Everything Draft Day

June 25th, 2014 | by Clint Johnson
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

I’ve covered these draft prospects for SCH for nine months, and finally, The Day dawns tomorrow.  What follows is everything draft related left in my notebook or bounding about in my brain.

The Too-Late to Take It Back Mock

1. Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF

2. Bucks – Jabari Parker, SF/PF

3. 76ers – Dante Exum, PG/SG

4. Magic – Joel Embiid, C

5. Jazz – Julius Randle, PF

6. Celtics – Marcus Smart, PG/SG

7. Lakers – Noah Vonleh, PF/C

8. Kings – Doug McDermott, SF/PF

9. Hornets – Nik Stauskas, SG

10. 76ers – Aaron Gordon, SF/PF

11. Nuggets – Gary Harris, SG

12. Magic – Elfrid Payton, PG

13. Timberwolves – Zach LaVine, PG/SG

14. Suns – Rodney Hood, SF

15. Hawks – Jusuf Nurkic, C

16. Bulls – Tyler Ennis, PG

17. Celtics – Dario Saric, SF/PF

18. Suns – Adreian Payne, PF

19. Bulls – T. J. Warren, SF/PF

20. Raptors – Shabazz Napier, PG

21. Thunder – P. J. Hairston, SG

22. Grizzlies – James Young, SG/SF

23. Jazz – Kyle Anderson, SF

24. Hornets – Clint Capela, PF/C

25. Rockets – Jerami Grant, SF

26. Heat – K. J. McDaniels, SF

27. Suns – Walter Tavares, C

28. Clippers – Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG

29. Thunder – Jordan Adams, SG

30. Spurs – Cleanthony Early, SF/PF

My Reasoning for These Jazz Picks

Let’s start with an admission: Julius Randle at number five is a bald-faced guess.

I’m fairly confident the first four players I have off the board will be the first four selected.  Ironically, that means after all the turmoil of the last week or so, the Jazz end up right where most people assumed before the NCAA Tournament: given their pick of players outside the “consensus” likely franchise prospects.

I believe the Jazz are near desperate to trade for the first overall pick to select Wiggins or Parker,1 but I’ve thought for months the price would be too high and won’t change my stance now.  Even with the diminished value of that pick given Embiid’s injury, I would be stunned if the Jazz make an offer Cleveland would accept.  (The Bucks are ecstatic right where they are.)  I firmly believe it will take two players, one being Favors, as well as pick five and another pick (#23 or future protected) to ensure a trade happens.  Anything less will make smoke but not fire, that’s my guess.  Which leaves the Jazz with their pick of the players none of the worst teams in the league really wanted.

I can realistically see the Jazz selecting any one of four players.2  Aaron Gordon for his defense, motor, and attitude.  Noah Vonleh for his shooting, work ethic, and measurables.  Marcus Smart for his defense, forceful personality, and versatility.  But after a lot of thought, I committed to Julius Randle as the Jazz’s selection.  Here’s my reasoning:

1) According to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, the Jazz front office is split on whether to include Alec Burks with Favors and the fifth pick to pursue the first pick in the draft.  That suggests Burks has a camp of big believers in management.  Add that to my suspicion that Burks can be extended at a more affordable rate than Enes Kanter, and I suspect the team will look to upgrade at power forward rather than in the backcourt.  That eliminates Marcus Smart at number five.

2) Rumor is one major criteria the Jazz are using for the fifth pick is shooting.  Aaron Gordon is, at best, a questionable shooter.  Add that to my belief that the Jazz project him as an athletic but undersized power forward and it means a player who can neither space the floor nor hold up against the larger and stronger power forwards in the league.  My guess is that induces the team to pass on him.

3) That leaves Vonleh and Randle.  Common sentiment is that choice favors Vonleh, who excited teams at the combine with his measurements and then reinforced that with multiple strong workouts.  I think the Jazz will be wise enough to prioritize mounds of tape from actual competition over the controlled environments of the combine and workouts.

