Offseason? What offseason? Less than a week and half after being eliminated from the 2018-19 NBA playoffs, Jazz brass were assembled at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility on Saturday afternoon, starting the arduous process of trying to upgrade the roster by running through the first of many predraft workout sessions to come this summer.
After several years of bringing in anyone and everyone, the Jazz last summer became a bit more focused and selective in their search for collegiate talent. Walt Perrin, the team’s vice president of player personnel, said he expects that will be the case again this offseason. What doesn’t change at all, he said, no matter how many prospects make their way through Salt Lake City, is what the team is looking to see from each one.
“Does he fight through fatigue? Does he listen? Does he understand? Can he implement what the coaches are telling him to do?” Perrin said. “That’s the general stuff.”
He added that the process is a bit different this time around, as the NCAA has allowed declaring underclassmen to hire an agent to guide them through the predraft experience while still retaining their college eligibility provided they withdraw from the draft prior to the May 29 deadline.
“It’s easier to arrange workouts if you’ve got one central person who’s used to the process,” Perrin said. “In the past, we’ve had to go through coaches, assistant coaches — they don’t understand the process, and they’ve got their job to do; last month, most of ’em were out recruiting, so you couldn’t even get ahold of ’em. It should be, hopefully, an easier process.”
The Jazz presently hold the 23rd and 53rd overall selections in the 2019 NBA Draft, which is scheduled for June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The initial group of six players to work out on Saturday was an eclectic bunch, highlighted by Chris Clemons, a 5-foot-9 athletic dynamo out of Campbell University in North Carolina who led the NCAA in scoring this season (30.1 ppg) and wound up as the third-all-time leading scorer in NCAA history (3,225 points) and ranks fifth all-time in field-goals (1,024) and 3-pointers (444) made.
Also in the group were Florida senior wing Jalen Hudson; William & Mary junior big man Nathan Knight; Kevin Samuel, a freshman center out of TCU; Oregon State redshirt junior wing Tres Tinkle; and Iowa State sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton. While throwing out the general plaudit that “it was a pretty good workout overall,” Perrin acknowledged this sextet also had some work to do.
“It was the first one for a couple of the guys, so they didn’t really understand what they were going through,” he said. “… I think some of the players, as I told them afterwards, they probably need to get in a little bit better shape.”
Clemons and Hudson, the two seniors of the group who also participated in some workouts last year before electing to return, acknowledged it was difficult.
Asked what was different this time from last, Clemons (who’s drawn physical and stylistic comparisons to 11-year NBA guard Nate Robinson) conceded there is a certain pressure to realizing there’s no more eligibility remaining, that any potential future in professional basketball rides on him making a good impression now.
“This experience is real,” he said. “There’s nothing to fall back on, so you’ve got to give it your all.”
Given that, he added he thought he played well in 3-on-3 sessions, lamented not performing as well as he hoped to in shooting drills, and said he was generally trying to show he’s a capable playmaker. Perrin shared that Clemons would do well to add a floater to his offensive arsenal, and, in a nod to his generously-listed 5-9 height, noted that, “defensively, he’s gonna have to be a little bit more of a pest.”
Tinkle, who was ticketed to play for the University of Utah until his father got the head coaching job at Oregon State, averaged 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds last season as a redshirt junior for the Beavers. But Perrin cited the 6-8, 220-pounder as precisely the type of player who will have to make big adjustments to his game in order to make it in the pace-and-space era of the NBA.
“He’s gonna have to fight through some things because of the way our league is going,” Perrin said. “At his size, he’s probably more of a smallball four than a wing player, so there are some things he really has to work on to be able to play in the league.”