Pros and Cons for Drafting Gordon, Randle, Smart, and Vonleh

June 4th, 2014 | by Clint Johnson
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

So the last 365 days gained the Jazz no playoffs, no 26th win, no compensation for the loss of Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap, no coach of the future, no emergent star from the young core, and no top three pick.

Yup.

Well, life goes on, hangovers are blessedly of limited duration, and once Jazz fans pass through all five stages of grief1 they should realize that there will be a number of exciting prospects available when pick five rolls around on June 26th.

The problem is who to select.  And its a doozy.

Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, the two most likely dominant scorers in the draft, are beyond reach now.  Joel Embiid, the new Olajuwon in the minds of many, as well.  Orlando will almost certainly pick Dante Exum to pair with Victor Oladipo in a hybrid guard duo from Hell.

That’s all the christened “franchise” prospects off the board when Commissioner Silver calls Utah’s name.  They will be left with the first pick of the also-rans.  Make no mistake, there will be multiple potential All-Stars left for the taking – but deciding between them will be incredibly difficult as players five through eight are distinguished more by simple differences than superiority or inferiority.  Who will be the best guy, the best fit, the right pick from several possibilities who all look about equally valid?

It’s an important argument that will take place thousands of times before the draft, including among the Jazz think tank.  But as I’m more than opinionated enough for two people, I’ll take both sides for now.  What follows are my arguments both for and against the four players I believe will be under consideration when the Jazz select fifth in the draft.   What follows is, honestly, the best argument I can make for and against each player.

Aaron Gordon

Draft him because…

Gordon will help the Jazz compete to win in every quarter of every game of every year he steps onto the court.  He’s a defense oriented, team-first, coach’s dream in the body of an athletic freak.  There is no better cultural addition the Jazz could add in this draft.  He will be immensely popular with players, coaches, and fans from day one given his worth ethic, energy and dedication, and perfect willingness to do whatever he’s asked.  Gordon will do little to compete for shots and offensive usage with Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, and possibly Gordon Hayward or Alec Burks, and so will help rather than hinder the offensive development of his teammates.  Defensively, he will provide extreme flexibility.  With his combination of size and agility, he can reasonably be asked to guard any of four positions on a given night, making it much easier to cover for weak defenders in a scheme.  Finally, if he is able to reconstruct his shot2, the Jazz might have a player on their hands who combines the defense and energy of Dennis Rodman with the offensive game of Blake Griffin.

Don’t because…

Gordon’s shot isn’t just “an issue.”  His shooting is so bad, both mechanically and psychologically, that he will be the vulnerable link that snaps the whole chain of the offense.  Think Greg Ostertag’s value in spreading the floor.  Also, it will be nearly impossible to play him down the stretch of close games as opponents will foul him intentionally.  As good a defender as Gordon is, he will be overpowered frequently by bigger players, which is a real issue because he is a power forward.  No amount of wishing him into the small forward position, either on his part or the part of Jazz fans or coaches, will make it happen.  He’s a power forward without enough power, a stretch big without the ability to stretch the floor.  Deprived of the chance to draft a franchise savior, would the Jazz really settle for a player who may well become a glamorized glue guy?

Julius Randle

Draft him because…

Randle is the only rookie who may threaten Jabari Parker’s claim to Rookie of the Year honors.  In a Jazz jersey, he will provide essentially all the positives of Enes Kanter (skilled interior scoring, a promising jump shot, and rebounding) without the leaden feet or poor defensive awareness.  While Randle will never be a rim protector, he has the combination of strength and agility to be a good positional defender, which will pair perfectly with Derrick Favors patrolling the paint.  He will be the true number one offensive option the Jazz need by taking advantage of his speed and skill in facing up larger defenders while bullying smaller, weaker players in the post.  And he is an exceptional passer for his position.  In fact, the sum total of his game will be reminiscent of how Karl Malone anchored the Jazz for the better part of two decades.  That seemed to work pretty well.

Don’t because…

Randle won’t really give the Jazz any of the things they really, desperately need.  Instead, he’ll just trap them in the confusing limbo of always being “in-between.”  Paring Randle and Favors will commit the team to a two-big system, but Randle is neither big enough to be a dominant defender nor a rangy enough shooter to stretch the floor to the three point line.  Say adios to optimal spacing and elite defense.  While concerns over his short arms proved exaggerated3, he is neither particularly long nor explosive, and both will rise up to bite him against the power forwards bigger or more athletic than he is.4  He’ll be a fine first option against most of the league then find himself outmatched against contenders in the playoffs.  Finally, his physique is prone to easily gaining weight, which brings additional injury risk and limited fitness and stamina.  Do the Jazz really want to pick a player who traps them in a grayish area stylistically, positionally, and in availability to play major minutes without injury?

