With the NBA draft coming up on June 20, Jazz exec Walt Perrin isn’t quite ready to say the team has entered the home stretch of its preparation for making selections with the Nos. 23 and 53 picks.
But after two more workouts totaling 11 more players (including two the team has a first-round grade on) at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility on Saturday, he did acknowledge that the franchise is readying for the finish line.
“We have another 12 days [from Saturday] — every team is still going through the workout process,” Perrin said. “I think we do have a better idea of five to 10 guys — I don’t have an exact number right now — but I think we’ve narrowed it down.”
While the team’s vice president of player personnel said he feels comfortable that they have worked out a sufficient number of options expected to be available with the 23rd pick, “We’re still struggling trying to get guys who may be considered above us,” and he’s hoping to convince a few more-highly-rated prospects to pay the Jazz a visit.
Saturday’s workouts, however, were mostly stocked with second-round prospects. Both of the sessions were intended to include two guards, two wings, and two bigs, but Session 1 proved a man short when French native Darel Poirier — who spent last season with the Capital City Go-Go of the G League — fell victim to a canceled flight.
While that group was perhaps more familiar to local college basketball fans — including, as it did, Kenny Wooten of Oregon and Frankie Ferrari of San Francisco — it was the Session 2 sextet that featured the more notable NBA talent.
That group was highlighted by 6-foot-10, 210-pound Croatian Luka Šamanić (a reported standout in 5-on-5 competitions at the NBA Combine), Arkansas sophomore Daniel Gafford (6-11, 233), and Tennessee point guard Jordan Bone (6-3, 180). The battle between Šamanić and Gafford — two former lottery prospects who’ve slipped a bit this season — proved particularly intriguing.
Šamanić, who earned MVP honors in leading Croatia to a gold medal at the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship (Division B) in 2017, saw his stock drop early this season when he got off to a rough start with Slovenian club Union Olimpija.
While he improved over the course of the year, he really started to rebuild his reputation in sparkling sessions at the combine in Chicago. Now, he said, he’s just looking to prove to teams that he has a lot to offer, on both sides of the ball.
“What I can bring to some team, I would say shooting and spreading the floor for the guards,” Šamanić said. “And also my switchability — I think I can switch 1 to 5 on defense.”
Gafford, meanwhile, is more of an old-school big trying to add some modern NBA skills to his game. In his sophomore season with the Razorbacks, he averaged 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game, and shot 66.0% from the field. He also did not attempt a single 3-pointer.
Now, though, while he said his game compares stylistically to Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s, he said he spent his sophomore season working on being able to defend switches on the perimeter, and is also now trying to add a deep shot to his arsenal.
“I’m almost there with 3-pointers; I’m not there quite yet — I still ain’t got a good feel for it. It’s a work in progress,” Gafford said. “But anywhere inside the perimeter, I’m comfortable as can be.”
As for Bone, the junior from Nashville averaged 13.5 points and 5.8 assists for the Vols last season, and shot 35.5% from deep. While the solid-second-round prospect tested off the charts in terms of speed and athleticism, he cited his cerebral side as his strength.
“It’s not about going out there and hitting a million shots, but me having an understanding of the game,” he said. “That’s what got me here to this point.”
Still, it’s his athletic attributes that may get him beyond this point, according to Perrin.
“It’ll be a little bit easier on our level ’cause there will be more spacing for him,” he said. “… And with his speed, his quickness, his leaping ability, he could be a pretty good force as he grows into the NBA game.”
Paul Eboua, a Cameroon-born wing who last played for the Roseto Sharks in Italy’s Serie A2, Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin, and St. Joseph’s wing Charlie Brown rounded out the Session 2 group.
Session 1, meanwhile, also included Baylor guard Makai Mason, and wings Rayjon Tucker of Arkansas-Little Rock, and Vic Law of Northwestern. The group left Perrin surprisingly impressed.
“There was a couple guys in the first workout that could work their way into the league,” he said. “Some of the guys I hadn’t seen, and I really kind of liked. … Are they first-round picks? No. Can they be second-round picks? It just takes one team.”