Nobody likes point guards more than the Utah Jazz. When they had All-star Rickey Green, they drafted John Stockton. The next year, they planned to take Terry Porter. Last June, they wanted Muggsy Bogues.
So the Jazz lose Green to Charlotte in the expansion draft Thursday and what do they want at No. 17 in Tuesday's NBA draft? Not a point guard.With Stockton looking more and more like a 40-minute player, the Jazz insist that all they want is your basic CBA/NBA journeyman--somebody like, uh, Rickey Green--to rest him here and there. "It will be easier to find somebody to fill that role outside of the draft," said chief scout Scott Layden.
"If you draft a guard and you play (Stockton) 40 minutes, it's going to be expensive," said Coach Frank Layden. "It isn't fair, because the guy doesn't get a chance to develop."
But that would be the case at any Jazz position--except maybe center. Having acquired Mike Brown from Chicago via Charlotte, the Jazz could really make Mel Turpin expendable by drafting Wyoming center Eric Leckner. As always, the best advice is to tune in Tuesday. A look at some of the candidates:
Eric Leckner, Wyoming--A solid player for four seasons in Laramie, the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Leckner shot 64 percent from the field as a senior but averaged only 6.6 rebounds as both his scoring and rebounding fell off slightly. His NBA stock dropped when after failing to attend any postseason all-star events, he played poorly in the U.S. Olympic trials and scouts questioned his overall athletic ability. For a better look, the Jazz brought Leckner to town and were impressed with his interview last week.
Leckner has good hands and can shoot and will likely be the third center drafted, following Marist's Rik Smits and Vanderbilt's Will Perdue. Chances are, the Jazz will have to make a decision on Leckner, because he should be there. "We're one of the first teams that mention him," noted Scott Layden.
Andrew Lang, Arkansas--Until Brown became the player Charlotte provided in the Kelly Tripucka trade, Lang was higher on the Jazz list. A 6-11, 250-pound center, he's a lot like Brown--a single-figures scorer in college but a strong rebounder and shot-blocker.
"He's a project, but he has all the qualities in the game that the NBA looks for," Golden State Coach Don Nelson has said.
Lang is expected to go between Nos. 15 and 20 Tuesday. "We like how active he is," said Layden.
Jewrome Lane, Pittsburgh--A 6-6 forward who left Pitt after his junior season, Lane could be the slider of the Year. Lane's small size for a power forward and scoring ability (13.9) are questions, but he's a terrific athlete--he once started at point guard as a freshman--and rebounder, averaging 12.2 boards last season. "He's talented enough that we have to look at him," said Layden.
Kevin Edwards, DePaul--Another player expected to go somewhere in the late middle of the first round, the 6-3 Edwards can play two backcourt positions and in the only guard in whom the Jazz are admitting any interest. A junior college transfer, he shot 53 percent for two seasons at DePaul and averaged 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a senior.
The Jazz always on the lookout for good people, like Edwards' makeup. "he'd really fit in well with us, if that's the direction we decide to go," said Layden.
Harvey Grant, Oklahoma--The twin brother of Chicago's Horace Grant, he's another player hard to pinpoint on the draft projection board--but he should go ahead of the Jazz. The 6-9 Grant averaged 19.1 points over two seasons for the Sooners and will be marketable to teams known to be looking for a small forward.
Others to watch--Considering the Jazz's history of surprises, can we eliminate anybody? They're serious about Orlando Graham, the 6-7 forward from Auburn-Montgomery they interviewed after Leckner, as a possible first-rounder. Other outside possibilities include Southern Mississippi forward Randolph Keys, Central Michigan swingman Dan Majerle and, yes, point guard Everette Stephens of Purdue.