Sure, the Jazz are exploring trading their draft pick, including for Mike Conley. But there’s still a very real possibility that they end up making the selection at No. 23 themselves on Thursday night, especially if they think they can get a major free agent in the market come July 1.
Who might they draft? Here’s The Tribune’s look at 10 possibilities.
6-11 forward/center, sophomore, Georgia
Claxton’s not your traditional big man prospect. At 6 feet, 11 inches tall, he looks to be able to play the power forward position or center thanks to his ability to move quickly — “more like a wing player than he does a big guy,” Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin told KSL. But he also uses his length well to get rebounds, rotate over from the weak side and block shots, and more. He’s skinny, so probably needs to gain strength, but he’s a good prospect. The Jazz allegedly like him, too, and he worked out with the team before his late rise up the mocks.
He’s also likely to go above the Jazz, ending up being selected before No. 23 in nearly every mock draft I’ve seen over the last two weeks. The only data point that might lend optimism to him being available at No. 23 is that he wasn’t among the NBA’s 20 green room invites.
6-6 wing, freshman, Kentucky
Keldon Johnson is a classic second-tier John Calipari one-and-done prospect. He’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades prospect: a B+ shooter, a B driver, a B+ defender, with B size for his position. But he’s only 19 years old, and has been said to have good character, so he makes sense as a player to bet on improving in some of those areas, while having enough as is to get on the floor.
He also likely goes before the Jazz’s No. 23 pick, though it’s certainly not a sure thing, given the number of wings available in the draft whom other teams might like. He was invited to the NBA green room, though.
6-8 wing/forward, redshirt senior, North Carolina
Cam Johnson can shoot. He can shoot really well, in fact: He made 45% of his 3-point shots last season for North Carolina. He’s also a good height: 6′8.5′'. Can he do anything else, or is he more Anthony Morrow or Steve Novak? That’s the question with Johnson, though he’s better at cutting to get open than those latter two stand-still shooters.
He’s also 23 years old, so there’s not a lot of time for ball skill development. Model284.com’s projections put it this way: He has a draft-low 0% chance of becoming an All-Star. But he has only a 19% chance of becoming a non-NBA player, a 32% chance of being a starter, and a 49% chance of becoming a bench guy. He’ll almost certainly make it doing something, but the upside isn’t huge.
Johnson is currently slated to go No. 23 to the Jazz in The Athletic’s mock draft.
6-4 guard, freshman, Iowa State
The opposite of Cam Johnson: He’s young (18 years old), and all potential. A 7-foot-1 wingspan begins the story, but his very good athleticism and excellent ball-control skills show that he could be something more. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to put it together into being a useful basketball player: He’s not a good defender, and is weirdly bad at free throws and layups.
The Model284 numbers tell the story again: a 17% chance of becoming an All-Star, but a 51% chance of being a non-NBA guy entirely. A lot of upside and downside abounds.
He currently goes to the Jazz at No. 23 in NBC Sports’ mock draft.
6-9 forward, sophomore, Stanford
KZ Okpala is still a potential bet, but maybe a safer one. He’s flashed an ability to catch and shoot (38% from 3 at Stanford), and his 6-9 frame (also with a 7-1 wingspan) gives positional versatility and perhaps a lower skill bar necessary to make it into the league.
But he’s older than Horton-Tucker, and Okpala wasn’t exactly a great collegiate player either. While he scored 16 points a game in a weak Pac-12, he got stripped frequently and wasn’t the defensive playmaker he should have been. Maybe that was due to the poor standard of player around him at Stanford this year?
Okpala is the No. 23 pick in ESPN’s current mock draft.
6-7 wing, senior, Belmont
No one has ever put up stats like Dylan Windler did this season, at least, not in this same way. We’ve seen terrific college shooters, but rarely at this size and with his ability to rebound, too. Windler averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds for Belmont this year, shooting 43% from 3 and adding 2.5 assists per game. He answered some questions about the strength of his schedule with a very good performance in the NCAA Tournament.
Interestingly, both The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and Perrin compared him to Joe Ingles: lefties who know how to shoot, playmake, and make the right read in the offense.
6-5 combo guard, junior, Virginia
The Ringer’s one sentence description of Jerome: “Talented playmaker and shooter who moves at 3G, but his mind calculates actions on the floor at 5G.” Jerome can shoot, pass, defend, rebound, get steals, all of that. In fact, he did it for the best team in college basketball.
It’s just that he’s not the quickest or most vertically explosive athlete. So is he Malcolm Brogdon? Or will he be pushed off the floor by NBA talent, like other multifaceted college stars? He’ll end up being an effective NBA backup point guard, though.
6-10 center, redshirt sophomore, Florida State
He’s not his uncle, Dikembe Mutombo, but Kabengele’s ability to defend the rim has gotten a modern add-on: a 3-point shooting game. Perrin noted that “he really showed the ability to shoot the top-of-the-circle threes at our workout," hitting from deep at 37% at the college level.
But how does he fit in a team construct? He essentially never passed in college: He picked up 11 assists all of last season, and 10 the season before that. He’s not a good screener right now, nor is he as good of a rebounder as he should be. There’s potential in adding those skills, true, but he’s also 21 years old; will he get them in time?
6-7 forward, senior, Villanova
One of Donovan Mitchell’s best friends was also an important player for the 2018 NCAA champions. Paul Millsap is a comparison I’ve heard, and while Paschall wasn’t the player Millsap was in college, I think it makes some sense as an NBA fit: a player who can score inside and out, make the right play, and defend well enough.
There are questions about his position at the next level: Is he big enough to defend NBA big men? Is he quick enough to defend perimeter players? But he should be a capable NBA role player at the least.
6-6 wing/forward, senior, Tennessee
Admiral Schofield is buff; he’s probably the single strongest prospect in the draft. He plays with that toughness on the court, too, getting into people, making their lives difficult, playing like a wrecking ball. He also knocked down 3s at the college level, shooting 42%. In his interview with the media, he was very impressive, showing a refined knowledge of his skillset and what he’d be able to do for a team right away.
Is he tall enough or a good enough rebounder to play the four, though? And if not, does he have the quickness to stay with twos and threes? And does he have the upside you’d like to see in a first-round pick? These are the questions about Schofield.