In games, Vonleh proved not only far less skilled and game-savvy than Randle, but also slower, less explosive, and more awkward.  I watched both players a lot throughout the season, and the only skill Vonleh demonstrated that would cause me to consider him over Randle is his shooting, particularly from long range.  But even that is based on an extremely small sample size, and I think Dennis Lindsey is wise and disciplined enough not to draft Vonleh as a stretch-four centerpiece of the Jazz based on 33 shots taken over the course of 30 games.

Randle was more hyped coming into his freshman season, outplayed Vonleh in nearly every way in college, and proved the most consistent and best player on a team that went to the NCAA title game.  I think the Jazz will weigh competitive mettle over component tasks, and that means Randle.  The foot injury changed my mind for a while, but the suggestions of surgery sound purely preventative, which doesn’t scare me nearly as much as Joel Embiid’s dual serious injuries.

As for Kyle Anderson at #23, it’s a guess based on several factors: analytics really like him; he has a diverse offensive skillset and incredibly high offensive IQ, both of which compliment Quin Snyder’s approach to the game; unless Raul Neto comes over, the team could use Anderson to initiate offense off the bench; and I think he would carry good value in future potential trades.

My Top Ten Most Wished for Prospects for the Jazz

1. Andrew Wiggins

2. Jabari Parker

3. Marcus Smart

4. Julius Randle

5. Dante Exum

6. Aaron Gordon

7. Noah Vonleh

8. Nik Stauskas

9. Doug McDermott

10. Joel Embiid3

5 Predictions for Draft Night

1. A team will foolishly select Zach LaVine in the lottery.

2. Elfrid Payton will be selected before Tyler Ennis, which will be tough for the Syracuse product who was at one point in the NCAA season rivaling Marcus Smart as top point guard not from Australia.

3. James Young will be the last player in the green room to hear his name called.

4. Adam Silver will look even smaller than David Stern did next to pro players, despite being notably taller.  The man is a rail.

5. Marcus Smart will honor his deceased brother, Todd, in some public way.  I’m not sure how, but it will happen.

Bonus prediction: My mock won’t survive the first five picks.

5 Predictions for this Draft Class

1. Andrew Wiggins will be the best player in this class and an All-NBA honoree.

2. Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, and Noah Vonleh form this draft’s Brown-Oden Triangle.4  One of the three will be a bust in every sense of the word; another will be a significant disappointment in relation to his draft position.  I expect one – and only one – to come anywhere close to meeting his prodigious potential.

3. Marcus Smart and Julius Randle will both end up top five players in this draft class, and one will be a top three player.  A team that takes either one with pick six or later will get a steal.

4. Three or more players taken outside the top ten will eventually become All-Stars, including one player selected in the second round.

5. Only one tankarific team in this year’s lottery will make the playoffs the coming season.  The rest will leverage a high pick in this coveted class right back to the lottery next season.5

My Joel Embiid Vision

The night of June 18th I had a dream.  In my dream, I learned my brother and his wife were adopting Joel Embiid.  My confusion turned to panic when I met “Joel” and found him to be a twelve-year-old pregnant girl with a congenital health disorder.  I woke confused,6 went to work, turned on my computer, and learned Embiid had broken his foot and would have surgery the following day.

Drafting Embiid is a bad idea.  I know.  I have seen.

Random Thoughts

1. The “Core Four” / “Franchise Five” moniker should end on draft night.  I hope we don’t start hearing something inane like the “Super Six,” because at least one of the Jazz’s young players will be traded this summer, quite possibly during the draft.

2. If the Jazz don’t make a trade during the draft, I’ll be surprised.  No clue what form this might take, though.

3. Remarkably, every young prospect on the Jazz will be watching the draft with at least a little trepidation.  Between talk of trading up for the first pick and the number of players in play with the fifth pick, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors may all have their futures significantly affected by what the Jazz do over the course of a few hours.

4. The team’s decision with the fifth pick will go a long way to helping fans pin down the team’s identity and trajectory going forward – is the talk of a defensive culture more than talk?  Which of their current young players do they not see as part of the Jazz future?  What style and scheme might Quin Snyder employ, which will certainly be based largely on personnel?  Are the Jazz looking to win substantially more games this season or are they prepared to be patient over several more years of rebuilding? Unless, of course, they select Joel Embiid.

