Best Player Available It Is…

June 24th, 2011 | by Nick Smith

Ever since I was a kid, I can remember Kevin O’Connor talking about how the best strategy in any draft is taking the best player available. The Portland Trailblazers are the perfect bad example of what happens when you start drafting for need as they passed on Michael Jordan and Kevin Durrant because they already had Clyde Drexler and Brandon Roy playing those same positions (in those respective years). With Utah’s dire need to improve their outside shooting and their defense, they did neither. Instead, they drafted the two best players that were available to them at picks 3 and 12.

With the third pick in last night’s draft, the Jazz selected the constant smiling Enes Kanter. Although Kanter couldn’t possibly be more unproven, you’ve got to like what this kid brings to the table. He’s a legit 6’11 and weighs 260 lbs. with 5% body fat. Kanter has really only played one game in the last year, but he sure made that game count. Kanter didn’t just have a good game, he absolutely destroyed the likes of Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones. Kanter’s footwork, rebounding, and ability to run the court made him look like a man among boys in last year’s Nike Hoops Summit. Offensively, Kanter can do it from inside and out. He has a great touch around the room and his range extends all the way out to the NBA 3-pt line. His defense is a complete unknown, but with a solid work ethic and a perfect NBA body, this is something Kanter can learn. Kanter’s rebounding is his NBA skill. Don’t think of Kanter as a European big, rather an American style player that loves to get hit and play physical inside. In a weak draft like this one, Kanter’s talent level and potential was just too much to ignore. Utah took the best player available to them and now may have a big man that could be a beast in a Jazz jersey for years to come.

With the 12th pick in last night’s draft, the Jazz selected Alec Burks from Colorado. Before I start complaining about Utah passing on Kawhi Leonard and Chris Singleton, I must hold myself accountable to a tweet I sent out yesterday just hours before the draft;

Having said that, I continue to struggle to find the value Burks adds to the Jazz. As mentioned earlier, the Jazz were one of the worst perimeter teams in the NBA last year; we couldn’t make threes nor could we guard them. Alec Burks has great length and athleticism for a shooting guard, but he’s not much of a defender and his outside shot is bad enough to make a grown man cry. Burks shot just 29% from the college three point line last year, a shot that will now become his mid-range J. Another major concern I have for Burks is his inability to be productive without the ball in his hands as his offensive role with Colorado was somewhat similar to Jimmer Fredette’s with BYU. So add Burks to the crowded list of Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, and Gordon Hayward as players that are at their best when dominating the ball. The Jazz could have greatly benefited by adding a relentless defender and hustler in Kawhi Leonard, but if Burks’ shooting can improve, the rest of his game has the make up for him to be a very good, Brandon Roy type player. Until the jump shot improves however, his inability to score from outside will really hurt the Jazz’ floor spacing and will continue to make things difficult for Jefferson, Favors, Kanter and Millsap inside. Perhaps the memory of Kobe Bryant just completely ignoring Ronnie Brewer and double teaming whomever he wanted for the entire playoff series is still too fresh on mind to be excited about this pick. But don’t worry Jazz fans, I’d be willing to bet the farm Kevin O’Connor knows something I don’t, and hopefully two years from now, this article of mine looks like the biggest blasphemy since the doubters of John Stockton. Perhaps not a great fit, the Jazz stuck to their guns and took the best player available to them at 12. After all, Portland’s experience shows us it’s the way to go.

Nick Smith

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  1. u2despain says:

    Nice summary. I love the Kanter pick, I believe he is the best player in this draft. I feel the same way about Burks as you. When San Antonio traded for Leonard I was devastated about passing on him. The things I do like about Burks is that he can create his own shot, handles the ball really well and has the confidence of Kobe Bryant (Ronnie Brewer lacked all of these). In KOC I trust.

  2. r. benz says:

    At least the Jazz don’t get worse with Burks. What I mean is this: would you rather have Raja Bell or Alec Burks? For me, the answer is Burks 10 times out of 10. Besides that, it could be news anytime in the near future that the Jazz have traded Burks and gotten someone else that meets the team’s needs a little bit better. I trust KOC as well.

