A week before NBA Draft night, long workdays are the norm. Walt Perrin is used to hours in the film room, studying prospects to whittle down the list of who the Utah Jazz want to pick.
What is unusual this year is where the Jazz are in the process: Sitting at No. 21 in the draft, the Jazz typically have six or seven players in mind whom they wish to pick. This time, the field is a little wider — roughly a dozen — which means the Jazz have many difficult decisions to make before Thursday night when they’ll finally come on the clock.
“We’re at double [the usual number of prospects],” said Perrin, the Jazz vice president of player personnel. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do here to try to get it down to who we really like. And we like a lot of guys who are in our range.”
While it will be tough for the Jazz to winnow their options, the franchise is in an enviable position in what’s widely regarded as a deep draft for wings. While the front end of the draft is loaded with big man talent such as Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton or Mo Bamba of Texas, ESPN ranks 13 prospects between No. 15 and No. 30 (in the heart of the Jazz range) who stand between 6-foot-3 and 6-9. They range from point guards to small forwards, but in an era shifting toward “positionless” basketball, those labels might be less indicative of how the Jazz will use them.
2018 NBA DRAFT
When • Thursday, 5 p.m., EDT
TV • ESPN
The Jazz feel strongly that there’s good shooting, good athleticism and good poise to be found where there picking, which may indicate that they might be less willing to trade up as they did last year for Donovan Mitchell.
“In this draft especially, there’s a bunch of different possible fits with the Jazz,” said Cole Zwicker, founder of draft website The Stepien. “Outside of the upper echelon, this draft really has depth of wing guys. ... Teams can always use those guys because they’re so versatile, and lot of those types you can’t really replace as easily in free agency.”
While teams are typically mum on how they feel about certain prospects, certain players seem to have a natural fit. Zwicker circles Kevin Huerter, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard out of Maryland who has a crafty handle for his size.
“He’s probably the best at off-ball movement in the class, and he can shoot off-balance, run off-ball floppy sets and he can set his feet quickly,” Zwicker said. “He’s a great fit with Utah as a shooter and secondary ball-handler in a plug-and-play kind of way.”
A leading scorer for the Terps, Huerter might fit the mold of someone who can contribute minutes next season — that might also be the case for players like Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop and Duke’s Grayson Allen, who have both worked out for the Jazz. It’s readily apparent what their skillsets are and where they can contribute to an NBA team.
But with a distinguished internal development track record, the Jazz might also go for someone a bit less established: Oregon’s Troy Brown, a talented defender and passer with a flawed jumpshot, might fit that bill. Zwicker said the Jazz have established a pattern of looking for intangibles (a big factor which went in Mitchell’s favor last summer), and Brown could have that X-factor.
“He reminds me of Royce O’Neale,” Zwicker said of Brown. “That’s what makes him fascinating: He can’t shoot, but he can dribble and pass. He’s not a surefire lock at all, but he could be a good player one day.”
Of the dozen or so prospects they’re considering at this stage, Perrin said the Jazz think “about seven” could play minutes next season — another almost even split.
While it’s unclear how the Jazz are leaning positionally, they could be looking for more forward depth if Derrick Favors departs in free agency. It’s also believed that if the Jazz get a guard or a wing, they’ll look for versatility: Players who can work alongside Mitchell when he’s playing point guard minutes will be held in high esteem.
The Jazz also prepare for slides: It’s very possible that at least one of the players invited to the draft night green room will still be sitting by the time the Jazz are on the clock. Dejounte Murray, who slid to the San Antonio Spurs at No. 29 in the 2016, is one example of how such drops can work out well for the patient team.
So while Perrin expects a good chunk of the Jazz’s targets to be off the board by No. 21, someone might be there that the team didn’t expect. In that case, Utah’s homework has to be done already.
“There’s more players this year than last year that we like,” Perrin said. “We gotta dig down deep and kind of find the best player for the Jazz.”
FIVE NAMES TO KNOW FOR THE JAZZ
The Jazz are considering up to a dozen prospects at the No. 21 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, which will take place Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. Here’s some prospects who are within their range who could fit:
Troy Brown*, SF, Oregon • Wasn’t a star in his one-and-done year with the Ducks, but has upside in many areas.
Donte DiVencenzo*, SG, Villanova • Since starring in the national title game, his stock has soared thanks to his athleticism.
Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland • A 6-foot-7 shooter with average athleticism but strong feel for the game.
Elie Okobo, PG, Pau (France) • Physically mature prospect who can shoot and has a solid foundation in the European style.
Jerome Robinson*, PG/SG, Boston College • Versatile scorer and long-range shooter who improved every year with the Eagles.
*Has worked out for the Jazz