So maybe Kosta Koufos — yes, it rhymes with doofus — isn't NBA ready yet.

At 7-feet, 265 pounds, he takes up space.

Size being a priority for the Jazz.

"Look," said Jazz G.M. Kevin O'Connor, "if there was a defensive stopper in the middle, we would have drafted him. If there is one, he probably would have been drafted three or four. There just aren't any.

"Is he a shot blocker? No. But is he big enough to take up space and maybe be a disrupter a little bit? That's our goal."

What about dominating the inside the way, Shaq did in his glory days?

They'll get back to you on that.

As badly as the Jazz need interior players, they'd have drafted a tower crane if they thought it could learn the plays.

The Jazz used the 23rd pick of the NBA draft to take the Ohio State center. On the up side, he has decent post moves, and even a respectable mid-range jumper. On the down side, he's not particularly powerful and is slow-footed. Still, some draft experts had him going in the lottery.

"All indications were that he was going to be gone ahead of us," said O'Connor.

So the Jazz say they did what they planned. They made a list of the top 30 players and scratched them off as they were drafted. Roy Hibbert — the player unofficially considered Most Likely to End Up in Utah — was gone. Rider's Jason Thompson and Frenchman Alexi Ajinca — both who worked out in Utah — had disappeared, too.

Konstantine Demetrios Koufos (don't let the name fool you, he's as American as John Wayne) was there.

"It was pretty obvious we were looking big," said O'Connor.

Virtually all the talk going into this year's draft revolved around the Jazz adding inside oompf. With a starting center that spends much of his time at the 3-point arch, and a power forward who doesn't play much defense, the team's goal was to find someone who could live large by playing defense and blocking shots.

Of course, that's like Rick Majerus saying he'd prefer to date Cindy Crawford. Everyone knew that wouldn't happen.

Yet big guys remain the rarest commodity. That's why Portland used the No. 1 pick last year to take Ohio State center Greg Oden, rather than the best player in the draft, Texas' Kevin Durrant.

For that matter, it's the same reason the Blazers took (yikes!) Sam Bowie in 1984, rather than Michael Jordan.

It's also why the Jazz took a chance on projects like Alan Bannister, Walter Palmer, Luther Wright, Raphael Araujo and, yes, Greg Ostertag.

Last season they acquired 7-foot-1 Kyrylo Fesenko from Philadelphia on draft day.

As former coach Frank Layden once said, "If you're going to make a mistake, make it a big one."

Besides, you might luck out, as the Jazz did when 7-4 Mark Eaton got out of auto repair and into basketball. He wasn't a scorer, but boy could he clog the lane. He stood them up, strained their backs, tangled their arms and eclipsed the paint.

Though fans complained about his modest scoring ability, all it took was a run of tepid results with varying centers — pretend and real — in ensuing years to realize what Eaton had done for defense.

Thus, when the 44th pick rolled around the Jazz again went big. That time they chose 7-1, 230-pound Croatian Ante Tomic. The word on him is that he has a nice touch and good agility, but is as weak as a kitten.

No matter.

"He's got size — doesn't have strength — he's got skills," said O'Connor.

The Jazz plan to leave Tomic in Europe for a year or two.

It's true that both new big men need polishing. And neither is likely to dominate. Clearly, some of the taller men in this year's draft were considered risky or they would have gone earlier.

Still, the Jazz didn't hesitate.

You can't get sidetracked by small minds when you're thinking big.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com