Marcus Smart

Draft him because…

Smart will single-handedly change the Jazz’s style of play both offensively and defensively.  His intensity and ability to apply ball pressure will catalyze an attacking defensive mentality, drawing the best out of other defenders on the team, in particular by energizing Derrick Favors.  Simultaneously, his ability to get steals and rebounds will generate open court opportunities and a faster pace of play on the offensive end.  The Jazz will instantly become must watch basketball from a sheer entertainment perspective.  Smart has the reach and strength to play either guard position, and will pair well with the long distance shooter Trey Burke in a deft-handling, crisp-passing backcourt tandem.  He will both inject energy into and demand it from his teammates, bringing an ultra-competitive mindset to the Jazz, similar to Joakim Noah’s effect on the Bulls.  Finally, as one of the strongest point guards in the history of the NBA5, he will allow the Jazz to take advantage of one of the rarest avenues of attack in basketball: posting up the point guard.

Don’t because…

Smart’s inability to shoot will compact the floor, putting pressure on every other position to hit jumpers – which is exactly what this Jazz roster struggles to do.  While his game might mesh decently with Trey Burke’s, their personalities will not.  Each has an alpha mentality that includes leading vocally, and so playing the two together would require deft management by coaches to avoid discord and a struggle for power.  A hard task for a brand new coach.  Yet parting ways with Burke, as might be necessary in drafting Smart, will be a difficult choice, especially to make way for a player with limited experience playing point guard and who has shown, more often than not, proclivity to take it to the hole himself rather than get teammates involved.  Finally, it is hard to see how Alec Burks’ value will not be significantly hampered by drafting a player with similar strengths but also similar weaknesses.  And did I mention that the guy just can’t shoot?

Noah Vonleh

Draft him because…

Of the three elite power forward prospects, Vonleh has the clearest path to the highest upside.  Trapped on a poor Indiana team with painful guard play, he is already a better player than he was able to show in college – and he showed plenty, even there.  He is well on his way to becoming a legitimate three point threat.  Once he is, he will give the Jazz essentially a twin of Derrick Favors who can stretch the floor.  Imagine two 6’10” athletic aberrations with 7’4″ wingspans clogging the paint on one end while serving as an inside/outside scoring threat on the other.  Yeah, the rest of the league is already shaking in their sneakers.  More, Vonleh is renowned for his great practice ethic and love for the game, traits that make him a fine inheritor of the blue-collar Jazz legacy.  It isn’t adding LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but landing an 18-year-old Chris Bosh ain’t too shabby.

Don’t because…

Has nobody realized Vonleh lacks any truly established NBA skill at present beyond rebounding?  Drafting him would put extreme pressure on the Jazz coaching staff to develop his game quickly and thoroughly, and he will require a lot of development.  The Jazz have spent three seasons now torturing fans by rationing playing time for young prospects.  How will they play a young man who simply cannot provide major contributions on the floor for at least a year or two, possibly even more.  Worse, drafting Vonleh will almost certainly force the Jazz to trade Enes Kanter well before his young replacement eclipses Big Turk’s ability as a player.  If he fails to develop as fully as hoped, a real possibility given how raw he is currently, he may leave the Jazz in the position of watching Vonleh peak well below his anticipated ceiling just as they see Kanter exceed expectations on another team.

And So?

That’s the quandary.  Pop quiz, hot shot: What do you do?  What will the Jazz do?

I don’t know.  I suspect Jazz management has, at this point, no real idea either.

How about you?  If the Jazz have the choice of these four players when the time comes for them to submit their selection in the draft, who do you suggest they let it all ride on?

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Clint Johnson

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63 Comments

  1. Dan Clayton says:

    Great stuff, Clint. Very balanced look at the real issues on either side for each guy. I think today my board for those guys goes Vonleh-Smart-Gordon-Randle, but I might change my mind another dozen times between now and then. This is a really tough year to draft 5th.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I agree 5th is a uniquely complicated slot. I’ll bet a lot of team’s front office personnel, if they were completely honest, would prefer picking 8th to selecting 5th. Common opinion suggests selecting 5th presents relatively little added reward with substantially more risk. I’d love to be a fly on the wall as the Jazz brain trust debates.

  2. Mike says:

    I say draft Vonleh… I don’t mind him playing the 3 big man rotation with Derrick, Enes, and Vonleh. 32 minutes for the 3 of them. I don’t think each of them would complain playing that many minutes.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Personally, I think drafting Vonleh would mean the team must part ways with Kanter. Here’s why. Either they extend him or he becomes a restricted free agent. Either way, he won’t be cheap to retain. How do they invest $12 million a season in Favors then add another large contract with Kanter and still intend to keep Vonleh? It doesn’t even makes sense to develop Vonleh until you can trade him, as Favors and Kanter would demand the vast majority of available playing time to justify their contracts. Vonleh’s development would be significantly hampered.

      No, I don’t think the Jazz are thinking of a three big rotation. If they select Vonleh and retain his rights (and I think trading back is a real possibility), it will be because they’ve decided to part ways with one of their bigs from the current prospective core, almost certainly Kanter.

