Andy Larsen: My best-case scenario for the Utah Jazz in next week’s NBA draft

Who should the Jazz take at Nos. 10, 29 and 32? Here’s my take.

The 2024 NBA draft has no sure-fire stars.

Sure, it’s true that even the worst NBA draft classes end up having one or two prospects who turn out to be star-level players. But draft analysts widely agree: There’s no one in this class that has more than a coin flip’s chance of becoming an All-Star.

But with three picks in next week’s draft — No. 10, No. 29, and No. 32 — the Utah Jazz can still add to their roster by adding talented future role players, with hopes that one or two of them might still be on the roster for the next contending iteration of the team.

Given that, what kind of role players should the Jazz want?

Turn an eye to this year’s NBA playoffs to find out which role players were most valuable.

Shooting remains critical — teams can have, at most, one non-shooter on the court at all times. The same is true of defense: if a player is weak defensively, he will be hunted with reckless abandon. But even shooting and defense isn’t quite enough. You also need a player who has a great feel for the game, one who can execute a coach’s schemes, knows how to rotate, and moves the ball quickly to keep an advantage.

Who might best fit those slots for the Utah Jazz at their three picks? Here’s who I’d consider my Plan As at each of the Jazz’s draft picks. If they’re available, and each could be at the Jazz’s draft slot, I think Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik should take these players.

No. 10: Cody Williams

Colorado forward Cody Williams, left, is congratulated by guard KJ Simpson after he was fouled on a dunk during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Look, Cody Williams didn’t put up the production his brother, Oklahoma City’s up-and-coming star Jalen Williams, did in his college career. His numbers are relatively pedestrian: 11 points, a few rebounds, a couple of assists per game. He was a role player, in other words.

But there’s a package here that could be a really useful NBA player in a few years. Cody Williams is actually taller than his brother, standing at a full 6-8. He certainly needs to strengthen and bulk up, but at just 19 years old, there should be a runway for him to do that. He was a solid defender — not a defensive playmaker, necessarily, but a guy who could usually stay in front. He shot the ball well from three (41%), but took only 41 threes all season. He’ll need to shoot drastically more often from there in the NBA; there is a significant risk that the percentage is simply small sample size theater.

What I like most about Williams is how well he fits in. So many college players, especially ones as lauded as Williams, tend to make the game about them. Williams didn’t, and I think he’ll be able to grow within a scheme. I don’t expect him to ever be a 20-point-per-game guy in the NBA — though it’s possible — but that’s OK. When you’re in this draft, getting players who can shoot, pass, dribble, and defend to even a decent degree is a win.

For that reason, though, Williams may not fall to Utah. While he’s the third-most frequent player selected by Utah at No. 10 in mock drafts around NBA media, many do have him jumping up to earlier picks. It’s a shame that the Jazz fell in the lottery.

No. 29: Johnny Furphy

Utah fans might be familiar with Kansas forward Johnny Furphy from his two-game stint in the NCAA Tournament at the Delta Center, where he shined in his first game against Samford before struggling more against Gonzaga in the Jayhawks’ elimination from the tournament.

Furphy didn’t begin the season starting for Kansas, but his insertion into the starting lineup helped noticeably, a big accomplishment for the small forward recruited from Australia. The primary selling point of Furphy is his jump shot. He shot 35% from deep last year on nearly triple the volume as Williams, and showed great form to boot. These weren’t all standstill threes, either — he took moving ones and made those at a good clip. He’ll be threatening there in the NBA.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kansas Jayhawks guard Johnny Furphy (10) leads fast break, in the Second Round of the menÕs basketball NCAA Tournament at the Delta Center, on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

But he’s not just a one-dimensional shooter. His size (6-foot-9) gave him the ability to finish well when he got downhill at the college level. And, like Williams, he fit in his role in college — playing with more famous, more experienced players in Kansas’ scheme.

The big question mark is defense, where, yeah, Furphy was kind of owned. He was just too skinny, too weak to handle the best players college basketball had to offer. But unlike other players in this draft who struggled on defense, I don’t think it was due to a lack of want-to. Furphy clearly tried on that end, but just fouled and got beaten too often. It may be a point of liability for him, but if he works on his body and his technique, I think he can develop into being a decent, Gordon Hayward-esque defender.

Furphy is another player who may not drop to Utah’s selection here. But as of this writing, more mock drafts have Utah selecting Furphy than any other player at No. 29. Falling to the end of the first round would be a minor surprise, but not a major one.

No. 32: Ryan Dunn

FILE - Virginia guard Ryan Dunn (13) goes up for a shot while defended by Furman forward Jalen Slawson (20) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Virginia’s Ryan Dunn is widely regarded as the best defender in this year’s NBA draft class.

He’s so good at it that’s fun to watch — it’s worth pulling up a Dunn defense highlight video from this season to just witness a master of his craft at work. Staying in front of quick dudes? Check. Blocking a driving layup attempt? Check. Being an absolute pest all over the floor? Check. Playing the role of help-side stopper or rim protector? Check. Over and over again, opponents were surprised at Dunn’s impact on the defensive end last season, as he made plays 99% of college basketball players just wouldn’t have been able to.

Dunn is bad offensively, though. He can’t dribble, and he can’t shoot. He shot just 20% from three last year.

If he could, there’d be no chance he’d be available in the second round. Whether or not Dunn makes it to No. 32 is in question, and there are reports that the Knicks — with two picks at No. 24 and No. 25 — like him a lot. But other reporting sees Dunn making it through that mark to Utah’s bottom two selections around the turn of the draft.

Where I see Dunn making an impact, then, is as an NBA power forward who can convert to small-ball center when the time is right — usually the NBA playoffs. Perhaps Dunn could play a role somewhat similar to the one Bruce Brown played for the champion Denver Nuggets two seasons ago. It would take significant development, but I think it’s possible.

Regardless, I want to bet on the best defender in any NBA draft class. Lu Dort worked out for the Thunder, Herb Jones worked out for the Pelicans, and I think Ryan Dunn would work out in a Jazz uniform, should that come to pass.