  3. Layne says:

    When I hear people say a guy can’t shoot, I think of Jason Kidd or even Ron Harper. The knock on Kidd for years was his inability to shoot the three. He totally reinvented himself the past two or three seasons and became a clutch shooter from behind the arc. Harper was a driver /slasher for the Cavs early in his career but then became a shooter/defender for the second of the Bulls championship runs. I’m not saying Burks is a J-Kidd or Harper but my point is that if a guy works hard enough, he can develop that shot. Maybe the Jazz saw the work ethic in Burks that could lead to him developing a complete game. In the meantime, he has plenty of other qualities to help the Jazz. I like both picks.

  4. Layne says:

    Just to back up my previous post:

    Jason Kidd 3P% in his rookie season- .272
    2007-08- .461

    Harper rookie season- .213
    96-97- .361

  5. Nicky J says:

    Great point, Lance. First argument I’ve heard that’s made me think it was the right pick. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Bryan says:

    To follow up on Layne’s reasoning, like Burks, Gordon Hayward shot 29% from three his last year in college. Hayward then shot 47% from three as a Jazz rookie. I’d be surprised if Burks improved THAT much, but I’d be just as surprised if his 3-pt shooting doesn’t improve at all.

  7. Brandon says:

    I originally was pulling for Knight at 3, but the more I think about it the more I like the combo of Favors and Kanter. I think they will complement each other perfectly as they develop.

    I actually really like the Burks pick. Yes he struggled with his range in college, but the kid can play. He has a mind set of getting to the rim, which I love, and has good form on his shot (shot 82% from FT) which indicate he could drastically improve much quicker than others and if and when he does he will be the steal of the draft.

    On a side note I really like Raja Bell on the Jazz roster now as a tutor for Burks. What better player to tutor a kid who plays with a chip on his shoulder than Bell, who made a living in the NBA by playing his best against better competition.

  8. McKay Rytting says:

    I also was hoping for Knight at 3 for most of the past few weeks, but I feel like Kanter has good feet, which I think will translate to good boxing out. It seems like the Jazz bigs last year just didn’t ever box out, and hopefully Kanter can start to right that ship. I think that with a good coach, he has the potential to be the best player out of this draft.

    Burks is really only a scorer right now, but I think with his quickness and athleticism, it’s only a matter of time before he develops into an above-average perimeter defender. If he can also extend his range, he’ll be a solid, well-rounded player who can be a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.

    Nick, we miss you. Thanks for the articles on here every now and then; they are money.

  9. Bloodshy says:

    1 more point for Burks: Even more than they were desperate for shooting and perimeter D, the Jazz are desperate for another player that can spell the point on his dribbling duties. It was a constant problem last year. The Jazz rarely had two players on the floor (and never 3) that could be trusted to bounce the ball. Burks is an elite ball handler that will ease the pressure on the point the moment he steps on the floor.

    I was pulling for Leonard or Burks @ 12 (slight Leonard preference). Hopefully he’ll reach his potential. He has the right mindset to be special.

  10. WSUwildcat says:

    Burks is gonna be great. I really just hope that Hayward can do good at playing 3. I have a feeling Burks is gonna be better than Kemba, Jimmer, and Tristan Thompson. He was the go-to guy at Colorado just like Jimmer at BYU but Burks’ teammates at Colorado were a lot worse than Jimmer’s was at BYU. I also think Burks is a bit of a combo guard who can play point sometimes as well. I haven’t been impressed with Harris’ point guard abilities this past season, but maybe he’ll get a hang of it this next year… If there is a next year for NBA.

  11. WSUwildcat says:

    I also like the Kanter pick for obvious reasons. But I think Al Jefferson needs to go. I’m hoping for a trade involving Al Jefferson for some a couple first round unprotected draft picks or something.

  12. I don’t think Kanter will play much because of the huge logjam in the paint. Which player do you think the Jazz will trade to make space ofr Kanter? My bet is on Al Jefferson. Utah should try and trade him to GSW for Monta Ellis.

