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Utah Jazz: Pickings slim at 23

Published June 26, 2008 1:32 am

Expectations won't be high for whomever Jazz take with their first-round pick
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Even before tonight's first pick is made, the NBA Draft will have a different feel for the Jazz, with general manager Kevin O'Connor and Co. moving from center stage at EnergySolutions Arena to an upstairs conference room at the team's practice facility.

With the Jazz owning the No. 23 pick in the first round, the team decided not to host a draft party for fans this year. Instead, the front office and coaching staff will be in more comfortable surroundings as they decide what to do with a most confusing pick.

Once again drafting late in the first round, the Jazz have little in the way of expectations for how much any player they select would play next season.

"Is he going to help us this year? Probably not," said Walt Perrin, the Jazz's vice president of player personnel. "So we've got to look and see what he will do for us in the future. Can he be a starter or can he be a rotational player in two to three years down the road?"

The Jazz hold two picks in the second round at Nos. 44 (from Philadelphia) and 53. It's worth noting that the Jazz's two draft picks last year - Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko - played in a combined 18 games for 109 minutes as rookies.

In addition, the Jazz have roster considerations with 13 players already under contract for next season and C.J. Miles capable of returning as a restricted free agent. That would leave the Jazz only one roster spot for the three picks they will make tonight.

In the final hours before the draft, the Jazz brought in California forward Ryan Anderson for an interview Wednesday. Anderson pulled out of a workout with the Jazz on June 15 as he returned home to decide whether to remain in the draft.

There are no guarantees, though, that the fast-rising Anderson will still be available when the Jazz draft at No. 23. They seem to be facing that same question, in fact, with several of the big men in whom they are most interested.

The Jazz brought Georgetown's Roy Hibbert to town for two workouts, but would be in position to draft the 7-foot-2 center only if he fell past at least six teams for which he also worked out.

"He obviously didn't shut it down and we obviously didn't give him a guarantee," O'Connor said of Hibbert.

In addition, the Jazz watched Wednesday as Charlotte acquired Denver's No. 20 pick, possibly to select Hibbert. As the Jazz have noted, Hibbert's agent, David Falk, also was the agent for Michael Jordan, now running the Bobcats.

The Jazz have followed Rider forward Jason Thompson, who averaged 20.4 points and 12.1 rebounds, ever since Perrin saw him at LeBron James' camp last summer. Thompson worked out in Utah, but is now expected to be drafted between Nos. 14 and 20. Florida center Marreese Speights is a raw talent whose stock has fallen some, but the Jazz still expect Speights will be taken before No. 23. Stanford center Robin Lopez and French center Alexis Ajinca both are excepted to be off the board as well.

The Jazz will consider Nevada center JaVale McGee, Congolese forward Serge Ibaka and Indiana forward D.J. White. McGee would not work out in Utah, but the Jazz did interview him at the NBA's predraft camp in Orlando, Fla.

Even though they would like to add a big man, the Jazz have repeatedly said they are committed to taking the best player available regardless of position.

They are loaded with young guards in Ronnie Brewer, Miles and Almond, but the Jazz wouldn't hesitate to draft Kansas guard Brandon Rush if he unexpectedly fell to No. 23. Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and Western Kentucky guard Courtney Lee also would be considered against the available big men.

Given their roster situation, the Jazz could look to draft an international player who would stay overseas for another season while Utah retained his rights. Ibaka, who plays in Spain and doesn't turn 19 until September, would be the most likely candidate.

It is unlikely that the Jazz will follow Denver and New Orleans, who already have traded out of the first round. They still owe Philadelphia a first-round pick to complete the Kyle Korver trade and face restrictions on trading this year's pick as a result.

rsiler@sltrib.com

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