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(San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket as Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) defends, during the second half in Game 7 of the NBA basketball championships, Friday, June 21, 2013, in Miami. The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win their second straight NBA championship.(AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann, Pool) )
Kragthorpe: Jazz need Dennis Lindsey to find another Kawhi Leonard
First Published Jun 26 2013 08:41 am • Last Updated Jun 27 2013 08:38 am

Armed with the knowledge that the Jazz are not about to engage in any sort of strategy that CEO Greg Miller describes as "a get-it-fixed-now, mercenary-type approach" to rebuilding, my expectations for Thursday’s NBA Draft are appropriately reasonable.

I’m just asking for much better results than the last time the Jazz went into this annual exercise with the Nos. 14 and 21 picks. Is that fair?

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It’s true that the 2004 draft created a convergence that made Jazz bad enough and gave them a bargaining chip that enabled them to pick Deron Williams the following year. Otherwise, the Jazz succeeded only by introducing their new, blue color scheme that night. They drafted Kris Humphries (No. 14), Kirk Snyder (No. 16) and Pavel Podkolzin (No. 21), who was traded to Dallas for a future first-round pick that eventually helped them land Williams.

Such deferred gratification is not good enough this time. The Jazz need help, right here and now. I’ll take any of the following outcomes Thursday, in this order:

• No. 1: A move up in the draft.

If ever there was a year to convert a pair of mid-range picks into a higher slot, this is it. Such a move is always difficult in a top-heavy draft, but those other lottery teams should find value in what the Jazz can offer.

So if the Jazz can swing a deal to get the point guard or big man they really want, that would accelerate this whole process.

• No. 2: Not screwing it up.

That’s the resonating phrase from Miller’s media session Tuesday, when he detailed how his father, Larry, told his successors in the company, "This is my life’s work. Don’t screw it up."

Sure, you can play this game every year, but Kevin O’Connor’s ’04 draft was one big miss. Humphries has enjoyed a long NBA career, but the Jazz traded him for Rafael Araujo after two seasons. Snyder was gone after one year, packaged in the trade that brought back Greg Ostertag.


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The likes of Al Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen and Kevin Martin were available at various stages of that first round. If the Jazz stay at Nos. 14 and No. 21, I’d love to see Miami guard Shane Larkin and Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk in those slots. But my sense is that general manager Dennis Lindsey will take more of an exotic approach with one of his picks.

• No. 3: Acquiring Jimmer Fredette.

It’s easy to dismiss him as a bust in the NBA after two seasons, but work with me here. If Jazz can trade the No. 21 pick to Sacramento for Fredette, he’d be worthwhile. Even while being buried on the bench at times, he managed to shoot 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

This would not be like trading for Araujo, the other BYU product drafted in the top 10 in this century. Jimmer’s now humble enough that he could fit into any role in the Jazz’s system.

Everybody knows this summer is a critical moment in Jazz history. The radical reshaping of the team will take place mostly in July, when free agency creates and, theoretically, fills a bunch of roster spots. But the makeover begins Thursday with an important draft, and I have some belief in Lindsey.

In San Antonio, he was involved in the 2011 draft (the Jimmer/Alec Burks class) that brought Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs.

Those high-profile BYU-San Diego State battles seemed sure to produce a very good NBA player — only Jimmer is not that guy, as it turns out. Leonard is, and Lindsey found him. If he can serve up a couple of Kawhi Leonards in Utah, Lindsey will be onto something with his new team.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com



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