Utah Jazz: Talent, and questions, abound at No. 5
Marcus Smart. Noah Vonleh. Aaron Gordon. Julius Randle.
Those are the four guys who should be available to the Utah Jazz with the fifth pick in the upcoming NBA draft. You can throw Dante Exum in there, as well. Of the top-tier players, he is the one who is most likely to slide to No. 5 territory.
Each players has ability. Each has their strengths. But they all have obvious shortcomings as well, and that makes the fifth selection riskier than the first four.
All of this adds up to four potentially fascinating weeks for the Jazz.
Only Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey knows what he's going to do with the pick. He has said he's open to using assets to climb into the top three. The Jazz could also trade down, or even swap the pick for veteran that can come in and help a young roster right away.
But what if the Jazz stay put and pick fifth?
"We're going to take the best available player," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. "When you have a pick this high in the draft, you can't mess around with need. You can address need later in the draft. So we're going to look at who's on the board, what they offer and take the best player available for the franchise."
Each player fits in with the Jazz a bit differently.
Smart and Exum are bigger point guards, both capable of playing with Trey Burke in the same backcourt and playing shooting guard, in spots. Vonleh gives would give Utah another shot blocker to go with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Like Enes Kanter, Vonleh is capable of shooting the ball from the perimeter, a trait that meshes with the Jazz offensively.
Gordon can play both forward positions, and on a team devoid of defensive stoppers, his ability on the defensive end could make him invaluable. Randle is a pure scorer in the frontcourt, and the Jazz need at least one big guy capable of creating his own offense.
If Exum is available, Utah may quickly snap him up. The 6-foot-6 guard from Australia is seen as a player with a high ceiling. But he's 18 years old, still young to the game of basketball and hasn't played the level of competition that most American players his age have encountered.
Still, Exum impressed many with his performance in the Nike Hoop Summit two years ago against many players who will hear their names called at the top of this draft. He's got good size for his position, and he's athletic enough to get to the rim.
Those who have seen him play extensively hold him in high regard.
"I've probably seen him as much as anyone," said Fran Fraschilla, a college basketball analyst who also does international scouting for the NBA. "To me, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, you know they are going to be very good players in the league. But there are two guys who have transcendent ability in this draft. That's Joel Embiid and Dante Exum."
Lindsey went to Los Angeles to see many of the top prospects work out in one setting last week. The Jazz also are currently talking to agents in efforts to bring some of the top players in for individual workouts over the next month.
"We think we can find a very good player with the fifth pick," Lindsey said.
Fraschilla agrees. The Jazz will get a good player with the fifth pick, he says. But unlike Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, each of the prospects that will likely be available at No. 5 comes with caveats:
• Smart is NBA ready, has great strength and is one of the most competitive players in the draft. But he's not yet a great shooter.
• Vonleh is a high upside, is athletic and a good shooter for a power forward. But he's young and needs strength and time to grow into his body.
• Gordon showed his elite athleticism at Arizona. But isn't a good shooter at this stage and lacks a definitive position.
• Randle can score, can rebound and reminds many of a young Zach Randolph. But he lacks the physical measurements of Gordon and Vonleh, and doesn't play above the rim.
"It's a bit of a crapshoot," Fraschilla said. "The good news is that the Jazz have plenty of options and plenty of ways they can go with this thing. They have the fifth pick and right now that's the most fluid position of the draft."
In the neighborhood
These are the players who could be available to the Utah Jazz with the fifth pick of the upcoming NBA Draft
6-foot-9, power forward from Indiana
Strengths: Has a high ceiling, room for improvement, has elite measurements
Weaknesses: Needs time to reach max potential, mechanical moves in the post
6-foot-9 forward from Arizona
Strengths: Elite athlete, elite defender, good passer
Weaknesses: Not a good shooter, lacks a defined position
6-foot-9 power forward from Kentucky
Strengths: Can score and rebound, left-handed, is relentless inside
Weaknesses: Has trouble scoring against length, lacks elite measurements
6-foot-6 guard from Australia
Strengths: High upside, elite athlete and size for a guard
Weaknesses: Lacks a consistent jumper, hasn't played elite competition