Toronto Raptors players and execs got to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions this past Thursday night. Just one week later, teams will be taking the first of myriad steps toward potentially putting themselves on a similar path.
The NBA draft is Thursday at 5 p.m. MDT at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But the members of the Jazz front office will be running their operations from the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City, trying to figure out how best to move the team forward for 2019-20.
What’s known, for now at least, is that the team is slated to make the 23rd and 53rd selections in the draft. Beyond that, however, it’s all up in the air.
How exactly does this draft help the Jazz get closer to accomplishing their goal of doing what the Raptors just did and winning it all? Stay put, like they did last year in selecting Duke guard Grayson Allen? Move up to snag someone they like, as they did in 2017 with Donovan Mitchell? Trade back, gambling they can get their guy and pick up an extra asset to do so, given that this draft is considered top-heavy in talent? Or trade out altogether?
After a double-workout session about a week ago, Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin said the team was starting to close in on the players it might be targeting come draft night.
“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,” he said. “We were in the theater the other day looking at players and talking about whether they should still be in the 23 ‘bucket.’”
Whether the guys in that bucket will provide depth on the guard line (with Ricky Rubio likely to depart), out on the wings (as a potential successor to Kyle Korver), or among the bigs (with Derrick Favors in limbo, and stretch-fours and -fives now in vogue anyway) remains to be seen. While Utah has been ramping up the talent level in its workouts of late, it hasn’t been more so at one position than another.
Saturday’s double-session included three potential first-rounders — Maryland center Bruno Fernando, and a pair of combo guards in Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort and Iowa State’s Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Jazz’s previous predraft workout featured a pair of highly-regarded big men in Daniel Gafford of Arkansas and Croatian native Luka Šamanić, as well as likely-second-round point guard Jordan Bone.
SIZING UP THE TALENT
Here are some of the players who have worked out for the Jazz in the lead-up to Thursday’s NBA Draft, as well as a projection of where they’re likely to hear their names called:
• Nic Claxton, Georgia
• Luguentz Dort, Arizona State
• Bruno Fernando, Maryland
• Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State
• KZ Okpala, Stanford
• Grant Williams, Tennessee
• Carsen Edwards, Purdue
• Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
• Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
• Ty Jerome, Virginia
• Eric Paschall, Villanova
• Naz Reid, LSU
• Luka Šamanić, Croatia
• Dylan Windler, Belmont
• Jordan Bone, Tennessee
• Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan
• Terence Davis, Mississippi
• Louis King, Oregon’
• Zach Norvell Jr., Gonzaga
• Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
• Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
• Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State
Inarguably, the biggest single-day collection of talent to work out in Salt Lake City this offseason occurred back on May 26, with 10 of those 12 participants regularly appearing in mock drafts, and six of them at least semi-routinely being projected as first-rounders.
Session 1 alone featured probable first-round big men Mfiondu Kabengele of Florida State, Grant Williams of Tennessee, and Nic Claxton of Georgia (whom Perrin referred to as “a young colt,” and who reportedly just shut down workout requests from non-lottery teams). It also had late-first to mid-second-rounder Naz Reid of LSU, and early-second-round prospect Shamorie Ponds, a St. John’s point guard.
That day’s Session 2, meanwhile, included first-round wing KZ Okpala of Stanford, a pair of late-first/early-second guys in Belmont wing Dylan Windler and Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, and a couple of solid-second-round wings in Oregon’s Louis King and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis.
Perrin called it a “perfect storm” that led to the Jazz getting so many top talents all at once.
“It’s rare when you get more than two players in a workout in your same draft range — especially at the same position,” he added. “So it was great that we were able to get four big guys against each other, and it was great to get four wings going against each other in the same workout. And then adding a couple guards who are also probably in our range.”
Other potential first-rounders who’ve made their way to ZBBC include Virginia guard Ty Jerome, Tennessee wing and aspiring “junkyard dog” Admiral Schofield, and Villanova big man (and Donovan Mitchell bestie) Eric Paschall.
Of course, the Jazz could also draft someone who hasn’t worked out for them at all. While Allen is reported to have dominated his session a year ago, Perrin made the point that it wasn’t exactly a singular deciding factor.
“How many games did Grayson play in four years?” at Duke, Perrin asked, to which a reporter estimated 130 games. “One hundred thirty? So [the workout] was one out of 131. … He had a good workout here, but again, we try not to weight too much on that. It’s part of the process.”
Another part of the process this year has been, according to Perrin, an inability to convince agents of higher-ranked prospects to come in for workouts, in the event that either someone slips or the Jazz trade up on draft night.
Still, he said, should they remain at No. 23, the Jazz are confident they can find someone who will contribute.
“At 23, I think there’s some players that we can find that we’re gonna like on draft night,” Perrin said. “But again, like most drafts, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”