You know that friend who hypes up a burger from a joint that you’ve never been to? After weeks and weeks of buildup, you accompany him to the restaurant only to find the “epic burgers” are just ho hum. They’re not bad, you would probably order one again, but it isn’t something you would go out of your way to eat. Well, that is how this draft felt. After two months of articles, mock drafts, podcasts, rumors, workouts, and interviews, the Utah Jazz drafted Trey Lyles with the 12th pick.
Don’t be mistaken, Trey Lyles is a nice player. He does a lot of things well. He is a good passer, a good dribbler, a modestly versatile defender, and has a good short jumper. However, after the escalation over the course of the last several weeks, the Jazz were expected to have at least one prospect with a higher ceiling fall to them, including Myles Turner, Stanley Johnson, or even Willie Cauley-Stein. Instead, all of those players were snatched up before Dennis Lindsay had an opportunity to make his pick. Now, that isn’t to say that Trey Lyles wasn’t preferred over some of the players on that list, but by most experts and final mock drafts, he was expected to be picked lower. The reason Jazz fans may feel slightly disappointed with the draft isn’t because Trey Lyles was the wrong pick — quite the opposite. Given the available options at 12, Lyles was a reasonable and defensible pick. No, the reason fans may be disappointed is because of how the draft played out early in the lottery and what could have been if picks five through eleven went a bit differently.
Nevertheless, the Jazz selected the 6’10, 240 lb Kentucky small forward. Upon announcement of the selection, Jazz Twitterverse erupted with indifference. Most folks didn’t hate it and, besides Jazz radio voice David Locke, most folks didn’t love it. In fact, even some hardcore Jazz fans shrugged, turned off the TV, and went about their evening. There was no smashing of remote controls out of anger and disappointment, and there was no spilling of drinks while jumping for joy.
The freshman Wildcat is considered to be more NBA-ready than many other prospects due to his impressive basketball IQ and his defensive versatility. It has been well documented that Lyles played out of position as a small forward under John Calipari. This forced him to expand his range and guard smaller faster players, which he did adequately. So while he is not a traditional “stretch four” he resembles a “playmaking four”, a term Zach Lowe recently coined.
As with any prospect, projecting what Trey Lyles will become is very difficult, if not impossible. There is hope that Lyles develops his three point shooting and he becomes a more versatile Patrick Patterson, as Locke so frequently states. It is also possible Lyles struggles to compete at a high level due to his good, but not great, talent profile and mediocre athleticism. But Trey Lyles is said to be a workhorse and has had to adapt his game once already, and the front office is betting he can do it again.
Now, what does the addition of Trey Lyles mean to the rest of the Utah Jazz roster? Well, first of all it means the average age of the team just got even younger. Trey Lyles is 19 and doesn’t turn 20 until November 5th. However, considering he will be a power forward, it also means there are questions surrounding Trevor Booker’s future with the Jazz. Even before the draft, Booker remaining in a Jazz uniform next season was uncertain given his trade-friendly contract. But after the lottery selection, a trade may be on the horizon.
The Utah Jazz also selected Boston College point guard Olivier Hanlan with their 42nd pick. If you are keeping track at home, Olivier makes four point guards on the Jazz roster: Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Bryce Cotton, and Hanlan. That list doesn’t even include fan favorite Raul Neto, who is currently playing professional basketball in Brazil. Similar clouds that hover over Trevor Booker are likely materializing over Bryce Cotton and Trey Burke right now. It is unlikely the Jazz begin the season with four point guards on the roster, so who will be the odd man out?
While the Jazz draft may not have ended with splashy trades or unexpected prospects slipping to Utah, Dennis Lindsay feels like they “did the right thing.” So whether you nodded in solemn approval tonight or exhaled in minor disappointment, the draft is over and free agency approaches.