5. If they do select Embiid, I will represent near-perfect ambivalence between excitement and terror.7

6. I’ve anticipated this draft more than any other in my lifetime, yet I will be heartily grateful when it is finally over.

7. I believe more strongly than ever that the lottery is an abject dysfunction in the NBA and desperately needs change.  Preferably eradication.8

8. Next year’s draft is going to make everyone really grumpy.

9. I find it strangely amusing that fans in Salt Lake City, Utah will be green with envy of Milwaukee, Wisconsin if and when the Bucks draft Jabari Parker and he expresses how pleased he is to play there.  Residence in SLC frequently does come with geographic and demographic inferiority complexes, but rarely for Milwaukee.

10. Whatever the results of June 26th, I am stoked for the upcoming Jazz season!9

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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  1. Ben says:

    Great article. I hope the Jazz make a trade for a top 3 prospect but trading Favors AND Burks is almost taking two steps back and one forward. Keep up the good work and will be catching SLC Hoops on draft night.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Thanks so much. It will be one very interesting night, I think that is pretty evident. And losing both Favors and Burks… those are big steps backward to my mind.

  2. Spencer says:

    Here are my slightly crazy bold draft predictions what I will want everyone to remember if I am right and forget otherwise:

    1)Surprise best player in the draft: Aaron Gordon. HOW: He has the same sort of shooting improvement as Karl Malone, plays defense and passes like Joakim Noah. Guards 5 positions like LeBron.

    2) Biggest bust: Jabari Parker. A Tweener who never shoots a high percentage because he is too slow to get by the little guy and too small to take the big guy down low and he can’t play D. (Not likely a bust, but maybe more underwhelming. AKA Big Dog. PS I hope I am wrong.)

    3) There are 12 all-stars in this class

    4) We end up with two of the 12. likely due to trading up.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      David Locke wouldn’t find your surprise best player that surprising. He likes Wiggins most, but his second favorite prospect is probably Gordon. If he learns to shoot, this is a real possibility.

      12 All-Stars? Man, that would be a class of classes. I’m big on this class, but you’ve got my enthusiasm beat.

      As for your #4, I like you, Spencer.

    • Hess says:

      I think the most All-Stars out of one class is 9 in 1996. Still stickin’ with 12?

  3. Rick says:

    Why would the Jazz pass on the next Kirilenko in Gordon in favor of another low post (not stretch) power forward like Randle?

    Kirilenko is the best Jazz draft pick since Malone. Last years team was defenseless. Yes we need shooting, but we need another AK47. Look at the top 8 prospects, several are defense gems – we need one of them (Embiid, Gordon, Wiggins, Smart).

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I can’t argue that there are better defensive prospects available than Randle. Personally, I believe Marcus Smart will be the best player in this draft outside the Wiggins/Parker tandem, and I would like the Jazz to select him above any likely available player. Gordon is a fantastic defender, and Vonleh has better physical gifts. But I think Randle has the ability to become a top ten scorer in the NBA and the Jazz will judge him best available player at their position of want.

      The pro game fits Randle much better than college with the greater spacing, and in college he put up 15 and 10 in one of the toughest conferences out there. With the room to combine his face up game with his physical post skill and motor on the offensive glass, he’ll be near unguardable. As for not having a stretch ability, keep in mind we’re talking about a player who shot only 1% lower from the free throw line than Noah Vonleh and is still only 19. Combine these things with Randle’s proven skill in a variety of offensive areas, and I think it is highly likely he becomes at least a solid shooter out to 20 feet, if not further. He’ll never be a rim protector, but he has enough strength and quick enough feet to be a good positional defender, and that can work next to Favors. In short, I think Randle is an offensive upgrade on Enes Kanter (including great improvement as a passer), a defensive upgrade as a positional defender, and just as good a rebounder.

      As for why pass on Gordon, I stand by my reasoning in the post. I think he’s too small to guard many power forwards and doesn’t shoot well enough to play small forward, and so I think he’ll be at some type of disadvantage too often to become as great an asset as the players I prefer above him. But to be clear, the only players I prefer to Gordon are four I believe will be multiple time All-Stars (Wiggins, Parker, Smart, and Randle) and one who may just become a franchise player (Exum). I really like Aaron Gordon, but not as much as a few others.