  3. cw says:

    Good work. I say draft Gordon. I think Smart would be a great addition but your point about Smart and Burke coexisiting and the effect on Burks is a good one. Gordon will contribute right away in an area that the jazz really need: defense and playing hard. He’s just about the youngest guy in the draft and does everything well except shoot, and shooting is the one thing that can reliably be taught. I disagree that he has to be labled a 4. He can for sure guard threes, would probably be really good in pick and rolls (they didn’t use him that way in AZ), he can pass and dribble and run, he shot something like 35% for threes in a limited sample size. The only thing he can’t do is shoot midrange jumpers and foul shots. You don’t want him shooting midrange jumpers and almost anyone can be taught to shoot foul shots (unless they have a mental block or gigantic hands).

    I think the most obvious comp for him is Kawhi Leonard. He supposedly couldn’t shoot either, now look at him.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’ve heard the Leonard comp before. Honestly, I don’t think it’s accurate. Leonard shot 73% from the line as as freshman. Gordon shot 42%. Leonard was a solid shooter who lacked range. Gordon is a poor shooter with both mechanical and psychological problems with his shot. He made 16 threes in a 38 game season, so even that 36% mark is highly suspect. Also, Kawhi is 6’7″ and 225 lbs right now, at 22 years old. Gordon is 6’9″ and 220 lbs at 18. He will get bigger and stronger, but he already plays with less quickness than Leonard. If the Jazz draft Gordon with the intent of playing him anything but a minority of minutes at the wing, especially on the offensive end, I believe it will prove a mistake.

      • cw says:

        Suprisingly, I still disagree. Although good rebuttle on the Leonard comp. I’ve watched videos of him and he moves really well. Better than Favors and way better than Kanter or Evans. He’s coordinated. I don’t think positions matter as much as they used either. Plus he’s 18. Lot’s of kids his age are still in high school. There is a very good chance that he will learn how to shoot at least at an average rate. He might not be great on the wing this year, but the jazz are not going anywhere anyway.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          He does move well, and he is young. I also agree that set positions are less important than they once were with the increasing diversity of the game. That said, you are more optimistic about his shooting than I am. I think there is a sizable chance he never becomes even an average shooter by NBA standards for a wing player. That makes me cautious in spite of many other great attributes he brings to the floor. Also, I question whether the Jazz are looking to pick a player who will take 2-3 years before being a serious contributor. I think they want to be in the playoffs two years from now, and Gordon isn’t as likely to help that happen as others players.

          This isn’t to say I don’t like Gordon. I like him a lot as a player. But as for the Jazz taking him fifth… I have significant concerns.

  4. Ginger says:

    In answer to your question I take: none of the above IF Saric is an option at #5. If Saric is not an option, then I’d take Vonleh for his 3-pt shooting and floor spacing.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      The fifth pick would be a huge reach for Saric. If the Jazz really wanted him, they could trade down to the #8 – 10 area and have a good chance of getting him. Also, there are questions of whether Saric would be available to play immediately or if he’d stay overseas, with some suggestion he’ll only be eager to come over to play for a team on his list of favorites, which certainly does not include the Jazz.

      As for Vonleh, consider that he made 16 threes in 30 games. For comparison, Doug McDermott made 96. At this point, we don’t really have a large enough sample size on Vonleh to say with much confidence what exactly he might bring to the table professionally beyond rebounding. He’s tantalizing, but he’s also a major risk.

      • Aged fan says:

        Just curious — if the Jazz persuaded Saric’s fellow Croatian, Tomic, to come over, do you think that would increase the chances of Saric’s coming over this year (in the unlikely event they end up with him)?

        Or a related question: do you think it would be better for NBA acclamation (for either Saric or Tomic) to come together to the same team, or to come separately? Or does it matter at all?

        • Aged fan says:

          “acclimation”

        • Clint Johnson says:

          Great questions! And tough. My sense is the team isn’t expecting Tomic any time soon. That said, I think in the event they did end up drafting Saric, and if they were to bring Tomic over as well, it would serve as minor encouragement for him to brave the jump to the NBA. I suspect it wouldn’t be a major factor, however, as I think Saric’s father holds a great deal of sway in this decision, and he seems to really want his son to be set up as perfectly as possible. That may well mean in a big market.

          As for acclimation, I think it could be of substantial benefit in that regard. I do a lot of my work in education with international students, and there is no question that having a linguistically and culturally safe relationship can soften culture shock. It would help even more because both would be challenged to improve their English in the same settings. In that area, I think it could help a great deal.

  5. Tyler Barton says:

    I think you went WAY overboard on the weaknesses of all of these guys; in any other year any of them would be a top 3 pick if not THE guy in the draft.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      To be clear, neither the pro nor con arguments fully reflect my own opinion on any of these players. This post was to try to articulate the best argument I could make for and against each of them. The cons are worst case scenarios, pretty much, but there are a lot of people out there who believe those scenarios are likely for each of these guys. There will be no sure things at #5, unfortunately.

