spent the past few weeks working out young NBA hopefuls and evaluating them — just for this moment.

Utah's top prospects with the No. 3 pick appear to be a couple of foreign big men, Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas, who both stand 6-foot-11; former University of Arizona forward Derrick Williams, or point guards Brandon Knight (Kentucky), Kyrie Irving (Duke) or Kemba Walker (Connecticut).

Then at No. 12, after nervously sitting through the next eight picks by other NBA teams, the Jazz are up again and must decide whether they want the state's favorite son, former BYU shooting star Jimmer Fredette, or ex-Florida State forward Chris Singleton, or guards Alex Burks (Colorado) or Klay Thompson (Washington State) — assuming those players haven't already been taken by somebody else before the 12th pick rolls around.

Or, of course, the Jazz just might choose somebody else. Or, they could swing a draft-day trade and wind up with a different player or draft pick entirely.

"I think we're in a great position to get a couple of great players — good players now that can become great players as they go forward," said Ty Corbin, who'll be going into his first draft as the team's head coach. "But I am pleased with the level of talent that we've seen come through here.

"You see some guys make plays and you're like, 'Wow, that's a little bit above-average.' If they can continue to do that, then they have a chance to be more than just an average player in this league."

As expected, the almighty rumor mill always starts working overtime at this time of year. And on Wednesday, one of the top trade rumors on the internet had the San Antonio Spurs sending guard George Hill to the Jazz for Utah's No. 12 pick.

That could certainly change Utah's draft strategy this evening.

After all, coming up with a consensus opinion among the team's braintrust might be a little like herding cats, but Corbin realizes that this year's draft could help make or break the franchise's fortunes for years to come.

"We're all in the room together and we'll all have a chance to say what we want to say," the Jazz coach said. "We'll spend quite a bit of time together. And hopefully, we won't be too surprised once the draft starts and things fall where they fall.

"In the end, I would hope that everybody agrees where we are, where we rank different guys and what's the best fit for us.

"I hope we hit one out of the park," Corbin said. "I hope we get two guys that are around this franchise and are great players for us for a long period of time. We're in a position to get some guys and hopefully get the guys we're looking for. ... We need guys to be able to come in and play now."

This marks only the third time in Jazz draft history that the team has had the No. 3 pick. The last time it occurred was in 2005, when they selected point guard Deron Williams; and the only other time Utah has had third-dubsies was in 1982, when they took Dominique Wilkins and promptly traded him away to the Atlanta Hawks for a pair of players plus plenty of cash.

O'Connor has the final decision as far as who the Jazz will take, and he realizes the significance of having the No. 3 selection, as well as two of the top 12 picks. He knows, too, that the draft is an annual crapshoot wherein players who turn out to be great NBA stars often get overlooked by some teams, while many high-profile players often wind up being big NBA disappointments.

"I would say this is one of those drafts where I think it's going to be beauty is in the eye of the beholder," he said. "I think during the draft, some guys you're going to look where they're picked and you're going to say 'Oooh, all the mock drafts didn't have that guy rated there.'

"I think there's a lot of guys there that are of equal talent. You've got to figure out the ones that are going to succeed in the pros, because there are going to be guys who succeed, so it's our responsibility to find them.

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"Now you've got to make a decision," O'Connor said. "Gathering information's easy. It's time-consuming and tedious, but it's easy. Now making a decision's difficult. You've got to go to bed Thursday night. You guys will be happy it's over with. I'll get in bed and (say), 'Oh, I hope we made the right decision.' "

And when O'Connor & Co. reveal that long-awaited, secret and highly classified information this evening, fans of the Jazz franchise will be hoping for the very same thing.

email: rhollis@desnews.com