Disappointment? Delight? Despair? Delectation? Dismay? Daubers up? Daubers down? Daubers all around?
This much is certain: The Jazz’s hard-earned — having traded away a perennial playoff roster to acquire it — multi-year draft-pick palooza has begun, it’s just that the 2023 first-round party lacked a whole lot of wildness or craziness.
There was absolutely no shock to the start of Thursday night’s NBA draft, just commissioner Adam Silver prattling on with promotional blah-blah-blah before enunciating the first pick by San Antonio as … Victor Wembanyama.
Nobody saw that coming. Nope. No way. Yes way.
The kid with the size, length, maturity, skill and productivity, the young French sensation who teams were dropping games like hot rocks through the regular season to have a mere shot at, and the one with a thousand accolades thrown at him now, was what everyone thought he would be — a Spur at No. 1.
Yeah, sure. But what would the Jazz do?
They’d sit tight and wait. Wait their turn, not butt in line.
Waiting … Brandon Miller went to Charlotte … waiting … Scoot Henderson was taken by Portland … waiting … Amen Thompson gone to Houston … waiting … Ausar Thompson selected by Detroit … waiting … Orlando took Anthony Black … waiting … Bilal Coulibaly picked by Indiana, traded to Washington … waiting … Washington taking Jarace Walker for the Pacers … waiting … and … uh-huh, there was no big Jazz deal pronounced, no transcendent upward move by Danny Ainge to get any of the aforementioned names at the top of the draft, to grab a prospect with the automatic presumption to be a magnificent difference-maker right from jump.
Instead, the Jazz stayed right where they were and selected Taylor Hendricks at No. 9. They took Keyonte George at No. 16 and Brice Sensabaugh at No. 28, straight according to the unmarked script, not a rearrangement in sight.
What do we do with that then, absent any attendant forthcoming moves?
We pry open our eyes, rattle our brains and guess about what the Jazz did manage to get, as it was, as it is.
Hendricks, a 6-9 forward with a 7-foot wingspan out of UCF, known as a 3-and-D guy, according to reputation, can defend, can switch on defense, protect the rim, rebound, get out in transition, sort of handle the rock, be effective in the pick-and-roll, drive to the basket and shoot the deep ball.
A lot of folks believe he is ready to contribute at the NBA level despite not regularly facing the toughest opposition during his freshman season at UCF. Looking good against lesser competition is obviously easier. It will be easy no more, not against the biggest of grown men. There are questions among some about Hendricks’ ability to create his own shot. He is, though, a fine athlete. As much as that, he certainly is something the Jazz and their fans have always relished — a hustling, diligent player. The kid dives for loose balls, contests shots, scrambles to rebound.
On Thursday night, Hendricks said what all the picked players say into the TV camera, “[This] took a lot of hard work.” Asked to highlight his top characteristics that got him to this point and that will propel him forward, he reiterated, “First and foremost my effort.” He added, “… The ability to fit into a lot of different lineups.” So there’s all of that, at least it is said there’s all of that.
What else is said is that the Jazz are ecstatic about their top pick. They swear they are. Check back about that a year or two from now.
George, a strong guard out of Baylor, can create his own shots, and make tough ones. He also is known to take and miss bad shots, which is what shooters, especially young ones, too often do. But efficiently or inefficiently, the dude can flat score the ball, play some defense and is likely to help the Jazz at some point in the years ahead.
Moreover, he showed a mix of gratitude and awareness after the Jazz picked him, saying, “This is the best moment of my life,” wisely adding, “… This is just the beginning.”
Sensabaugh is a physical scoring forward from Ohio State who can catch and shoot, hitting from deep, posting up and bumping free in two-point range, having utilized sweet soap-on-a-rope squirt shots and floaters. He prefers to dominate the ball to manage his scoring off the dribble and that will be an adjustment he’ll have to make, moving away from it at the pro level. His defense against quicker players will be, at least initially, a problem.
Another problem is this: A decent amount of what’s been written here is guesswork, projections that might accurately detail what’s already happened with these players, but that might not be all that exact about what will occur moving forward. That’s how a player like Nikola Jokic ends up as the No. 41 overall pick in the draft. Forty selections passed by before the guy who became the best player in the world was deemed worthy to be taken. He’s too slow. He’s not athletic enough. He can’t defend. He’ll get eaten alive in the NBA. Yeah, right.
A pre-draft scouting report on Steve Nash once stated this: “Not quick … has trouble getting his own shot against quality opponents … sometimes forgets what’s a good shot and what’s not.”
And, well, you get the idea. We’ll have to wait and see whether the Jazz’s draft night was a disappointment or a delight, bringing despair or delectation, whether daubers — yours and everyone else’s around here — should be up or down.