  6. Josh says:

    Good article. The 5th spot just is not a great spot for us. Tons of question marks with big men. I completely agree that if they draft a big man Kanter needs to be traded. You reference that he will be resigned for close to max money. Could you speculate what that might be and why? It is possible that Orlando could go with smart, instead of exum. I like Smart as a player, but we would not want two small guards on the court together and I don’t see Trey getting traded. I like Smart better than Trey because I think he can finish better around the rim. I would love to see an article about possible free agents and what it is going to cost to resign Gordon. Having the salary cap jump this year does not help resigning Gordon at a reasonable cost, but having Chandler Parsons, Trevor Ariza and Evan Turner all out there as well doesn’t help Gordon. The Jazz need a back up PG is Neto going to be that guy next year?

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Astute questions. Here are my answers:

      Kanter: I don’t think he’ll get close to max money, but I expect him to get in the area of $10 per season. The reasoning is simple: he’s a young big with NBA ability to score and rebound. Big plus young with some skill equals big money in the NBA. Remember, two years ago JaVale McGee signed a 4 yr/ $44 million deal. Kanter will get paid, just watch.

      Orlando: Personally, I think the Magic really like Smart. But unless Exum really scares them off, it’ll be hard to take Smart over him due to the powerful combination of upside and fan expectation. As part of my job covering the draft, I’ve tried to keep tabs on how fans of the top teams in this draft feel about their pick. There are a lot of Magic fans who are already panicking because Orlando invited Smart to a second workout. The team would have to LOVE Smart far more than Exum to risk the backlash from their fans, is my sense.

      Smart on the Jazz: I’ll be honest here–my heart hopes the Jazz pick him. I love him as a player, just love him. That said, I agree they aren’t likely to move Burke, both because of his potential but also because of his contract. That said, I personally wouldn’t have a problem playing Smart at SG because of his strength and length. But I’m also a big fan of Alec Burks, and given I think he’ll be extended at a reasonable rate, there are multiple reasons why even I may not take Smart were I the Jazz. There’s a lot to be said for riding with the Burke/Burks tandem.

      A Free Agent Article: You’ll see at least one. Guaranteed.

      Gordon: I do think his poor shooting this season combined with the other players you mentioned being available steals quite a bit of his leverage. But, as always, it only takes one team.

      Neto: While I have no knowledge whether Neto is likely to be brought in for next season, my gut instinct is no. I suspect the Jazz will try hard to add experience to the team this summer. I think they target next year to possibly bring in Neto, when Trey Burke has two seasons as a starter under his belt.

  7. LKA says:

    Did we forget about Rudy?? When the trades and picks are done it will be fun to see the fall roster..

    • Clint Johnson says:

      In our discussions here, it certainly seems so. I think you’re right that Gobert will affect the Jazz’s choice with pick #5, though probably not significantly. The Jazz are in a position where it’s all about upgrading, and they’ll pick the player they think is the greatest upgrade on what they have now. My guess is the fall roster will include Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, whoever they pick at #5, a veteran they’ve traded for by moving Kanter, and a few other veteran free agents.

  8. Mewko says:

    I think Aaron Gordon can be a small forward star. He’ll have to wait on the bench for a couple years, but he will be a star defensively for sure. On offense, he can work on his ball handling and mid-range shot with his great work ethic. That way he can attack the basket with his great speed, and do a step back jumper mid range. He can bring this team a fast pace on offense, and a tenacious defense, because the whole team tends to acquire traits from the best player. It would be fun to have a dunk contest featuring Aaron Gordon, Derrick Favors, and Jeremy Evans.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      If his shooting really will come around, sign me up. He’d be great. But I’m more confident in the ability of Smart, Randle, and Vonleh to develop as shooters than Gordon.

  9. LKA says:

    Rumor has it Celts are high on Aaron Gordon. To insure that I wonder if a trade to move up for them might be in the works. 6, 17, picks for the 5..Just one spot but if he is there at the five they may want to grab him . This is assuming Jazz don’t trade up or one of the top four fall to five. I think it is very possible for both Vonleh, or Smart to move up to the top four.. But the bigs are crowded. Favors, Kanter, Gobert, Evans. I think Evans fits better as a three. He will need some work but I think he would be better there. I really hope the Jazz keep Gobert. I like Kanter but Vonleh is a upgrade.I am excited for the draft. Let’s get the finals over and get on with it. Remember these players will have tryouts and may impress to move up. The mock drafts are not set in stone..

    • Mewko says:

      Yeah. There really isn’t much that separates Embiid from Vonleh. Embiid is just a little better right now.
      The only thing that separates Smart and Exum is athleticism. Smart isn’t bad, but he isn’t a freak like Exum.
      But I think it would be stupid for Orlando to choose Smart over Exum.

