Groupthink can have disastrous consequences in pretty much anything, and NBA talent evaluation is no different. I mean, how else to explain the consensus love for Dragan Bender being the No. 4 pick back in 2016?
OK, so there are a lot of potential explanations for him washing out — bad team fit, insufficient development, dearth of chemistry, lack of internal drive — but after failing with the Suns, the Bucks, and the Warriors, and eventually settling for a deal in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, it seems like we can agree that, for whatever reason, he simply never lived up to those universally lofty expectations.
Meanwhile, 23 picks later, the Raptors got a Rock-style eyebrow raise from the collective masses for using the No. 27 selection on some kid out of New Mexico State. Wonder what that … [checks notes] … Pascal Siakam guy is up to these days?
NBA drafts are always tricky business — and even more so given the unique limitations in place this year. But that’s why mock drafts and big boards serve a useful purpose for a fans. Sure, to some degree, they’re products of guesswork, speculation, and attempts at applied logic. But they’re also influenced by insider intel, by relationships with decision-makers, by experience at sorting through smokescreens and discerning the modicum of truth within.
All of that said, let’s try to get a better sense of who is expected to be within range for Utah, and who they might be looking at when making the pick at No. 23 overall on Nov. 18.
Many national pundits have already had their say on how they view the team’s needs and which players can fill them. And plenty of observers are extrapolating who it could be based upon executive vice president Dennis Lindsey acknowledging the team will be on the lookout for “anybody who has defensive integrity … especially if they don’t compromise the spacing.”
Does that mean a 3-and-D wing? A center who can both protect the paint and stretch the floor? Those types certainly seem to populate most Jazz wish lists — which doesn’t mean that Lindsey couldn’t surprise us all and select a point guard or power forward if he likes someone from those positions.
So then, let’s settle into the groupthink by taking a look at who most frequently pops up the No. 20-26 range — three picks before and after where Utah is picking — in these mock drafts and big boards, and let’s assess whether any of those guys might be a potential match:
Leandro Bolmaro, Barcelona
The 6-foot-8 Argentine has been playing in Spain, albeit primarily for Barcelona’s “B” team. While the level of competition he’s faced has not been elite, he’s drawing acclaim for his point-forward skills. He’s got great court vision and is a crafty passer (both attributes the Jazz like), but his outside shooting is a work in progress, though his mechanics are said to be improving. Defensively, he’s aggressive, competitive, and energetic, and he shows good fundamentals, but his physical limitations often see him struggle against superior athletes. The “Jazz DNA” is there in spades, but his specific weaknesses could make him a poor fit.
Isaiah Stewart, Washington
While Huskies teammate Jaden McDaniels has gotten more buzz for his boom-or-bust skill set, it’s the big man who more frequently appears within the Jazz’s range. Might he be an option to supplant Ed Davis and Tony Bradley? Well, the 6-9, 250-pound center was All-Pac-12 First Team after averaging 17 points and 8.8 rebounds — and with a 7-4 wingspan, he had great success crashing the glass. Offensively, he’s physical and efficient inside, and is starting to flash some ability as an outside shooter. On the other side, he’s keen to move bodies out of the paint with his physicality, though he’s not particularly deft on perimeter switches. His length makes him a good shot-challenger, but there’s room to improve as a 1-on-1 defender.
Tyrell Terry, Stanford
If, as suspected, Donovan Mitchell is Utah’s point guard of the future, then selecting the Cardinal’s 6-2, 160-pounder might not be the move. And yet, talent at any position is always useful, and many have the point guard rated quite a bit higher than this range, based on his advanced offensive skill set and pure jump shot. He’s shown a nice ability to change speeds, and to hunt shots off the bounce. On the other side, despite an extremely thin frame and lack of strength, he was surprisingly effective holding his own despite being hunted off the dribble, and displayed a nice penchant for playing the passing lanes.
Nico Mannion, Arizona
The son of former University of Utah star and Utah Jazz guard Pace Mannion, Nico was considered a top-10 prospect before joining the Wildcats, where the 6-3, 190-pound point guard had an up-and-down career. He’s an instinctual playmaker who excelled in the pick-and-roll, but he’s also an iffy shooter. While he showed nice touch in the midrange and has a quality assortment of floaters, he’s fairly ineffectual at the rim, and his solid outside stroke never seemed to produce consistent results. On defense, he gives a solid effort, but has been hindered both by a lack of strength (which he can change) and a negative wingspan (which he cannot). Hard to see him fitting what the Jazz are looking for.
Jaden McDaniels, Washington
Something of a late bloomer, McDaniels is proving to be one of the most polarizing prospects this year. On the plus side, he’s got incredible size (6-10, 200), ranginess, wingspan (7 feet) and shot-creating ability as a modern, face-up forward. He had myriad highlight-reel-worthy plays on defense, with a knack for playing the passing lanes. He’s excellent in halfcourt catch-and-shoot situations, and money from 3-point range on the left side of the court, hitting 47% in the corner and 45% above the break. But on the other side of the ledger, he’s inconsistent, inefficient, foul-prone, physically weak, often lost in non-zone defensive schemes, and a frequently bad decision-maker. He’s an incredible risk, but if Quin Snyder believes he can tame the wildness, there may be too much talent to pass up.
Josh Green, Arizona
Despite coming in heralded as a top recruit, Green played more of a complementary role in his one season with the Wildcats. Still, there’s a lot to like: He’s got good size for a wing (6-6, 210) and has long arms (6-10 wingspan), to go along with good speed and brilliant athleticism and explosiveness. He’s got a good motor, and was usually the primary defender against opponents’ top guard/wing threats. Though he suffered through a midseason shooting slump, he rebounded late and finished the year among the nation’s absolute best by notching 1.20 points per halfcourt catch-and-shoot jumpers (85th percentile). Conversely, he’s pretty horrible shooting off the bounce (0.42 PPP; 9th percentile), and he’s not yet effective as a slasher. Still, most believe there’s room to grow. Frankly, if he’s there, he could be a perfect combination of immediate role-player ability mixed with star potential.
We took a look at three basketball media big boards (The Athletic, Sports Illustrated, NBADraft.net) and seven more relatively recent mock drafts (The Athletic, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, NBC Sports — Bay Area, NBC Sports — Boston, Tankathon, Yardbarker) and analyzed which players showed up within a span of three picks before or after the Jazz’s No. 23 draft slot. Here are the players with appearances in the No. 20-26 range:
6 • Leandro Bolmaro, Barcelona; Isaiah Stewart, Washington; Tyrell Terry, Stanford.
5 • Nico Mannion, Arizona; Jaden McDaniels, Washington.
4 • Josh Green, Arizona; RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers.
3 • Tre Jones, Duke; Kira Lewis, Alabama; Theo Maledon, ASVEL; Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos; Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech.
2 • Cole Anthony, North Carolina; Desmond Bane, TCU; Tyler Bey, Colorado; Malachi Flynn, San Diego State; Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky; Zeke Nnaji, Arizona; Jalen Smith, Maryland; Xavier Tillman, Michigan State.
1 • Daniel Oturu, Minnesota; Grant Riller, Charleston.