    • Nicky J says:

      Good question. I actually think the Jazz are in a great spot. If we were to make a trade, I think Jefferson is the guy we should move, but I don’t think now is the time. If Jefferson were gone, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter would be required to play huge minutes from day one, which I don’t think either are ready for. Then once injuries start to come, we would get pretty thin. So I guess it’s a question of what you want from this team? Do you want us to get back to being competitive right away and have our young guys get some experience winning, or do you want our young guys just to play a ton and have the team struggle a bit? I love where the Jazz are now, and in two years when Jefferson’s contract is up, Favors and Kanter will be ready to take over the reigns and will know how to win. I want them to get some experience winning (Al Jefferson is a perfect example of a player that isn’t a great leader because he’s never had that winning experience). Playing time will always be there.

  13. toddam says:

    Congrats on not being one sided. I think all of us need to put our pre-draft feelings behind us and realize we have some new Jazz men to welcome to the fold. As die hard Jazz fans we need to blindly root for these guys to be the best they can be, at least until it comes time to trade them or free agency. Then we can point out their every flaw and throw them under the bus to make us feel better about our lame lives, per Lebron.

  14. Clay says:

    I hope the picks work out, but I am loving the position we are in right now. Sure we need a Guard that can shoot and play point some. Think of the line-ups we could have… Kanter/Jefferson C, Jefferson/Favors/Millsap, Hayward,Miles,Evans,Millsap( he’s gonna be our surprise 3 in late game situations), Burks,Hayward,Miles SG, Harris/Burks PG. Add someone like Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Shannon Brown( he wants out of LA!) or even someone like Goran Dragic. Whats up with AK are they gonna make him an offer, maybe a little higher than a mid level exception 8 mil? Also only trade we need it to get rid of Okur!

  15. CJ in Brooklyn says:

    I would love to see Harris, Burks, Haywood, Milsap and Favors flying down the court together…

  16. Mons says:

    I do like the Kanter pick! (Now get rid of Fez and Elson) I would welcome a Big Al trade as well. The Jury is still out on Burks shooting for me, but who better to improve someone’s shooting thank Jeff Hornacek? This is an exciting year for the Jazz and Jazz Nation! (Curse you Matt Harpering for making me use that term!)

  17. Trent says:

    Kanter is such a mystery. He could either be the best European to ever play or a complete flop. I was hoping the Jazz would draft Knight because I think we need a much better backup point guard that could eventually take over for Harris. Watson and Price simply will not do. We need to find another point via free agency or trade. But as I have thought about it since the draft I am very happy that the Jazz drafted Kanter. His potential is just too high to ignore. We are going to have a dominant front court next season. I hope Corbin starts Favors with Jefferson and brings Milsap off the bench. Favors is a better defender than Millsap and would compliment Jefferson better than Millsap can. I think Millsap would easily win the 6th man on the year award if he just embraced being our star of the second team! Okur is going to come back looking to prove himself as well because he will be a free agent after next season and I think he will be a tremendous mentor for Kanter. Gordon Hayward will continue to improve and Alec Burks learning from the veteran Raja Bell and CJ Miles (who will also be trying to prove himself before free agency) is going to be perfect as well. All the SGs/SFs need to spend a lot of time with Hornacek and dial in their 3 point shots. We’ve got the talent! I think we need to bring in a good coach for the Bigs tho. Karl would be perfect but really anyone who can teach these guys how to defend and grab some boards! I’m excited for next year!

  18. Dan says:

    In KOC you trust? What has KOC done in the last 10 drafts that make you trust him? Morris Almond, Kris Humphries, Kirk Snyder, Eric Maynor, Kosta Koufos, it goes on. And it’s not like those were just bad drafts for the league, Humphries and Snyder were sandwiched in between Al Jefferson and Josh Smith. Morris Almond is basically the only guy from that round not playing. KOC has done well in the second round, but his first round sucess has been dreadful. So when I saw the Jazz pick Snyder, er I mean, Burks, I wasn’t as optomistic as I wanted to be. Congrats, we got another shoting guard that can’t shoot and can’t guard. Just change his title from SG to DNP.

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