      • Clint Johnson says:

        Embiid is a true center: height, weight, length, the package. He has much better footwork and both offensive and defensive awareness, despite only playing ball for a handful of years. Plus, Embiid has the foundation for a frightening low-post arsenal. Vonleh doesn’t have a lot of that. The big from Indiana is a tantalizing prospect, no question, but Embiid is a different grade of intriguing.

        Also, I keep hearing this narrative of Exum the physical freak over Smart the “good” athlete. That just isn’t true. Exum IS an interesting combination of speed, height, and length. But at the combine Smart jumped 1.5″ higher in both the standing and max vertical. They posted practically identical wingspans (only a quarter inch difference), and Smart was only .07 seconds slower in both the lane agility and sprint. Meanwhile, Smart weighed in 30 lbs heavier and benched 185 lbs a near-record for his position 19 times. The truth is Exum is taller and a smidge faster, but Smart is more explosive and far stronger, while both are equally long. Smart may well be the better athlete overall.

        Also, from watching what little tape is available on Exum, he doesn’t strike me as someone who will dominate athletically like Westbrook or Derrick Rose. He will use his quickness to get into the paint and his length and height to finish at odd angles, which is why I think stylistically he is a lot like Rose or John Wall. But he isn’t the physical anomaly some assume. If he ends up playing off guard (which I predict), he loses the physical advantage that makes him most intriguing: height. Marshon Brooks tested better in just about every way at the combine than Exum, but no one predicted he’d dominate the league athletically. I’m just saying it’s wise to be skeptical about player narratives during the draft, and that’s doubly true of someone as little-seen as Exum.

        • Mewko says:

          So Marcus Smart can be a better rebounder, because he can get his hands just as high as Exum’s, but Exum would get boxed out easily because he is skinny. Marcus Smart can take the ball right to the hole. If Exum tried that he’d fall down, simply because of his BMI.
          I think Exum has the higher basketball I.Q, but Smart isn’t afraid to get hurt, and use his strength. Smart plays with more passion.
          Well who do you think fits better with Victor Oladipo?

          • Clint Johnson says:

            I don’t feel I know enough about Exum to say with confidence how he will fit. I don’t think I know about his IQ, either for good or bad. The guy’s rep is based almost exclusively on four games he had at the U19 Tournament (all four coming after Marcus Smart handed him his lunch earlier in the tournament). Honestly, given the information I have at this point, I am more confident in Smart’s ability to be a point guard, which means I would be more confident in pairing Smart with Oladipo. The one real problem with that would be that neither are dependable shooters from range. If Exum will become that (and there’s doubt there, too), he would be the better pairing, most likely.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’m trying to figure what to make of the Celtics’ perspective on this draft myself. Danny Ainge has been one of the few voices grumbling about the draft being overhyped since the season started. How much of that has been genuine and how much has been show, knowing his team would certainly have one of those high picks? I just don’t know. I do not think the Celtics plan to move up, however. If they trade, it will be to get someone who is already a star.

      As for Vonleh or Smart moving up, I could see that, but honestly, only to #4. Neither Wiggins nor Parker are dropping out of that top three, and Embiid only will if his back gets red flagged, which didn’t happen in Cleveland. If his camp wanted, they could limit his workouts to one more for the Bucks and call it a day and he’d be taken in the top three. The workouts matter, but almost certainly not enough to outweigh what teams saw in the NCAA season. If anyone drops, it’ll be Exum.

  10. Tramayne says:

    I really like Vonleh, but have concerns about adding a third big man with Gobert as the current project that will be demanding minutes next season. If the decision were mine, I would do one of two things, select Vonleh at number five and trade Kanter to Sacramento for the #8 pick and pick up Nik Stauskas. My second option would be to trade the number five spot to phoenix for two of their picks or to Sacramento for their #8 pick and a future pick, but I would use that #8 pick to draft Stauskas.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Stauskas would be a good fit. He can really shoot, but he’s got more to his offensive game than that as well. Trading back makes some sense to me, though I doubt the Kings would want Kanter. I think they’re looking for a more veteran presence. Also, recent word is the Jazz are most likely to stay where they’re at with pick #5, and the same is true of the Bucks, Sixers, and Magic. That may be posturing, but if not, I think it’s very unlikely the Jazz move pick #5. Pick 23 and a player for a veteran, that I think may well happen.

    • Mewko says:

      If Milwaukee really likes Noah Vonleh, then we send over Alec Burks, #23, and #5 for their number 2. Milwaukee would have B. Knight, A. Burks, G. Antetokutombo, N. Vonleh, and J. Henson. We would have Kanter, Favors, Parker, Hayward, Burke. In that case, I would want a defensive specialist to be head coach, and repair Parker’s defense. Quin Snyder.

  11. Don says:

    The big three are about as likely to be stars in the NBA as we have seen from the draft in a long time. But draft history indicates that there will likely be 1 or 2 more just as good as them. The trouble is, no one knows who those other 2 are.

