Jazz hope for deja vu with Brown, Millsap
They already rank among the greatest draft picks the Jazz ever have exercised - a guard from Illinois and a power forward from Louisiana Tech.
So why not try it again?
That's what Kevin O'Connor did with Utah's back-to-back selections in the second round of Wednesday's draft. The Jazz acquired 5-foot-9 Illini guard Dee Brown, Deron Williams' old backcourt buddy, at No. 46, then added Paul Millsap, a three-time NCAA rebounding champion from Karl Malone's alma mater, with the 47th pick.
Sure, it may look like the Jazz are treating those second-rounders as party favors, allowing current and former players to bring aboard friends and neighbors. Only one thing wrong with that calculus, O'Connor insisted: These guys can play.
"You try to pick guys in the second round that have a chance to play in the league," said O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations. "That's what we did."
He seemed particularly enthused by the prospect of reuniting Williams and Brown, who combined to power Illinois to the NCAA championship game in 2005. Chemistry is an important consideration, and the two guards were a dangerous combination in college. "These two guys really play well together," said O'Connor.
Brown may be short, but he makes up for it with speed and energy, in the mold of Denver's Earl Boykins. "He's one of the quickest guys" in the draft, O'Connor said. "Is he tall enough to play 35 minutes? Probably not. Is he tall enough to play? Yes. . . . Guys like this just find a way."
Brown averaged 13.4 points at Illinois, and was a 36 percent three-point shooter. With Williams and Luther Head already in the pros, Brown's senior season was more difficult as defenses focused on him, and his shooting slumped to 35.9 percent. "It scared some people off, which is how we ended up with him," O'Connor said. But with a championship caliber team around him in 2004-05, Brown hit 49.9 percent of his shots, and 43.4 percent of his three-pointers.
"He brings energy to the game every night," O'Connor said.
Every one of Millsap's numbers say he is a sure-fire pro, except one: 6-8. That's his height, leaving scouts to wonder whether his career 12.7-rebound average will translate to the NBA. Millsap also made 57.7 percent of his shots in college, averaged 18.6 points in three WAC seasons, and is the only Division I player ever to lead the nation in rebounding three straight seasons.
"He's undersized, but he has an NBA skill," O'Connor said. "Does that skill transcend his [height]? We'll find out."
Jazz note: The free-agent season opens Saturday, but O'Connor has one more decision to make before then. The option on Keith McLeod's $1.35 million contract must be exercised by Friday.
"It's up in the air," said O'Connor.
The third-year point guard averaged 5.6 points and 2.3 assists in 66 games last season. If the Jazz do not trigger the option, McLeod becomes an unrestricted free agent, though the Jazz could still re-sign him.
James White, G, Cincinnati
Steve Novak, F, Marquette
Solomon Jones, F, South Florida
34. L.A. Clippers
Paul Davis, F, Michigan State
P.J. Tucker, F, Texas
Craig Smith, F, Boston College
Bobby Jones, F, Washington
38. Golden State
Kosta Perovic, C, Serbia
David Noel, F, North Carolina
Denham Brown, G, Connecticut
James Augustine, F, Illinois
Daniel Gibson, G, Texas
43. New Orleans
Marcus Vinisius, F, Brazil
Lior Eliyahu, F, Israel
Alexander Johnson, F, Florida State
Dee Brown, G, Illinois
Paul Millsap, F, Louisiana Tech
Vladimir Veremeenko, F, Russia
Leon Powe, F, California
Ryan Hollins, C, UCLA
Cheick Samb, C, Spain
52. L.A. Clippers,
Guillermo Diaz, G, Miami
Yotam Halperin, G, Slovenia
54. New Jersey
Hassan Adams, G, Arizona
Ejike Ugboaja, F, Nigeria
Edin Bavcic, F, Bosnia
Loukas Mavrokefalidis, C, Greece
58. L.A. Lakers
Danilo Pinnock, G, Geo. Washington
Damir Markota, F, Croatia
Will Blalock, G, Iowa State