The Utah Jazz have recently made a potentially significant decision, with VP of player Personnel Walt Perrin telling The Tribune last week that the organization sees Derrick Favors as more of a center than power forward.
That is perhaps the strongest indicator yet that Enes Kanter could be on the trading block. Yes, Kanter can play power forward. But he’s much more of a center, and while he and Favors can play at the same time, both aren’t going to play major minutes at the same spot.
It’s also a sign that the Jazz could be taking a hard look at Indiana big man Noah Vonleh with their No. 5 pick of the upcoming NBA Draft. Last week, Perrin flew to New York to see the 6-foot-9 Vonleh, who left the Hoosiers after a one-and-done freshman season. Perrin also said the team would get Vonleh in for a private workout sometime in the next three weeks.
The Jazz have long maintained their desire to draft the best player available with the fifth selection. It’s generally been thought that Vonleh is in that mix with Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle. But now, with Favors likely playing center moving forward, Vonleh also qualifies as a need, and not just a luxury.
“It’s still too early to make a concrete decision, and we’re still looking at a lot of guys,” Perrin said. “He’s a guy that we’ll bring in. We’ll work him out and make that determination.”
Perrin did acknowledge a couple of things. Even if they draft Vonleh and he doesn’t become an immediate starter, the Jazz feel he can step into the playing rotation right away. And with Vonleh’s draft stock becoming stronger by the day, Perrin said that he knows the chance is there that he could be gone by the fifth selection.
Vonleh’s two-way potential is intriguing. Teams salivate over his upside. He has some of the longest arms in the draft. At 18, he’s one of the youngest players in the draft. Offensively, Vonleh can post up and score with his back to the basket. He can also step out and shoot from the perimeter.
The Jazz envision him forming a defensive tandem with Favors, heavy with shot-blocking, length and athleticism. His offensive potential makes him that much more attractive as a prospect.
He played well in his one year at Indiana under difficult circumstance. Point guard Yogi Ferrell was the only other starter the Hoosiers had who could create consistent offense, and Tom Crean’s roster lacked shooting. As a result, Vonleh saw double- and triple-teams throughout the season.
Still, Vonleh averaged 11.3 points, nine rebounds and a blocked shot a game. He shot 48 percent from 3-point range and expanded his game as the year progressed.
“He’s a guy with a tremendous amount of upside,” college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “Teams really like him and he has a chance to be a very good player. He may not get there as fast as some in this draft, but he has youth on his side.”
About Noah Vonleh
Measurables • 6-foot-9, 247 pounds
Position • Power Forward
School • Indiana
Noteworthy • Big Ten Freshman of the Year. … McDonald’s All-American.