The Utah Jazz do not presently have a pick in the 2022 NBA draft. Which shouldn’t and won’t stop them from conducting offseason business as usual.
Thursday morning saw the Jazz host their first predraft workout session at Zions Bank Basketball Campus. The six participants — all considered likely to be either second-rounders or rookie free agents — were Connecticut guard R.J. Cole, Wichita State guard Tyson Etienne, UCLA guard Johnny Juzang, Seton Hall wing Jared Rhoden, Australian forward Akoldah Gak, and Purdue big man Trevion Williams.
After finishing up their workouts (drills included ball-handling, finishing at the rim, 1-on-1 closeouts, 3-on-3 games, running specific actions, the famed “Jazz 100″ shooting session, and the team’s traditional six full-court layups in half a minute trial), Rhoden and Williams did Zoom interviews with local media.
“The altitude kind of had me a little messed up in the beginning,” Rhoden conceded.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing played four seasons at Seton Hall, averaging 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists as a senior while shooting 33.6% from 3-point range — though he boasted that, with a little more consistency in his approach, “I’m someone who could just become deadly from that end.”
After a standout session at the Portsmouth Invitational led to participation in the G League Camp, Rhoden then earned an invite to the NBA Combine in Chicago. While there, according to a report from The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, he was one of at least four players (along with Nebraska guard Bryce McGowens, North Carolina State guard Terquavion Smith, and Rutgers wing Ron Harper Jr.) to have an interview with Jazz front office representatives.
Vorkunov asked a number of players at the Combine to discuss which NBA players they’d compare their game to, and Rhoden chose Suns defender extraordinaire Mikal Bridges: “(He) could just utilize his versatility both on the defensive end and on the offensive end. Just using his length. I’m someone who uses my length and my angles just to affect the game, whether it’s defensively getting after smaller guards or being able to switch on in the modern-day NBA, guarding four-men, guarding bigger threes. Offensively, keeping the game simple. Whether it’s just laying the ball up either quick offensive rebounds, putbacks, catches, shoot 3s, playing off close outs and just, you know, keeping the game real simple like Mikal Bridges does.”
Two of Vorkunov’s colleagues at The Athletic — John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie — further reported that Rhoden showed himself to be a “tough, physical wing” who defended well, attacked the basket, and used his “mature frame to overpower some of the younger guys.” The report speculated that Rhoden is likely “to end up as [a] two-way contract player.”
The Baldwin, N.Y., native, who counts himself a friend of former Jazz draftee Justin Wright-Foreman, said that he’d had 15 team interviews already, while the Jazz were the fourth team to work him out. He added that he considered his four-year college career to be a benefit, rather than a drawback.
“I’m an articulate young man, someone that can fit in a system and be cohesive in any type of environment, whether it’s here in Utah or anywhere else in the country. So for me, it’s just showcasing that I’m capable of coexisting with so many different types of people, so many different types of personalities,” he said. “… Going through college and being a four-year player, I think I have a certain level of maturity to myself and my game that I try to use to allow me to stick out a little bit.”
Williams, meanwhile, is a ground-bound big man who played four seasons at Purdue, averaging 12.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, but just 0.6 blocks as a senior.
Though listed by the Boilermakers as 6-foot-10 and 265 pounds, it’s generally known that both numbers were a bit … well, generous.
Hollinger and Vecenie wrote: “Williams was just 6-foot-8 in shoes, but he came in with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-foot-1/2 standing reach that will give him a shot to stick as a smaller, skilled center. He also was slimmed down a bit more than expected, which was a good sign for his continued physical improvement.”
Williams, who’s drawn comparisons for ex-Utahn and fellow Boilermaker Caleb Swanigan (who he acknowledged played a big role in getting him to Purdue) for both the game and the size, conceded he has battled “weight problems” as a result of some personal issues.
“I’m a very emotional guy — if stuff is going on at home, I may struggle,” Williams said. “Mental health is real. It’s a real thing.”
In seemingly related territory, he said that his biggest on-court weakness “may lie in my mental — sometimes I may think too much.”
He’s had to fight through that in the predraft process, too, acknowledging that “at this level, you get a lot of things thrown at you.”
As for his on-court strengths, Williams is widely regarded as one of the best passing men in this draft, and he noted that playing facilitator brings him joy on the court.
“I’ve prided myself and pushed myself to figure out other ways to impact the game without scoring. I have an understanding that it’s not always going to be about me,” Williams said. “… I’ve always enjoyed just being a part of something. It actually comes with my personality on the court. I thrive off seeing other people succeed. That’s where my passing ability comes from. It’s something I’ve put work into.”
Another area he’s put some work into is his music.
He said he’s always been a part of a church choir since he was young, and “I love to sing here and there.” Now he’s using the stage name “Sensational” and teaming with Purdue football player Will Chapman (aka Zani Vie) to put some songs out into the universe, including on Apple Music and Spotify.
The Jazz are slated to have a second batch of workouts this weekend.