It appears that no one is 100% certain what’s going to happen in the 2018 draft. Obviously this is the case every year, but it feels like there’s more uncertainty and questioning than previous years. The first three picks were pretty much already known last season as Philadelphia made it clear they wanted Fultz by acquiring the number 1 selection. Los Angeles was all but destined to select the local kid and future face of the franchise in Lonzo Ball at number 2. And finally, the Boston Celtics traded down to number 3, knowing their man would still be available at that time in Jayson Tatum. This year’s draft could be chaos after the first selection as the consensus appears to be that DeAndre Ayton will go first overall to the Phoenix Suns. The Kings appear to be set on Marvin Bagley at 2, but there are still rumors about whether they’d take the ultimate gamble and go after Michael Porter Jr who has the highest boom or bust potential in this draft class. The fun really starts with Atlanta’s pick as they could choose anyone from Luka Doncic, the Spanish league star and MVP, Jaren Jackson, the big man from Michigan State, or even potentially Trae Young, the leading scorer in the NCAA this past season. This draft has players that can make an impact on NBA teams all throughout the 1st round, but who knows what players will be available when.
Specifically for the Jazz, they don’t have to try and hit a home run tomorrow night as they’re in a good situation at the moment, reaching the second round of the playoffs two straight seasons with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to build around. Now with the pillars in place, they’ll need to work on finding some support for their stars. This notion could mean a number of things like trying to draft a young rotational player to develop or package up their pick for a veteran with a year or two left on their contracts. This second possibility should remind fans of the 2016 draft when the Jazz traded the 12th pick for George Hill. Assuming they keep the pick, Jazz officials have already worked long hours and lost sleep, pondering over what to do with their selection. Selecting at #21 isn’t about looking for another superstar as most of the players selected during the late 1st round are rotational players at best; however, they’ll most likely be looking for cheaper and younger options in case they can’t resign some of their impending free agents like Derrick Favors. Dante Exum is also an impending restricted free agent, meaning that the Jazz can match any offer sheet that Exum accepts with another team. The Jazz could easily look to draft a forward to develop if Favors decides to leave, but with Raul Neto’s contract also up, they could look to try and find a potential upgrade at backup point guard behind Rubio if they choose not to bring Exum back. Finally, one last thing to chew on is the old cliche of never prioritizing need over talent. Just because the Jazz have a specific need doesn’t mean that they’ll take a worse player who fits the position they’re trying to fill. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Jazz end up taking someone who doesn’t appear to fit in with the team but is the best player available with the highest potential. With that being said, after researching and compiling breakdowns of a number of prospects that should be available around the 21st pick, here are my top 5 options the Jazz should consider…
- Melvin Frazier, Tulane, Forward
Frazier’s defensive potential makes him way too hard for the Jazz to pass up. He owns a 7’1.75 wingspan and an 8’9” standing reach. His eye-popping measurables allow him to be a defensive nightmare as he’s able to disrupt passing lanes and uses his quick hands to generate deflections. His quick feet also give him the flexibility to guard multiple positions. On the offensive end, he’s already shown that he’s an explosive driver who can finish at the rim, but if he can develop a consistent jumper he could be a real steal at 21 for the Jazz.
- Jalen Brunson, Villanova, Guard
Jalen Brunson has the most big game experience of anyone in this draft. He led his high school to an Illinois state championship his senior year and helping Villanova win 2 national championships in his three years there. Brunson is a true leader and floor general on the court as he takes care of and distributes the ball well. He’s also shown a good ability to shoot with range by shooting 40.8% from 3 last season. He is a bit small only standing 6’2” and he’ll need to work on his defensive footwork and quickness, but look at someone like TJ McConnell, who’s the same height, and how people thought he wouldn’t stick around in the NBA.
- De’Anthony Melton, USC, Guard
Melton is one of the biggest mysteries of this draft. How can you grade someone who hasn’t stepped on the college court in over a year? Yet, if you watch his freshman tape and look at some of his stats, you’ll see why this guy will probably get selected in the 1st round. Another true athlete with a 6’8.5 wingspan and an 8’3.5 standing reach, Melton uses his athleticism to be a pesky on-ball defender and disrupt passing lanes and occupy space off the ball. Assuming Melton improved his offensive game and jumper during his year off, he could be the biggest steal of the draft in the late first round.
- Kevin Huerter, Maryland, Forward
Huerter is one of the better shooters in this draft. He’s a driller who’s shown he can knock down a shot from anywhere on the court as he shot 41.7% from 3 last season at Maryland and 50.3% from the field. He’s shown the ability to create plays in both spot up situations and off the bounce. He’ll need to prove himself defensively with his limited athleticism and 194 lb slender frame, which makes it harder for him to body up and stick with quicker players. Regardless, his shooting ability has climbing draft boards heading into Thursday night, and may not even be available when the Jazz pick.
- Aaron Holiday, UCLA, Guard
It’s easy to see that Aaron Holiday is a really gifted shooter. He averaged 20.3 PPG last season plugging the hole Lonzo Ball left behind. He’s shown good vision and the ability to create plays for his teammates, especially out of the pick and roll, along with the ability to knock down shots from NBA range while shooting 42.9% from 3. The issue for Holiday comes from his measurements as he’s not extremely athletic and only stands 6’0” tall. Does he have the ability to keep up with bigger NBA guards? Whatever the case, Holiday still has the potential to score a good amount of bench points for his team.
Obviously, these 5 are highly debatable options, but they were based on who I analyzed and took a closer look at. I examined Melvin Frazier, De’Anthony Melton, and Jalen Brunson a lot closer than Kevin Huerter and Aaron Holiday. Just as an example, doing research and looking into Jalen Brunson, I personally loved that he has a big game mentality and shown that he doesn’t shy away when the lights are brightest as evident by his championship wins both on a state and national level. Those details are something that people might overlook at first glance when solely evaluating his size or raw game tape.
One final parting thought about this draft class has to do with the potential availability of my top 5 listed above. Because of the structure of this specific class, there are potential scenarios where none of these 5 players are available when the Jazz make their selection and even the highly unlikely possibility where all 5 are still there at 21. This wide spectrum touches back to the question of how deep really is this draft? Are any of these players substantially better or deserve to go higher than others? Will someone like Zhaire Smith who is incredibly athletic yet extremely raw stay in the projected 13-20 range or will teams worry about taking him too high? These types of questions that I’ve learned over doing research the past few days and weeks are the ones that will make predicting what the Jazz will come away with tomorrow nearly impossible. No matter what, Dennis Lindsey has a great drafting track record and Jazz fans should feel good about whatever decision he and his staff come to.
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