Who might the Utah Jazz draft with the No. 16 pick? A look at 8 possibilities

The team’s top-10 pick will get more attention, but picks in this range can help a good team become a contender.

Who might the Jazz draft with the No. 16 pick?

Yes, the No. 9 selection will get the lion’s share of the attention, and understandably so. Most NBA draft talent evaluators see a real drop-off in talent between No. 9 and No. 16 in this year’s draft. With the latter pick, the Jazz must take a high-risk, high-reward player or settle for someone without star-level upside.

But the truth is that contending teams rely on these kinds of picks. Role players on rookie contracts are incredibly valuable in today’s NBA, where depth is paramount. And, of course, if you can hit on a star outside of the lottery, it’s a franchise changer — John Stockton was drafted 16th, after all.

Here’s a list of eight players the Jazz will consider with the No. 16 selection.

Keyonte George

A 6-4 guard at Baylor last year, George was a scorer who struggled to score efficiently as a freshman. He certainly has the bag of scoring tools: he gets into his shots from a variety of moves, draws a lot of fouls, has some crafty finishes at the basket. But he didn’t shoot the ball very well last season, and had more than three turnovers per game. The defense isn’t really a positive, nor is the passing.

If his scoring becomes more efficient in a secondary role, it’s easy to imagine George like an Eric Gordon-type: starting and bringing enough scoring to be a pretty valuable player. He could also be a useful sixth-man. The worst-case scenario is if he doesn’t get more efficient; then, he’d be surpassed by other guard scorers in a league full of them.

Kris Murray

Have you seen his twin brother Keegan Murray play for Sacramento? That’s the basic idea here: Kris is nearly 23 years old, a 6-8 wing, shoots the 3-ball well and has a good enough feel for the game in other aspects to figure to be a useful player from day one in the NBA. Kris is just a little bit less good as a shooter and a little bit less quick, which is why his brother was the No. 4 pick last year and he’s down here. Still, I like players who are essentially plug-and-play, and Murray figures to be that.

Jalen Hood-Schifino

Jalen Hood-Schifino is a 6-6 guard who doesn’t jump out of the gym or play with extreme quickness — he had problems finishing at the rim even in college at Indiana. But he plays with pretty special feel in the midrange, with that beautiful ability to keep the defense guessing with the ability to shoot or pass to rolling big men or to the perimeter off pick-and-roll. His defense is very good; I love how well he avoids getting screened, which is one of the most important skills for any guard defender. In a pick-and-roll league, Hood-Schifino excels at both ends of the play.

The question comes on the 3-point shot, which was streaky last year after not being great in high school. He shot 33% from deep. But he was a good free-throw shooter, at 78%, which generally indicates the potential to improve his 3-point game. I think his floor is as a Delon Wright-type of player in the NBA, with the potential to be like a taller Jalen Brunson if the shot improves.

Nick Smith Jr.

Like Keyonte George, Smith was a scoring guard who couldn’t really score efficiently in his freshman year. Smith’s numbers are really unimpressive, thanks to a litany of bad shots — maybe not a huge surprise, but still disappointing for a player who was considered a top-5 recruit in the class. He also could not defend at all, frankly.

The hope is that it was just one bad year, an injury-hampered one at that, and he will deliver more on his promise in the pros. With more shooting around him in a better environment, he could use his slithery scoring skills to play essentially like Jordan Clarkson does for the Jazz.

Leonard Miller

A 6-10 prospect who played for the G League Ignite last year alongside Scoot Henderson, Miller intrigued scouts with his size, length, and defensive versatility. But he’s not wildly impactful defensively yet. He’s an athlete in transition, but his jump shot isn’t close right now, with even G League teams allowing him to fire without a concern. Think, essentially, Jarred Vanderbilt with less hustle ... but one who is just 19 years old.

G.G. Jackson

He was going to be the top-rated prospect of the 2023 high school class before he reclassified to go to college a year early. As a result, he’s the youngest prospect in the draft at only 18 years old — good for his potential, but he really, really showed his youth at South Carolina as a freshman. Right now, he’s just not making good decisions. He turned the ball over way, way too much. He took bad shots. He did not particularly care defensively. He went on Instagram Live to question his coaching staff.

So in order to draft him, you’d have to bet on his long-term character and his high-school film. There may be good reason to do so given his overall scoring ability, but he’s really far away from contributing in the NBA.

Kobe Bufkin

Just a really good player at nearly everything. As a 19-year-old at Michigan, he shot the ball well, attacked the rim and finished well (at 71%, impressive), made free throws, and was a good passer. He’s not an amazing stopper on defense, but he’s a bit annoying with well-timed steals and shows good ability to keep opponents in front.

The question is essentially size: he’s 6-4, 195 pounds. Pretty skinny. Can he maintain that same level of smarts and efficiency at the next level against NBA athletes — without incredible quickness or athleticism of his own? Personally, I’d bet on the skill level finding some way to make it work in the NBA.

Jordan Hawkins

He just won a title with Connecticut, so you may know this guy already. His ability to hit shots on the move is like a J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver, or Buddy Hield-type of player. As always, the question is whether or not these players can do enough of everything else to stay on the floor. Hawkins isn’t much of a passer, rebounder, or finisher. On defense, he’s decent ... but pretty skinny. It means he’s better at defending pick-and-rolls and slithering around screens than defending guys one-on-one in isolation.

Still, with how important shooting is in the NBA, he will have a chance to be a starter if he can keep that 3-point percentage up.

Other players to watch: Bobi Klintman, Bilal Coulibaly, Brice Sensabaugh, Rayan Rupert, Jett Howard, Dereck Lively, Dariq Whitehead, Noah Clowney.

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