Ben Dowsett’s Jazz Big Board: Part II

June 24th, 2015 | by Ben Dowsett

 

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Welcome to Part II of my Jazz Big Board! If you missed Part I yesterday, be sure to give it a read. Without further ado, here are picks 7-12 on my own personalized Jazz board:

7. Stanley Johnson

My general thoughts on Johnson can be found here. He’s one of the top two-way prospects in the class, with very few holes in his game on either end.

If some of the issues I noted in that piece regarding his decision-making and feel for the game at Arizona turn out to be fixable, or merely a product of self-consciousness about his upcoming draft slot, this could be a star. He easily boasts the size and speed combination to play in both big and small lineups at the NBA level, and could end up as the best overall wing defender in the class.

Doubting Johnson’s recently-revamped shooting stroke is reasonable, but it feels mostly consistent to me. If he’s an NBA threat from deep who functions well within Quin Snyder’s scheme, he could be an absolute steal at 12 down the line.

8. Myles Turner

Much of my petitioning for Frank Kaminsky may have given some folks the impression I’m down on Turner – this isn’t the case. His ceiling is miles high1 on both ends, and his potential skill set fills a real need for the Jazz.

I do wonder whether some of his red flags have been downplayed too heavily. I’m no physical therapist, but it seems to me teaching a human being to run differently than he has for 19 years might be a difficult task. Even if it’s possible, Turner almost certainly lacks the mobility ceiling to play at the 4-spot.

This is especially so given his defensive acumen, which to this eye is worryingly low. He has the physical profile of a rim protector, but not the mental one; his reads at the college level were frequently terrible in the extensive tape I’ve watched of him. He has decent timing on shot-blocks, but that’s about it as far as positives here. He often doesn’t know where he needs to be on the floor, and his reaction time even when he does is very slow. He’ll be absolutely roasted in pick-and-roll play by any smart tandem.

The game gets much faster at the next level, and I wonder whether even a coach like Quin Snyder could slow it down enough for someone like Turner to succeed in what’s becoming a movement-based league. Combine this with physical concerns and my own skepticism that he’s truly a 3-point shooter at the NBA level, and he finishes below Kaminsky for me.

9. Jahlil Okafor

Yep, ninth.

Look, Jahlil Okafor will be a very good NBA player, possibly a great one, and very possibly one of the elite post presences in the game. He’ll be able to manufacture his own shot from the jump, and could be an automatic double-team on the block in short order.

But with apologies to those who grow weary of hearing it, the fact remains: the game is moving in a different direction. You can count on one hand (perhaps even with a couple fingers chopped off) the number of high-volume post presences in the current league capable of anchoring an above-average offense from the post, and most or all of them have much more in the way of a jumper than Okafor. If you include “can defend at an average or better level for 30-plus minutes a game” in the requirements, the list might thin down to simply LeBron James, and perhaps Boogie Cousins.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I have sincere concerns about Okafor’s ability to defend in the modern NBA. He’s slow laterally, and doesn’t make help reads nearly quickly enough to make up for it. His lift is very limited, to the point where I wonder if he’ll ever give good rim finishers even a token challenge despite his big wingspan. There have been concerns with his fitness and body, as well as his commitment to improving the areas where he’s lacking.

Obviously, the chances of this being a conversation that matters to the Jazz are very low.

10. Emmanuel Mudiay

Mudiay is so low here based largely on just how unknown he remains, and how little the Jazz need another guard prospect who fits that bill after drafting Dante Exum last year. Parsing Mudiay’s performance from the Chinese Basketball Association is difficult, as is evaluating his athletic profile in comparison with his peers; to this eye, the Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose comparisons are quite generous, and Mudiay may be a bit less of an athletic anomaly than his reputation suggests.

He could absolutely turn out as a star, and has real potential as a two-way guard, with good instincts and lateral mobility defensively if his mind can stay in the right place. But the fit in Utah is iffy at best, and Mudiay actually lasting to 12 would be a surprise.

11. Willie Cauley-Stein

I’ve had WCS lower than most on my own personal board for weeks, but now certain outlets are beginning to join me. Some of this is due to prior health concerns surrounding his foot, which are reportedly scaring a few teams away from him in the mid-lottery range. I also believe some is an increased understanding that there’s very little chance this is a two-way player of any consequence in the NBA.

