Utah Jazz fans might have to plan a trip to Europe if they hope to see the franchise's two second-round NBA Draft picks in the next year or two or three.
It might be even more difficult for fans to correctly say their names than it will be to see their games.
With the 44th and 53rd picks in the second round of the NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected and you might want to grab your pronunciation guides or translators from Croatia and Serbia for this Ante Tomic and Tadija Dragicevic.
Or you can also call them what Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor called them: "investments." That rolls off the tongue just a little bit easier for Americans than the full names of Tomic, a 7-2 Croatian center who was taken 44th, and Dragicevic, a 6-9 forward from Serbia and the 53rd pick.
Neither player, O'Connor explained after Thursday's draft from the Jazz's headquarters at the Zions Bank Basketball Center, will leave their native lands to play in the NBA anytime soon. But, he added, the Jazz believe both have the potential to eventually play in the league. Because of contracts and Utah's full roster, that just won't happen for at least a year, if not more.
"There's no sense taking a European player and keeping him over there if someday you don't think he can play in the NBA. It's idiotic to do that," O'Connor said. "These are investments in the future."
O'Connor said the Jazz had a few players on their board they would pick up if still available when their turns came up in the second round, and both European youngsters were among that small group. Utah would have considered trade offers of which O'Connor said they had several on Thursday night if its preferred prospect list had been crossed off.
Between video footage along with reports from Jazz director of international scouting Alberto Dal Cin and assistant coach Scott Layden, the team's brass decided it would be worth taking a flier in the future on these two big men.
In Tomic, the Jazz pick up the future NBA rights of what O'Connor calls a "very long, skilled player" who was projected to be snatched as high as the late first round. Tomic, who is 21 and has been a pro for four years, plays in Croatia's A1 League and is also on the country's U20 national team. He averaged 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds at the 2007 U20 European Championships in Slovenia.
The Jazz were happy when his name was still available.
"We had an opportunity to get a kid who is 7-2 and has some pretty good skills from a basketball point of view ... So, what we did is we collected an asset," O'Connor said. "We were surprised at 44. We thought he would go a little earlier than that."
Tomic is under contract with KK Zagreb for at least one year details the Jazz still have to completely check out. Layden met with Tomic and watched him work out in New York City this summer.
"He's got size, doesn't have strength, but he has skills," O'Connor added.
O'Connor joked that he doesn't like comparing players, but he then said Dragicevic is "like a poor man's Larry Bird." Of course, he didn't indicate how poor that man is, when jokingly asked by the media.The Serbian forward was an All-Star and player of the year in the Adriatic League and was the 3-point shootout winner at the All-Star Game. He has also been on the U18 and U20 national teams. He averaged 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for BC Red Star Belgrade in 2007-08.
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