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Utah Jazz looking for 'franchise players' in NBA Draft

Published June 26, 2014 9:27 am

Jazz go into today's NBA Draft holding fifth, 23rd, 35th picks.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York City •Â The Utah Jazz have a new coach, a new start.

Now they hope to land a new star.

"Franchise players. All-Stars. That's what we're looking to get," Walt Perrin, the team's vice president of player personnel, said when the Jazz began their pre-draft workouts last month.

Dozens of players have come through Salt Lake City for workouts since then and team officials have spent hundreds of hours breaking down video of the notables who didn't come to town.

Thursday night at Barclay's Center, the Jazz will finally get to put that effort to use, trying to cull something positive — perhaps franchise-changing — out of a frustrating 25-57 rebuilding year.

Team leaders have downplayed the pressure, saying each year's draft comes with the demands to succeed.

But this will be just the third time since 1989 the team has owned a top-five pick (Utah landed Deron Williams with the third pick in 2005 and Enes Kanter with the third pick in 2011). And armed with another first-round pick (the 23rd selection via last year's trade with Golden State), the Jazz have a chance to land impact players in a draft experts say is as good and as deep as any in the past decade.

But there are questions left to be answered.

• Can the Jazz move up into the top two?

Heading into the lottery with the fourth-best chance of nabbing the No. 1 overall pick, the Jazz left New York City disappointed once already this summer. But the team's front office is working to move up in the draft. According to reports, Utah has offered the Cleveland Cavaliers a package that includes draft picks and veterans in exchange for the No. 1 pick, and the chance to draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

• Is the team targeting a specific position?

With five young starters already on the roster, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and his staff say they won't be handcuffed by searching for just one position of need. Instead, the Jazz will take the best player available. And after logging just 25 wins last year, the Jazz could use skill at each position.

• How far will Joel Embiid fall?

A week ago, the 7-footer from Kansas seemed to be a lock for the top pick. But a fractured foot, for which Embiid had surgery last week, has hurt his stock. Some mock drafts have Embiid falling all the way to 10 on Thursday night. Could he slip by the Jazz? Utah will have a difficult choice if the center is on the board when the team picks at No. 5. But the Jazz prefer to play Derrick Favors at center going forward and they have another promising, but raw, young big in Rudy Gobert. Combine that with the question marks surrounding Embiid's health and the Jazz may very well have to pass.

•Â Would the Jazz draft another point guard in Marcus Smart?

The mercurial Oklahoma State guard didn't come to Salt Lake for a workout. And in response to a Jazz fan on Twitter, Smart said it was because the Jazz are not interested in him. The team, however, refutes that. Utah officials met with Smart at the pre-draft combine in Chicago last month and believe he could be paired with Trey Burke in the team's backcourt.

• Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle?

Vonleh, the Indiana freshman whose stock has been on the rise since the combine, seems to be the consensus pick if the Jazz stay at No. 5. He's one of the youngest players in the draft and has the physical tools (a 7-4 wingspan) to make him a potential star. But Randle had Jazz officials raving after his workout in Salt Lake City and the team says it is not concerned about the Kentucky forward's foot, which some believe did not heal properly from a high school injury.

And, oh yeah, don't forget about Arizona's Aaron Gordon.

The super-athletic forward impressed the Jazz brass in his workout last month and returned to Salt Lake for a second, private workout this weekend.

•Â What can the Jazz get with the 23rd and 35th picks?

In such a deep draft, there's talent to be had in this range. But the Jazz have been active in behind-the-scene talks so far this week and with an already very young team in place, it seems unlikely Utah will use all three picks on players. Expect to see some movement.

afalk@sltrib.com

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