  4. LarryMillersGhost says:

    Nice piece, Clint. I really hope they go with Smart. It does not sound like they will but his grit and fire are really needed on this team. I like Favors a lot, but I am not sure he will ever become the player we thought he would. If you can move up by adding him I say you do it. Throw Burks in there and it starts to seem a lil too much. But if they made that move and got Wiggins I would be pumped.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I am as a big a Favors advocate as they come. That said, I would give up Favors and #5 for Wiggins. Not Parker or Embiid (not now). Not with Burks added, though, not even for Wiggins. As for Smart, I think he fits Dennis Lindsey’s criteria of a franchise player: someone who dictates how the team plays. I think Smart can do that in the NBA.

  5. casey says:

    Glad to see you on the Marcus Smart train. I absolutely love him.

  6. Erik says:

    I hope the Jazz don’t trade up to #1 for Wiggins. They’d have to give away at least both 1st round picks and Favors to do it, and I just do not believe that Wiggins is worth it. I don’t think the gap between Wiggins and the player they can get at 5 is that big, I’m not as high on him as you are.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I certainly understand. I think I’d give up Favors and #5, but not another piece. I don’t think you have to worry about it, though. If the Cavs do make a trade – and there is plenty of reason to suspect they won’t – it will almost certainly be for the Sixers’ picks 3 and 10 or Magic’s picks 4 and 12.

  7. Paul Johnson says:

    I fully agree with what you have said here, including your comments about Marcus Smart–who appears to be a relentless worker, as well. I watched several Oklahoma State games this past college season, and was impressed with how he was able to infect his entire team with his aggressive style of play. The Jazz could use a big dose of that Marcus Smart toughness and aggression.

    Furthermore, although I like Trey Burke, and believe that he is by far the best point guard the Jazz have had since Deron Williams, I’m not yet completely sold on him being the “the Jazz point guard of the future.” Because of his lack of size, strength and quickness, which affect his ability to finish at the basket and his ability to play defense, I believe his ceiling is that of only a solid starter or a very good backup. Perhaps that is all that the Jazz need at the PG position, if there are other stars on the team–whereas no team can afford to have all-stars at every position.

    However, Smart is clearly an upgrade at the point guard position over Trey Burke, and could become an all-star (or even a superstar) who could dictate the style of play of the entire team. Right now, the Jazz don’t have a team leader. Smart could fill that void, and that may be just what the Jazz need to take the next step of development as a team. Also, there’s also nothing that would prevent the Jazz from having a 3-player rotation at the PG/SG positions of Burke, Smart and Burks, which could be a strong rotation.

    Randy Rigby has identified the wing positions as areas that need strengthening on the Jazz team. However, unless the Jazz can trade up for Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker without “selling the farm,” I believe the best Jazz move would be to draft Marcus Smart. That would give the Jazz solid rotations at both the PG/SG positions (with Burke, Smart, Burks and Hayward) and the PF/C positions (with Kanter, Favors, Gobert and Evans). I believe the Jazz could then strengthen the wing positions either with one or both of their later picks in the draft–or by moving up in the draft by offering both #23 and #35, or by trading or buying into the draft (with several teams willing to give up their mid-range picks, such as Chicago)–or through free agency.

    There are some very good wing players available outside the lottery, who either have great skills, great athleticism, or both, such as James Young, Rodney Hood, P.J. Hairston, T.J. Warren, K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant and C.J. Wilcox. There are also some solid veteran wing players available in free agency, who may be willing to come to the Jazz at the right price–SG: Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner and Vince Carter; SF: Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Danny Granger, Paul Pearce, Marvin Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu.

    I am very excited for the draft and free agency. It should be quite an exciting time for Jazz fans.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Great take. One other point about the Burke / Smart contrast: defense. If Trey Burke is one of your three best players, which he may well become, you’d need to protect him with a lot of other strong defenders. Marcus Smart is a defensive monster. Pairing him with Favors would provide a very strong defensive foundation.

