SALT LAKE CITY — With four picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft, at 24 and 30 in the first round and 42 and 55 in the second, it could be a busy night for the Utah Jazz. That is unless they decide to wheel and deal and perhaps trade one or more of their draft picks for a veteran player or two.
Unlike some past years, the Jazz don’t appear to be looking for one particular need and mock drafts have them all over the place, taking a variety of different players. The Jazz are pretty solid at most positions, although they could be looking for an upgrade at the backup center position, finding a shooting big guard or small forward or just taking the best athletes available.
“I think they’re great assets now and going forward to help build our team,” said Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey. “We’ll have some tough choices but in a good way. We have a bunch of good options. We’ll see if that option is best to couple all four and trade it for one veteran and try to move up for a specific target. There are a lot of guys we feel could fit our culture as well as our team.”
More than one mock draft has the Jazz going with Michigan 6-foot-10 forward D.J. Wilson at No. 24, while German 7-footer Isaiah Hartenstein, a 19-year-old who plays in the Lithuanian Basketball League, is listed as a Jazz pick at both 24 and 30 in different mocks. The advantage to taking a player like Hartenstein is that they wouldn’t have to bring him over immediately and could let him develop in Europe.
Other mock drafts have Utah taking North Carolina center Tony Bradley, SMU forward Semi Ojeleye, Australian guard Terrance Ferguson or Cal big man Ivan Rabb with the 24th pick.
Besides Hartenstein, other players at No. 30 in mock drafts include Syracuse's Tyler Lydon, Australia's Jonah Bolden, Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Colorado's Derrick White and Duke’s Frank Jackson, who prepped at Lone Peak High School in Utah.
The bottom line is, no one really knows who the Jazz will be taking except a handful of team executives, who will reveal their first decision Thursday evening between 7 and 7:30 p.m. The first round will likely end between 7:45 and 8 and then the second round will progress quickly with just two minutes between picks instead of five.
While Jackson looks like a borderline first-round pick, another former Lone Peak standout, Eric Mika, who declared for the draft after his sophomore season at BYU, isn’t likely to be drafted according to most mock drafts. If he doesn’t get selected, Mika will have his choice among interested teams to sign a free-agent contract.
Jackson is picked to go in the No. 27 spot according to USA Today, while NBADraft.net has Jackson going at No. 28. CBS’s Reid Forgrave has Jackson going at No. 30 to the Jazz as does Hoops Hype, ESPN puts him at No. 31, while Draft Express has Jackson going to Orlando at No. 35.
That’s a pretty tight window compared to Utah’s Kyle Kuzma. The former Ute forward is listed as high as No. 18 by NBADraft.net, going to the Pacers, while ESPN’s Chad Ford has Kuzma going as low as No. 52. The consensus is that Kuzma will be drafted somewhere in the 30s.
Both Jackson and Kuzma appear to be available for the Jazz to pick — Jackson with the No. 24 pick and Kuzma at No. 30. But there's always a concern about taking a local player who may or may not pan out as well as expected. If the player is picked and then doesn’t play much, fans may get upset with the coach and the team. On the other hand, if the Jazz pass up a local player and he turns out to be a star, they’ll never hear the end of it.
With the 42nd and 55th picks, the Jazz will be hoping to find another Paul Millsap, who the Jazz drafted at No. 47 in 2006.
Among the names mentioned in mock drafts for Utah’s late picks: Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey, Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame, South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell, Xavier guard Edmond Sumner, Baylor forward Johnathan Motley, Spain’s Alberto Abalde, Syracuse’s Andrew White and Iowa State’s Monte Morris.