    Since we can’t get one of the big 3, if there is no hands-down winner at 5, it seems like we should trade down and try to get 2 picks in the top 18 or so, increasing our chances of catching one of the stars likely to develop from that range.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Personally, I am confident either Smart or Randle will end up one of the top three players in this draft. I am likewise convinced either Embiid or Exum will prove a bust.

  12. Glen says:

    Great article! A article I would like to see written in the future and I hope this is on the roadmap is How do we get Tomic to come over next year? This could be the potential lineup next year if we draft Gordon.
    1- Burke
    2- Hayward
    3- Gordon
    4- Favors
    5- Tomic
    6th man- Burks

    I think that is a win now team! Sign some shooters through free agency to come off the bench and I think we are a pretty scary young team. If we pull off the miracle and get a trade to work to get Parker and we have a foundation for years
    1- Burke
    2- Hayward
    3- Parker
    4- Favors
    5- Tomic
    6th man- Burks

    It all depends on Tomic. Everything I hear is it is next to impossible to get him over but I don’t know the reasoning. Help me out Salt City Hoops?

    • zach says:

      In my opinion…1)He doesnt want to come to Utah, and 2) there has always been a logjam of bigs in utah, he would sit the bench (Boozer, Okur, Jefferson, Milsap, Fesenko, Koufos, Evans, Favors, Kantor).

  13. sptfrye51 says:

    I wish people would stop saying the Jazz let Millsap and Jefferson go for nothing. How easily people forget that the Jazz would not have been able to do the trade with the Warriors last offseason if they had not waived their bird rights to Millsap and Jefferson. That is why they were able to take on so much salary, without having to give anything back. No, the Jazz did not trade either player, but they did not go for nothing as the Jazz received several picks including 2 first rounders.

    • Mewko says:

      That was an awesome trade. We gave up Kevin Murphy, who we never used anyway, and we strongly stated that we were rebuilding. The Warriors were able to sign Igudala, but they didn’t improve in their play-off seed anyway.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Fair enough. I think one could easily argue that exchanging an All-Star and All-NBA center for those picks was poor value. Ironic that Millsap and Jefferson now fit those accolades, isn’t it.

  14. Mark says:

    Julius Randle is still my pick at 5. He has the ability to contribute right away. He will work in the rotation with both Favors and Kanter. Kanter may still need to be traded but it doesn’t have to be right away. We will have time to see how he develops still. You really discredit how athletic Randle is in your weaknesses. The college game didn’t let him showcase it very well, especially not in the system that he was in. They asked him to be a bull in a clogged paint and he was. He will beat bigger PF off the dribble and will back down the smaller ones. He will have to prove that his jumper can be consistent to make it all work but the framework is there.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      The con argument against Randle represents the viewpoint many hold of him, not mine. Personally, I agree with your assessment. I’m a little bemused that the player who one year ago was constantly compared to Andrew Wiggins in a contest of who is better has fallen in esteem after being the most consistent of the top prospects and leading his team to the national title game. I think Randle is undervalued. If the Jazz end up with him, I will be very happy.

  15. LKA says:

    I have seen the words can’t, impossible, won’t, no chance mentioned here. Same words as last year when Jazz picked up Burke.. Tomic will never wear a Jazz uniform. And yes I used the work never. But mine has much more of a chance..

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I thought moving up last year was a real possibility, and said so publicly. I may be wrong, but this season, I think it is extremely unlikely.

  16. Matt says:

    No on Vonleh and Randle. The Jazz already have two starter quality PFs and Gobert could turn out to be a nice C. I don’t see that these two are an upgrade over the extant bigs. If the Jazz draft one of them, I hope it’s for an impending trade.

    Smart could be a great player but I’m not sure how well he fits with Trey – and I see him as a lateral move if Trey were traded (he remedies Trey’s defensive weaknesses but at the expense of shooting and running PnR). Burks needs big minutes at SG to see how good he can be. Also, Smart is a mega-flopper, it’ll be hard to cheer for him . . .

    Gordon is the most intriguing of these (IMO). If his FT% was even 60%, he would be in the conversation for top 3. I really like his D and ability to guard multiple positions. And his motor and intangibles. AND THE DUNKS! Floor spacing is certainly a big concern with him on the court, but I’m encouraged by his 3PT% and awareness/determination to fix his FT. Even if his jumper doesn’t improve much, he is awesome in transition, on cuts, O rebounding, and could be excellent in PnR situations (on both sides of the ball).

    Of these four, I think Gordon is the best fit for the Jazz and has the highest upside.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      If he can play the 3 and become a passable shooter, you’re right. I wouldn’t bet on either of those things, though. The Jazz just might make such a bet, however.

