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Kragthorpe: 2011 lottery results 'a true blessing' for Jazz

Published May 28, 2011 5:14 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This never happens here.

The Jazz, the NBA franchise operating in the town where the league's draft lottery long ago was created, ironically enough, finally caught a break from the system.

Thanks to moving up from No. 6 to No. 3 with the draft pick they received from New Jersey, the Jazz have a much bigger and better outlook. A month after the cursed season of 2010-2011, general manager Kevin O'Connor almost smiled, while recognizing how much scrutiny — of him and by him — will be involved in the June 23 draft.

"The pressure's on," O'Connor said, "but that's OK."

It's better than that. The Jazz now can land the young, talented center they need: Enes Kanter of Turkey via Kentucky. This also enables them to be more creative with their own pick (No. 12), which brings The Jimmer Issue into full bloom over the next five weeks.

This draft will not instantly transform the Jazz into Western Conference contenders, but the three-slot leap was significant, for multiple reasons that begin with the answer to this question: How do you like the Deron Williams trade now?

Having acquired Derrick Favors from New Jersey during his rookie season, the Jazz will have two consecutive No. 3 picks in their playing rotation. That's promising. Sure, there was the moment when all of Jazzland fantasized about the No. 1 pick going to the only state with an NBA team and no sanctioned lottery.

"You get greedy," O'Connor said Tuesday night from the lottery site in New Jersey.

The Jazz could have drafted Duke point guard Kyrie Irving at No. 1, as Devin Harris' understudy. They could have taken Arizona forward Derrick Williams at No. 2, replacing one D-Will with another. But landing at No. 3 will enable them to address a bigger need with the 6-foot-11, 262-pound Kanter.

Besides, you couldn't have cheered against Cleveland in good conscience, could you? Not when the Cavaliers lost LeBron James last summer and when owner Dan Gilbert's 14-year-old son, with a medical condition, was seated next to O'Connor on the set.

The Jazz also deserved what they got. After the injuries, adjustments and everything he went through in taking over for Jerry Sloan in February, coach Tyrone Corbin labeled the lottery results "a true blessing."

For once, the Jazz moved up in this thing. The lottery concept was approved during an NBA Board of Governors meeting in Salt Lake City in 1984. Because they kept making the playoffs, the Jazz never were involved in the lottery until 20 years later.

In their first four appearances, the Jazz either stayed where they were slotted or lost ground. That happened in 2005, when they fell from No. 4 to No. 6 in the lottery, then traded up to No. 3 and grabbed Deron Williams.

Kris Humphries, Williams and Ronnie Brewer have moved on, leaving only Gordon Hayward as a previous Jazz lottery pick. Jazz fans also have to sit and watch former first-rounders DeShawn Stevenson, Eric Maynor and Brewer compete in the conference finals this month.

Tuesday's news keeps everybody looking forward, not backward. Now come the weeks of wondering about Kanter, who was ineligible this past season as a Kentucky freshman and turns 19 on Friday, and the debate about BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, who falls at No. 12 or soon afterward in most draft projections.

As of Tuesday, Corbin just liked the idea of a No. 3 pick being able to play "sooner than later." That's also how much the Jazz's timetable for getting back into the playoffs accelerated.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt

Facebook.com/ kurtkragthorpe