Utah Jazz Nearing Draft Pick In Top 10
After starting off the season in strong fashion, the Utah Jazz have now dropped three consecutive games and are currently just a half game away from possessing the eighth-worst record in the association. With 17 more contests remaining on their schedule, fans can only hope that the lottery balls bless them with the opportunity to select French prodigy Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft. At this point, the question that needs to be answered is - how much talent is in this year's crop and with what position should the Jazz look to close the season in order to be happy with the overall outcome?
Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports NBA Draft joined KSL Sports to discuss her insights on the current draft and she went on to explain how she categorized the players this year. Ultimately, it will be up to the Utah Jazz to decide what finish in the lottery standings is necessary in order for them to feel comfortable with their pick.
All NBA franchises will have different preferences when it comes to selecting in the June Draft, however, many teams do use tiers when evaluating the various prospects that could be available when they pick. With the draft still a few months away, Peek has already broken down the draft into early tiers to help guide teams such as the Jazz in their decision-making process.
Victor Wembanyama is regarded as one of the most desired draft prospects since LeBron James, with NBA teams highly coveting him. His impressive performance for the Metropolitans 92 has helped his cause, having accumulated 22.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game in 21 matches.
Scoot Henderson entered the season as the likely second pick in the draft behind Wembanyama, however he has been joined by Brandon Miller of Alabama in Peek's view. Through his season with the G League Ignite, Henderson has shown that he is a valuable asset, averaging 16.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while shooting 47% from the floor and 29% from three. Despite not being able to challenge Wembanyama for the top pick, Henderson is still expected to be one of the top picks come June.
Potentially joining Henderson is Miller, whose performance on the court at Alabama has been outstanding, averaging 19.6 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three on 7.4 attempts per game. Miller has made enough of an impression to be named SEC Freshman and Player of the Year and to become the most prominent player on an Alabama team that is predicted to do well in the NCAA Tournament.
Off the court, however, Miller has been the focus of much attention due to his involvement in a fatal shooting incident. It was revealed that he had given a gun to teammate Darius Miles which was later used by Miles to kill 23-year-old mother Jamea Jonae Harris. Miller has not been charged with any crime related to the killing but the incident will likely be discussed when it comes to his draft status.
Jazz fans can take heart in the knowledge that the middle part of the upcoming draft may hold players of similar value to those who will go in picks 4-10. This means that even though the Jazz did not finish with one of the five worst records in the NBA, they still have a good chance of finding excellent talent in the lottery.
At the moment, seven players have been identified as tier 3 prospects. These players should be closely and thoroughly considered in the pre-draft process.
Amen Thompson is garnering the most attention outside the top three names in the draft, and could potentially leapfrog Alabama's Miller due to concerns away from the court.
Mar 12, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) reacts after their win and scoring 45 points against the Sacramento Kings at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]
The 6-foot-7 Thompson stands out in terms of athleticism and has put up impressive numbers in the Overtime Elite this season with 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. His field goal shooting was solid at 56 percent, but the three-point conversion rate was not, only hitting 25 percent.
Ausar Thompson, Amen’s identical twin, has also been featured for the City Reapers on the Overtime Elite and is considered a top-10 pick in the draft. Most draft experts have him ranked below his brother, however.
Ausar has managed to average 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists this year while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range.
Nick Smith garnered the highest ranking for high school prospects last season and has provided evidence for why he earned the high praise when he has been on the floor at Arkansas.
The scoring guard, Anthony Black, has had an impressive season despite appearing in only 12 games. Averaging 13.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 39 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three, he is on the rise in terms of draft potential and currently holds a spot in tier 3 according to Peek. Recently returning from a knee injury that cost him two months, Black has excelled even further and is now averaging 21.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three over his last four games.
Anthony Black has worked his way up to being considered a potential third round pick in the upcoming draft, according to Peek. His consistent performances while Arkansas star Isaiah Smith has been injured have given Black the opportunity to showcase his talent and make a name for himself.
At 6-foot-7, Black is a true combo guard, averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. His shooting percentages have been especially impressive, as he's shooting 46% from the floor and 32% from the three-point line.
Projections have Whitmore slated to land in the top 10 of June's draft due to his strong freshman season at Villanova.
The 6-foot-7 wing is producing 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game with shooting percentages of 46% from the floor and 34% from three.
Even with little help on a Villanova team that has not had a great season, Whitmore has stood out and shone during his freshman year.
Jarace Walker has received a lot of praise for his performance as a freshman for the top-ranked Houston Cougars. His stats of 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists may not seem impressive, but it's his defensive versatility, combined with his developing three-point shot, which makes him stand out.
Keyonte George is considered to be in Tier 3 according to Peek, thanks to his standout freshman year at Baylor. He is a reliable scorer and facilitator, averaging 16.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He also displays strong percentages from the field and from behind the three-point line, at 39 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
Peek has recently released her top-10 players for the upcoming NBA Draft, and Jazz fans should keep a close eye on Michigan sophmore Kobe Bufkin. The Wolverines star is averaging 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists this season, but the numbers have been on the rise lately with teammate Jett Howard missing games due to injury. Bufkin put up 17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in February and could possibly be a surprise late riser before the draft. If you want to get the full breakdown of Peek's mock or need more draft coverage, be sure to visit Yahoo Sports or KSL Sports.