  17. Paul Johnson says:

    Would there be a problem with having a three-man rotation at the PG-SG spots of Burke, Smart and Burks. I really see no problem at all with drafting Smart. I too really like the way he plays. In the games I watched it seemed that his aggressive style was very infectious with his teammates–he had them all playing the same way. As far as his jump shot goes, I certainly think he can become at least as good a shooter as Burks and Hayward, who both have their moments.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I think using Burks as a sixth man off the bench would be dynamite, but I question whether he would be satisfied with that role long-term. I simply don’t know. He might pull a Millsap and seek the role he wants elsewhere, and if he did, I couldn’t blame him.

      As for Smart, as I see it, the Jazz choice is really between two players and he is one of them. I also am optimistic when it comes to his jump shot, though admittedly, there is a lot of work to be done. He has multiple mechanical glitches in his form (dropping the ball too low and to the left, kicking his feet forward which often rotates his body, over-rotating the ball on release) and really needs to improve his discretion on when he takes long jumpers. That said, with more talent around him, I expect his judgment to improve. And a real key is that when his temperamental mechanics don’t get in the way, he shoots well and softly. Aaron Gordon, on the other hand, never really has a pretty make on a shot, which is why I’m more skeptical of his ability to develop as a shooter.

  18. feedo says:

    Great summary. Curious what Orlando might want in a trade to swap spots with the Jazz and more comfortably pick up Smart. What would the Jazz be willing to give to move up just one spot?

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I think this would be a realistic scenario if the Jazz are sold on Exum. If Magic fans loved Smart the way they did last year, I think the Jazz could get away with swapping #5, #23, and maybe a highly protected future first. But having followed sentiment as best I can in Orlando, the team would have to get more than that for even that one spot purely to cushion the backlash. Lots of fans are sold on Exum being in the Wiggins, Parker, Embiid class. Personally, I think it would take one of the Jazz’s young prospects plus their two firsts this year, and they wouldn’t be interested in Burks. Maybe Kanter? I think the Jazz would balk at the price.

  19. zach says:

    I see Vonleh (6’10” 240lbs) as a comparison to Marvin Williams (6’9″ 237 lbs). Marv is a career 10/5 guy, with a .335 3pt%, a solid strech 4. Noah may shoot slightly higher percentage, and may get a few more rebounds. I believe Noah is only a PF and his ceiling may be higher than Marv, but not much. I say we resign Marv, this will also give us the veteran presence and an unselfish player who may be cheaper. The # 5 pick over 5 years will cost roughly 18.4 million. I believe Marv will take a pay cut (due to value and desire to stay in Utah) and can be signed for 3-4 years at $3-4 mil per year. We know what we can get from Marv, Noah is much higher risk for not as much reward. The best option is to trade the pick, either up for a big 4, or down for a later pick and multiple/future picks.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I want the team to retain Williams and believe they will. As for trading the pick, I just think that is unlikely given current developments. We’ll see how things play out and if that changes.

      • zach says:

        So do you believe they will keep this pick and select at #5? I think it will be traded one way or another. Like you said to Dan Clayton, #5 this year is a bad place to pick..unless they are sold on somebody or one of the big 4 slip.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          I do think they are most likely to keep the pick and select 5th. I think they would trade up for the top three prospects (particularly one of Wiggins or Parker), but the price will be too steep and they’ll decline. I also think they’ll investigate trading back but end up not doing so because they won’t have what, say, the Kings need: a quality veteran to support an immediate run at the playoffs.

          I think the Jazz see team building as a series of quality decisions becoming greater than the sum of the parts. If they don’t have an opportunity to trade for the right price, they will pick the best player available given both talent and need. My best guess is they take Marcus Smart or Julius Randle, largely dictated by their assessment of Kanter. If they believe he and Favors are worth betting the farm on, they’ll take Smart. If not, I suspect they will be comfortable with the Burke/Burks backcourt (particular on what it will cost them the next few seasons) and pick Randle to pair with Favors. (If they think Aaron Gordon can really be a SF, they may go that direction, but that doesn’t match my assessment of him as a player.) If they did go Randle, it would make sense to try to trade Kanter for a veteran piece of the puzzle, probably by including pick #23. That’s my guess.

  20. zach says:

    The Jazz can pull off another Golden State deal, this time with Memphis. Memphis is in a win-now position with Gasol/Randolph/Conley and a decent bench. They need 1-2 players to really make a push, their problem who is playing 25 min a game with 6 points, and is paid 7.7 mil next year in the last year of his deal. We can take Prince plus the unprotected 2017 first rounder for, say, the unguaranteed contract of Ian Clark, the Jazz have the money and they need to spend it. This will allow Memphis to grab a player like Evan Turner and/or Pau Gasol. Utah will have their own pick, Golden State and Memphis in the 2017 first round. The Jazz may be contending in 2017 and one of Memphis or GS may not, this will get us 1-2 lottery picks that year.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Note sure about this deal in the specifics, but I do think the Jazz will strongly consider using cap space to absorb a bad contract if the incentive is right. That said, I think their preference may be to invest that in a quality veteran starter to ground the young players for two or three years.

