NBA: Jazz need help

Published June 11, 2006 1:57 am
Objectives: The trade for Araujo doesn't alter what Utah is searching for to get better
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz's first personnel move of the offseason won't change their objectives for the rest of the summer.

Call it a nonblockbuster.

While Thursday's acquisition of Rafael Araujo from Toronto for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley addressed one of its needs - a legitimate-sized, off-the-bench center - it didn't address Utah's desire for more perimeter shooting and athleticism.

So heading into the next stage of the summer - the draft, free agency, the Rocky Mountain Revue and more trade talks - Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor undoubtedly will focus his efforts on getting players with those attributes.

The draft, considered the most unpredictable in years, is scheduled for June 28. The Jazz own the 14th pick in the first round.

Who tops O'Connor's wish list?

Because it's unlikely a top-level power player will be available, the Jazz will likely end up trying to solve their shooting-athleticism dilemma, barring a trade into the top five.

Players who can do what the Jazz need who are expected to go in the 12-16 range include Arkansas's Ronnie Brewer, Duke's J.J. Redick, Villanova's Randy Foye, Memphis' Rodney Carney and Rutgers' Quincy Douby.

The Jazz's next important order of business, however, comes three days before the draft.

Utah must decide whether or not to exercise a one-year option on the contract of backup point guard Keith McLeod, who said after the season he wants to return.

The Jazz must make their decision by June 25.

Currently, Deron Williams is the only point guard under contract, which could work in McLeod's favor.

On the other hand, McLeod is scheduled to make $1.35 million if he returns, which could be money O'Connor wants to have to pursue a free agent or two.

If the Jazz don't re-sign McLeod, taking a point guard with the No. 14 pick in the draft becomes more of a possibility.

The problem with that scenario?

UConn's Marcus Williams is the top-rated point guard in the draft, and he will probably go in the top 10.

After a series of good pre-draft workouts, most NBA personnel-types believe Kentucky's Rajon Rondo is the next-best point guard prospect. But using the No. 14 pick on him could be a stretch.

If the Jazz don't take a point guard in the first round, they will almost certainly consider one in the second, where they stole Mo Williams with the 47th pick in the 2003 draft.

Utah owns the No. 46 and No. 47 picks, where prospects like Illinois' Dee Brown, Cal-Fullerton's Bobby Brown, Iowa State's Wil Blalock, Memphis' Darius Washington or Villanova's Kyle Lowry could still be available.

Meanwhile, the Jazz hope Araujo evolves into a 15-to 20-minute-per-game contributor behind its top two frontcourt players, Carlos Boozer and Memo Okur.

Araujo, who starred at Brigham Young, never lived up to Toronto's hopes for him.

The Raptors used the No. 8 pick in the first round of the 2004 draft on him, and Araujo struggled immediately on a veteran, perimeter-oriented team with a rookie head coach in Sam Mitchell.

Given those circumstances, Araujo didn't have much of chance for success in Toronto, and O'Connor's decision to trade for him seems like a decent gamble because Utah gave up two players - Humphries and Whaley - who were no longer in its plans.

Sources in Toronto say new Raptors' president Bryan Colangelo plans to waive Whaley.

Humphries is expected to play this season in Toronto but, barring a sudden and unexpected turnaround in his game, the Raptors made this trade with the idea of passing on his contract option for the 2007-08 season.

Instead, Toronto will use the money it saves on other players as Colangelo continues to put his stamp on the Raptors.

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