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Can the Utah Jazz find an immediate impact late in the NBA draft?

First Published      Last Updated Jun 18 2017 10:15 pm


Analysts say field is deep; Utah has picks Nos. 24, 30, 42, 55.

The waiting may be the hardest part.

But when it comes to the NBA draft, it has become almost the only option.

"It's a baseball draft," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said last week. "For the most part, teams are drafting on potential and for the future."

That's the reality facing the Utah Jazz this week.

General manager Dennis Lindsey is looking to build off the franchise's most successful campaign in seven years, hoping to keep All-Star forward Gordon Hayward in Utah come July, and would love to see his team take the next step in its development.

The Jazz currently own four picks in Thursday's draft (Nos. 24, 30, 42 and 55) and could use some of them to plug potential holes in the team's roster, with Hayward, George Hill, Joe Ingles and Shelvin Mack all set to become free agents and with decisions to make on the nonguaranteed contracts of Boris Diaw and Raul Neto.




That might tempt some executives to look at older prospects, players who have spent multiple years in college, maturing and polishing their game.

Jazz officials, however, believe patience pays off.

"You're looking for the best available player, who can maybe help our team next year, but who is going to be the best pro player down the road," Walt Perrin, the team's vice president of player personnel, said.

The top prizes of this year's draft are all youngsters. Markelle Fultz, of Washington, and Lonzo Ball, of UCLA, are both 19. Kansas' Josh Jackson turned 20 in February. The emphasis on drafting youth and developing no doubt played a part in the decisions of Utah's Kyle Kuzma, BYU's Eric Mika and Duke's Frank Jackson to all declare for the draft early.

Jackson, a Lone Peak High product, should be among the one-and-done players still on the board when the Jazz make their first pick late in the first round of the draft Thursday.

That youth movement could help teams in search of more polished products find good matches later in the draft.

Fraschilla points to Chicago's Denzel Valentine, Sacramento's Buddy Hield and Milwaukee's Malcom Brogdon as older rookies who were able to positively contribute to their teams last year.

Draft experts like Fraschilla believe this year's draft class is particularly deep and will have good pros available even into the second round. Fraschilla compared Villanova's Josh Hart to Brogdon, and pointed to Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame ("a terrific athlete who could play both the three and the four spot") and Iowa State's Monte Morris (a point guard who "doesn't make mistakes") as potential contributors.

"They are out there," he said. "There's no question they are out there. And the more young guys that come out early, that are going to be scooped up in the early part of the draft, means there is room for the Josh Hart or Wesley Iwundu from Kansas State to slip through the cracks."

For the most part, however, teams can expect to hurry up and wait.

"You still have to look for the mature player that can have an impact on your NBA roster sooner than later," Fraschilla said. "But by and large, the way the pool has been determined in recent years, teams are likely to have to draft more potential versus production, and that ensures that most of these young players are not ready to make an impact in important NBA games."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk

 

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