Nearly a month since the start of training camp -- and three games into the NBA exhibition season, which continues Thursday night against Portland -- second-round draft choice Goran Suton remains a mystery.
At least to the untrained eye.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan has been watching the wide-body center out of Michigan State, however, and he sees a young player who possesses an ability that the Jazz have been lacking in recent seasons.
"Goran has played pretty well," Sloan said Monday. "His size is a little bit of a factor. He's not the biggest guy out there at his position. But he has a great concept of trying to help his teammates defensively."
Remember, the Jazz allowed 100.9 points a game last season -- 18th out of the 30 teams in the NBA.
Utah's opposition also shot 46.5 percent from the field -- a 15-year high.
Although Suton remains squarely on the bubble as far as making the Jazz's final regular-season roster, he knows that doing what doesn't show up in the box score is his trump card in the nerve-racking poker game of NBA survival.
"It's a new role for me," said Suton, who averaged 10.4 points and 8.4 rebounds as a senior at Michigan State. "But I know I don't need to score here. I just need to do the little things."
Said Sloan: "Athletically, he overcomes a lot of things by playing hard. ... He's done a good job."
If Suton is discouraged by averaging only two points and 2.3 rebounds in a total of 31 minutes during preseason games against Denver, Chicago and Real Madrid, it doesn't show.
"I'm feeling pretty good -- just controlling the things I can control," he said. "I'm trying to play hard and compete hard."
Suton's journey to the Jazz has been well-documented.
He grew up outside Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. As war refugees, his family moved to East Lansing, Mich., in 1999.
Suton attended Everett High School -- Magic Johnson's alma mater -- and led his team to a state championship in 2004.
Like Johnson, Suton stayed close to his family's adopted home and attended Michigan State.
In all, he played 134 games and, as a senior, Suton helped lead the Spartans into the NCAA championship game.
He finished his collegiate career as one of only eight players in Michigan State history with more than 1,000 points and 800 rebounds.
Still, Suton slipped into the second round of the NBA draft, where the Jazz grabbed him with the 50th overall selection.
No problem, especially because Utah has a history of finding overlooked players in the second round.
Noting similarities between Michigan State coach Tim Izzo and Sloan, Suton said, "The program here is very disciplined. It's very blue-collar. I'm glad it is similar to what I'm used to."
If Suton has been surprised about anything in the preseason, it's been the attitude of the veteran players around him.
"You don't really know how nice these guys are when you watch them on TV," he said. "They have been very accommodating, especially the older guys. They've gone out of their way to try and help me when I'm out here. So I'm very pleased about that."
Since 1985, the Jazz have picked 11 players in the second round of the draft who made the regular-season roster. Listed by year are the player, position, school and draft number:
|1985||Carey Scurry||F||Long Island||39|
|1991||Ike Austin||C||Arizona State||48|
|1993||Bryon Russell||F||Long Beach St.||45|
|1994||Jamie Watson||G/F||South Carolina||47|
|2005||C.J. Miles||G||Skyline HS (Dallas)||34|
|2006||Paul Millsap||F||La. Tech||47|