Cauley-Stein projects as a fantastic defender, with the size to protect the interior and the mobility to check wings whenever necessary. But beyond catching lobs and finding putbacks at the rim, he’s a complete non-starter offensively. He has poor instincts and little touch, and has already developed a reputation as the sort who thinks more highly of himself offensively than objective observers do – never a good sign for a limited guy. Many compare him to Tyson Chandler, but offensively, I think this is an absolute ceiling and is honestly pretty unrealistic.

Finally, while many have jumped all over someone like Frank Kaminsky as a 22-year-old with his best developmental days perhaps behind him, Cauley-Stein has gone largely unnoticed here – despite being just four months younger than Frank the Tank. This isn’t necessarily an end-all factor, but to expect Willie to develop significantly on the offensive end2 seems hopeful at best given his inability to do so against inferior athletes at the college level for multiple seasons.

12. Bobby Portis

In truth, this 12th spot was a virtual toss-up between Portis, R.J. Hunter and Devin Booker, none of whom would be bad selections should the other 11 be off the board. Portis gets the nod because he’s a big, basically. It’s yet to be seen whether he could play both 4 and 5 at the NBA level, but he has a 7’2 wingspan and enough lower-body strength that minutes at center aren’t out of the question.

I’m truthfully not fully convinced his athleticism translates well, nor his jumper, which has some strange mechanics and got Walt Perrin talking after his Portis’s Jazz workout about tweaking his form should he end up in Salt Lake City. Portis is well-rounded overall, but might not have an individual area or two where he’s elite, and could struggle if he can’t stretch the floor at the NBA level.

But he’s a hard worker who’d fit right in with a blue-collar franchise, and a few of the right developments could make him into just the sort of versatile big the league holds in high regard.

Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and current in-depth analyst based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Basketball Insiders and BBallBreakdown, and can be heard on SCH Radio on ESPN 700 weekly. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett

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9 Comments

  1. LKA says:

    I think the media really flash things up. If what you say about Oakafor is true I hope the Fakers do draft him. That sould be justice. This is a strange year and whoever the Jazz draft will be fine. I do like portis.He is humble, hard worker, and a nice guy. Sounds like a good teammate to me. Good post. Thanks for your time and effort.

  2. Spencer says:

    Ben,

    I am with you on many of these, but I think that since the Jazz have no real needs, potential upside should be bigger factor here. We can get a guy like Kaminsky as a free agent. (In fact, he is the player that is now going out of vogue because teams are just putting a wing at the 4 when they are in)

    There are a few guys who could be Max level players after the rookie contract if they reach their potential at the 12 spot, but he is not one of them.

    Also, I don’t need someone who his at the same developmental stage as the other guys, I want somebody who will be good as long as possible, and I am okay if it takes two years before he is a solid contributor if then he is just plain better because he is more talented for the next decade.

    Looney is my favorite right now, mostly because he can play the he is as long as a 5 and has the speed and skillset to play the three much of the time. (Portziggy would be my favorite if he there were a chance.)

    • Ben Dowsett says:

      But they do have real needs. They need a backup center, and they badly need shooting. These are needs he fills.

      The idea that there are plenty of guys around with that skill combination is misplaced. A big part of the allure with Kaminsky is the fact that he’s excellent in the post, particularly when smaller guys end up on him – Wisconsin attacked these matchups relentlessly in each of the previous two seasons. The idea that teams can just put some wing on him and neutralize his advantage is wildly off. He’ll eat those guys for breakfast, and is a great passer out if teams try and double him. How many other true “stretch” bigs can you name who can do the same? Can count em on one hand.

      Again, this is the 12th pick we’re talking about. Folks expecting another franchise cornerstone who’s going to be around for 10+ years are going to be sorely disappointed a large percentage of the time. How good a guy *might* be in five years, or how long he *might* be able to stay with the team a decade down the line, are so far from the only considerations involved.

