Chicago • A pack of reporters surrounded Julius Randle as the young basketball star took a seat at his media table Friday. When it was time for James Young to do the same, only a few scribes made their way to the other Kentucky Wildcat.
While there was much talk of Duke phenom Jabari Parker’s decision to skip the pre-draft workouts in his hometown, his teammate, Rodney Hood, received less attention.
In this June’s draft, the Utah Jazz will have a shot at a star. Depending on the outcome of next week’s lottery, the Jazz will pick somewhere between first and seventh, potentially giving them a shot at Parker, Randle or one of the draft’s other big names.
But the Jazz won’t be done there.
Utah also own the Golden State Warriors’ selection, No. 23 overall, and a high second-round pick (No. 35). This draft class has been touted as one of the deepest in years and experts believe there will be big-time contributors available late.
“I’ve tried to stay away from that,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said of the overall quality of the class. “I’m not sure my consideration is how the other 29 teams’ selections perform. You can have what is coined as a bad draft and if you select a good player, it’s a good draft for you. And vice versa.
“I will say this, there’s plenty of opportunities in this draft.”
And for a team with plenty of needs to fill, that’s good news.
“Franchise players. All-Stars. That’s what we’re looking to get,” Jazz VP of Player Personnel Walt Perrin said earlier this month. “But we also understand that we need depth.
“We need rotation players. And we have a lot of needs in terms of shooting, in terms of defense and rebounding.”
Defense is one thing Young, who is projected to go in the middle of the first round, says he would bring to a team.
The 18-year-old can also score. In the NCAA title game, the freshman stepped up and dropped in 20 points, in Kentucky’s loss to Connecticut.
“When the lights were on, I performed,” said Young, who interviewed with the Jazz this week.
Hood, the Duke small forward who averaged 16.1 points and 3.9 rebounds a game last season, is projected to be taken late in the first round.
He showed off some athleticism with a 36-inch vertical leap in Friday’s tests.
UCLA’s Zach LaVine is also projected to be available when the Jazz pick at 23.
The freshman guard impressed in his tests Friday. The supremely athletic combo guard had a 411/2-inch vertical and finished with the best time in a number of agility drills.
“He was in the gym every single night. He’d be down there at his hoop and I’d be down there at my hoop,” UCLA swingman Kyle Anderson, who also is projected to be available late in the first round, said of his teammate. “He’d be in that gym every single day, every single night. … I think he’s going to be unguardable in about 2-3 years. He’s very good now, but once the physicality part catches up with him, I think he’s going to be unstoppable.”
The Jazz are intent on getting quality out of the pick, though it still might come in another way.
“Because there’s so much potential talent in this draft, the draft picks will be very valuable commodities,” Lindsey said. “Maybe we just use it in a different way to get to the ending point that we want to get to.”