  21. @jeffersoniandoc says:

    Very little in the comments about Vonleh, I’m surprised. I just can’t see how Randle gives you more than Vonleh. I read a write up that was critical of Vonleh but all the criticism seemed directed at completely coachable deficiencies (positioning, passing out of the post, etc). With a player development coach like Snyder at the helm, I’m confident these will be corrected. And I believe Lindsey is very high on the skill of shooting. I look at San Antonio as evidence, everyone on the team can shoot. Everyone is a three point threat, which makes their offense unstoppable. Vonleh is the only player in the second tier that can shoot. I think he’s the guy.

  22. I’m more convinced of Aaron Gordon’s ability to play the 3, be a decent shooter and ball handler after watching the latest workouts. And he is only 18. Best fit; least conflict with existing roster; limited downside as at least a premier defender. http://youtu.be/jC52lEJGNo4

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’m always cautious of skills that look good in workouts but bad in an entire season of play. Just a thought.

  23. Clint Johnson says:

    The enthusiasm for Vonleh is, in my opinion, more a product of his workout ability than his in-game play. If we just look at the wingspan and vertical and 49% from three, there’s no way not to get excited. But I watched Indiana throughout the season, and what I saw makes me think Vonleh is both a significant risk and a long way from being a major contributor in the NBA. Of the three power forwards likely to be available for the Jazz, I think he has the biggest bust factor. Yes, he has the tools to be great, but it’s a significant high risk, high reward situation.

    Randle, on the other hand, I believe to be undervalued in popular assessment. He really isn’t an appreciably worse shooter than Vonleh mechanically (there is only a 1% difference in their free throw percentage, for example), though I do think his range isn’t quite as great yet. But he is a vastly superior ball handler and passer. The biggest difference is Vonleh’s extremely limited skill and poor awareness in the post compared to Randle’s incredible skill in that area given his age. Randle is already a more skilled post scorer than all but a handful of players in the NBA. And concerns about his short arms or lack of hops are simply inaccurate. Arguably his closest physical comparison is Blake Griffin! Randle is less than an inch shorter, with slightly longer arms, a greater standing and max reach, and exactly the same max vertical. The only area in which Randle suffers in the comparison is the one so many people see: a lower standing vertical. In the NBA, he’ll score facing up far more often than in college, and people will be stunned with how explosive he suddenly looks.

    I think it’s possible to argue Vonleh is the better prospect, but I find the lukewarm sentiment on Randle completely unjustified myself.

  24. Aaron says:

    It cracks me up that people are so enamoured with Gordon’s defense and ability to dunk. Smart brings amazing backcourt defense (could guard pg thru sf with his size, strength and defensive intensity) which will greatly help overall team defense (people will be amazed at how much better the front court defense will improve once there is good perimeter and screen defense). Smart can shoot much better than Gordon (his 70% ft rate is an indicator and he shot 30% from 3pt with a high volume), he just needs to work on his mechanics. In my opinion Burke is the weakest link of the core 5 due to his limited upside given his lack of speed (and thus ability to get to the rim or break down defenses) and lack of size. He was regularly abused by other starting pgs. Smart has the speed, strength and size to break down defenses and abuse other pgs. Steal and rebounding rates are known indicators of guard success at the next level, and Smart shines in these areas.

    Getting rid of Kanter and keeping Burke is taking two steps back in my opinion. A good backup PF (even a stretch type) can be had later in the draft (see Payne e.g.).

    • Clint Johnson says:

      You make a lot of valid points. I too am more optimistic about Smart’s ability to improve his shot than Gordon. That said, even though I love Smart and would really be happy if the Jazz picked him, I do think that may be a problem with Alec Burks. They have many of the same strengths and weaknesses, and Snyder would have to really base the entire team around two rim attacking guards with questionable range. Not easy to do.

      One other reason I think Kanter is more likely to be moved than Burke is money. Burke will be on an affordable contract for three more years, including this season.(and not including a qualifying offer in year four). Kanter needs to be paid after this season. Financially, the team retains more flexibility by retaining Burke’s rookie contract.

      • aaron says:

        If I were the coach, and anticipating that Hayward will be resigned, I would have Burks as the 6th man. That way, you could run essentially the same offense through both Smart and Burks when either of them are out. The Jazz would need a good shooting SF to space the floor when both Smart and Burks are on the floor together.

        The contract issue with Kanter is a valid point, but we are probably talking about roughly $4M per year difference. Also, Gordon and Vonleh will take at least 2 years to develop enough to be reliable starters. The Jazz could keep Kanter and the late round PF pick for at least a couple of years before deciding which to trade.

        If the Jazz draft Vonleh or Gordon and trade Kanter, we all better hope that Burke improves much more than is anticipated or it could be several very tough years before a turnaround.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          Burks would be a perfect 6th man, if he can be satisfied with that role. Also, you’re right that the team could use its cap space to retain many of the young players on less attractive contracts, trusting they would not underperform and so would be realistically tradeable later on. That would create opportunity cost elsewhere, though.

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