      • Spencer says:

        Ben,

        I certainly understand what you are saying. All good points. Offensively I think Kaminsky is an ideal fit. The situations I am thinking of where Kaminsky will be in trouble are the following:

        Spurs when Leonard (or Diaw) plays the 4

        Cavs with Lebron at 4

        OKC with Durant at 4

        Golden State with Green at 4

        Atlanta with Millsap at the 4

        He’s not eating any of those guys for breakfast.

        Any team that runs the pick and roll really well will be a challenge as well.

        While Kaminsky does have a height advantage, there is little doubt these players can guard Kaminsky much better than he can guard them. In these situations, what do the Jazz do? Kaminsky is not the answer, but I believe a player like Looney or Portis or Oubre or Johnson could be extremely valuable here.

        I am not really worried about the small-ball lineup of a non-elite team, it is matching up with these game-changing 3-4 hybrid players that is so important to me. Truthfully, the missing piece to beating Lebron the last two finals was that 3-4 hybrid player who could GUARD multiple positions and be a threat.

        A backup 5 is a 10-15 minute-per night gig that can be filled by a number of guys. Myers Leonard from Portland comes to mind as does the euro guy they just got the rights to. They can do what Kaminsky does at a lower level, but we want Favors and Gobert manning the 5 until garbage time.

        Green, Leonard and Diaw were all picked later than 12 and this type of player is fairly plentiful at #12 in this draft. (There is always someone like this who is drafted after 11 just look at the last 10 drafts) With the great scouting and drafting record of the Jazz I believe they can pinpoint the player still on the board who most likely could be the playmaking perimter-defending four they need.

        • Ben Dowsett says:

          See in most scenarios (ones where there aren’t other acceptable hiding places for Kaminsky), I agree with the hypotheticals you’re giving – Kaminsky would get hurt in those matchups. But you’re making my point for me: I don’t think it matters at all, because that’s not what the Jazz are drafting Kaminsky for. They’re not drafting him to play 30+ mins a night and butt heads with the best small-ball combos in the league. As I’ve said, they’re drafting him to be a situational 3rd big who can excel in the right situations with and against the right personnel.

          Also, your point RE pick-and-roll D needs a bit of adjustment – Kaminsky has been great against these sets for years. He’s smooth and quicker than it looks laterally, and very smart about where to be on the floor. He’s not a liability there at all. And again, he’s a walking mismatch on the other end of the floor for all but a handful of defenders in the league.

          In any case, this all seems irrelevant at this point. Feels very unlikely the Jazz get him without moving up.

          • Spencer says:

            It sounds like we are just looking for something different with the pick. You are looking for an excellent 3rd big, and I am looking for they steal at #12 who could be the next Kawaii. Both are needs, I guess it just depends on what is actually available which direction would be best.

            BTW, hearing a lot of chatter about possible trades…

  3. Jeff says:

    Okafor at 9, really? I understand that the game is moving away from the post, but he will be a top 5 offensive post player as a rookie. He commands double teams consistently (I think he will in the NBA too), and he knows how to pass the ball out of the post well. Paired with another defensive big like Gobert or Favors, his defensive deficiencies could be hidden a bit. There’s no way he falls to the Jazz, but I would absolutely take him anywhere beyond 3.

    • Ben Dowsett says:

      But see, you made no mention of the other side of the floor. And no mention of what happens when a good zone-and-recover team flashes random help at him much the way the Warriors did with LeBron in the Finals that just ended. And no mention of the fact that teams can sag down away from him in the post and invite jumpers he can’t hit, while clogging up his passing lanes elsewhere.

      He’s a one-dimensional player who needs major strides to add any further layers, and worst of all the dimension he does have is dying out of the game because it’s simply less efficient. And what happens if that one dimension turns out to be just a hair less advantageous against NBA athletes? You’re left with a good-to-great post player who can’t play a lick of defense or shoot the ball… so basically, Al Jefferson minus the jumper but with better passing. Not that I love player comps, but I’d rather look elsewhere to more versatile and modern players than risk drafting Big Al 2.0 with a top-3 pick.

  4. Mewko says:

    Well, it looks like Kaminsky will be gone, so Winslow and Johnson are top 2 on my board, you have to trad up to get them.

    The Jazz don’t seem keen on Myles Turner.

    That means if we stand pat, we land Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, or Kelly Oubre.

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