  8. Aaron says:

    If no trade up, the Jazz could take Smart at 5 (solves perimeter defense and ability to collapse opponent’s defense issues that the Jazz have had), and then Jarnell Stokes at #23 (who statistically is in the same ball park as Vonleh and Randle). Pick up your wing shooter by either trading for pick in lotto (such as Lakers using Burke, rights to Tomic and #35) or using #35 (CJ Wilcox, Dinwiddie, etc.).

  9. Mewko says:

    I have a great comparison for Zach LaVine: It is Giannis Antoaldsfala whatever. AKA The Greak Freak.
    Lavine will be drafted from 11-18. Giannis was drafted mid first round last year also. If there was a 2013 re-draft, the Greak Freak would go top 6. I have a feeling in a couple years, teams will be wishing they hadn’t passed on LaVine. He’ll be better in the long term than Stauskas, Dario Saric, and possibly Vonleh and Gordon. He could be at the same level as Marcus Smart, just developed later and drafted 10 spots later.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Lots of people agree. I’m not sold. Giannis was a raw prospect who grew up playing in Greece. LaVine grew up playing in the US, including a year at UCLA. I know the situation wasn’t the best there with the coach playing his son and stuff, but I still question a player unable to make a greater and more consistent impact than LaVine did. If his shot really is as good as people hope and he demonstrated in that short span last season, he could be great. If not, he’s the type of raw athlete that could require so much development a coaching staff simply writes him off. The best thing for him would be to go late enough in the draft to land on a team with enough talent to be patient.

  10. Paul Johnson says:

    If you evaluate the traits that make a player a star, it would be easy to conclude that Marcus Smart has the greatest chance of becoming a star out of all the players in this year’s draft.

    Smart has great size, strength and athleticism for his position of point guard. Wiggins has great size and elite athleticism for his position of SF, and should be able to develop strength. Parker is somewhat of a tweener–he has great size and strength for a SF, but not elite athleticism for a SF; he has great athleticism for a PF, but not great size or strength for a PF. Both Smart and Wiggins have the ability to be superior defenders. It would appear that Parker will be a below average defender and will probably be a liability on defense, whereas it appears likely that he will not be able to competently defend either small forwards or power forwards.

    Smart has the proper mindset to be a superstar. In addition, he has the leadership ability to make his teammates better. There is a big question mark about whether Wiggins has the mindset to be a superstar. There is also no indication at this point in time that Wiggns has the ability to make his teammates better. Parker has the mindset to be a superstar, but has not shown the ability to make his teammates better (ala Carmelo Anthony).

    Parker has a superior skillset–his best trait. Wiggins has a decent skillset, which he should be able to continue to develop, but there are particular concerns about his ball-handling abilities. Smart has an above average skillset. He has a need to improve his playmaking and shooting, but has great ball-handling dribble penetration skills and has great post-up skills–even against much larger players. Both Wiggins and Smart has the ability to be superior defenders at their positions.

    With Smart having all the size, athleticism and intangibles to be a star, and with only deficiences in his skillset that appear to be fixable or for which he can compensate—it would seem that he has a greater probability of becoming a star, than even Wiggins or Parker.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      You make a good argument. I’d take Wiggins over Smart because Wiggins is a top 1% athlete by even NBA standards. Personally, I think he can be a 6’8″ shooting guard, and he’s plenty fast enough to guard that position. Combine that with what I believe to be very good shooting mechanics and his greater youth, and I think he has the potential to be something almost unseen in NBA history: the best athlete on the court who also happens to be the best shooter and the best defender. LeBron is a much better passer and is so much stronger, and Wiggins will never be those things. But I think he will be a better shooter than LeBron.

      The only concerns I have with Smart are his shot and his proclivity to take questionable shots when he’s capable of pressuring the defense to get his teammates a better shot. If he can develop more of the Stockton/Nash ability to maintain the dribble on the interior of a defense, he could be impossible to handle. You cannot keep him out of the paint, he’s too strong.

      Hearing the Jazz are really considering him at 5, and I’m getting excited.

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