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.
Dzanan Musa NBA Draft Breakdown
Position: Small Forward
College: Overseas on Club KK Cedevita
Standing Reach: 8’9”
Max Vertical: 31.5”
European League Statistics with Cedevita (2017/2018)
2-PT FG%: 60.3%
3-PT FG%: 31.3%
Comparisons: Rodney Hood, Bigger Jordan Crawford
3 Things to Know
- Nice set of both driving and shooting skills
- Good ball handler who uses change of pace very well
- Can he break Euroball habitats that won’t fly in the NBA?
- Shown good range and the ability to shoot from anywhere with a quick release.
- Has the ability to create off the dribble with a nice floater when finishing.
- A good triple threat out of the pick and roll with the ability to shoot, drive, or pass.
- Excellent ball handler who uses changes speeds very well.
- Will need to bulk up in order to guard stronger NBA wings.
- Only averaged 3.5 RPG last season, and will need to work on crashing the glass.
- Played a lot of isolation ball in Europe. Can he adjust his mindset to a new role in the NBA?
- Needs to slow down and think through decisions. Very reckless at times.
Dzanan Musa might be the second best European basketball player in this year’s draft class behind Luka Doncic. Musa, a 19-year-old 6’9” 195 lb small forward out of Bosnia, played his 2017-18 season for a club team in the Croatian League called KK Cedevita. There he averaged 12.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and shot 31.3% from 3. Musa is a very talented offensive player who’s shown off good range and the ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the court. He also has the ability to drive into the paint, especially out of a pick and roll, and finish with either hand around the rim or show. He’s also demonstrated nice touch on a floater when attacking the basket. His impressive ball handling skills helped him create space for his shot off the dribble as he’s shown a great understanding of mixing speeds to keep his defender on their toes. While he’s shown nice offensive potential, his defense could stand to use some work. Guarding on the ball, he’ll need to add to his 195 lb frame if he wants to compete with some of the bigger and stronger NBA wings, and he’ll need to work on his lateral quickness as he has a hard time switching and staying with quicker guards. Off the ball, he’ll need to improve his focus and engagement as he’s shown times where he gets lost on help-side defense. In the rebounding aspect of his game, he only generated 3.5 RPG in 71 games played so he’ll need to work on his rebounding skills and crashing the defensive and offensive glass. Finally, going from Europe to the NBA is never an easy transition as many people struggle or can’t do it at all thanks to different styles and methodologies. In Musa’s case, he played in a lot of isolation situations, which will not be the case in the NBA as he won’t be the primary option on whatever team chooses him. He also had quite a bit of freedom on club KK Cedevita and made a lot of careless playmaking decisions in his passing and shooting. One aspect of playing in Europe that will help him is the fact that he played a total of 71 games last season, an advantage over a college player who only played around 30-35 games in a season. Overall, Musa has shown a good offensive toolset at the young age of 19, but he’ll need to improve his defense and get adjusted to a different role and playing style in the NBA. Look for Musa to be selected anywhere from the late first round to the early second round.
Zhaire Smith NBA Draft Breakdown
Position: Small Forward
College: Texas Tech
Height w/o Shoes: 6’2.75”
Height w/ Shoes: 6’4”
Standing Reach: 8’4”
Max Vertical: 41.5”
College Statistics (2017/2018)
2-PT FG%: 57.4%
3-PT FG%: 45.0%
Comparisons: Danny Green, Norman Powell
3 Things to Know
- Has an insane amount of bounce thanks to a 41.5 max vertical.
- Poor ball handler who could use improvement to strengthen offensive game
- An impressive defender who has the ability to guard multiple positions
- Very athletic with a lot of bounce as he was tied for 3rd out of all participants in max vertical at 41.5” during this year’s combine.
- Shown good driving ability along with a high IQ with good instincts on offense.
- On the ball, he has a nice blend of quickness to contain guards, but also the size and strength to go against bigger bodies on defense.
- Off the ball, uses engagement and quick hands to be disruptive in help situations.
- Engaged rebounder who has a nose for the ball, pulling down 5.0 RPG last season.
- Needs a few mechanical tweaks in his shot as he tends to shoot on the way down from jumping.
- Needs to improve ball handling.
- An improvement in ball handling will help his shot-creating ability off the dribble.
- Weighs only 199 lb and will need to bulk up in order to stay with bigger and stronger NBA wings.
Zhaire Smith is and will be, a fun player to watch for years to come in the NBA. The 6’4” 199 lb freshman out of Garland, Texas has shown a ton of bounce during his lone season with the Red Raiders. During his only collegiate basketball season, Smith averaged 11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 1.1 BLKPG while leading Texas Tech to an appearance in the Elite Eight. Smith’s explosive drives and high flying dunks are one of many reasons why NBA scouts are excited about a kid who barely turned 19 a month ago. Smith has shown that he possesses a high basketball IQ and good instincts thanks to some of the cuts he makes off the ball, which especially helps him get more freedom at the rim. He also showed off a bit of range last season, firing at 45% from 3 point land for the Red Raiders; however, at the next level, Smith will need to work on a few mechanical things in his shooting stroke like trying to release the ball quicker and not when he’s one the decline and coming down. He’ll also need to broaden his offensive arsenal as he mostly played off the ball at Texas Tech due to his limits of creating off the dribble because of his average ball-handling skills and limited ability to create space for his shot. On the defensive side of the ball, Smith possesses a great blend of quickness and size that allows him to both stay with guards on the perimeter, and have the size and strength to body up bigger players; however, his 199 lb frame won’t cut it in the NBA so he’ll need to continue adding more muscle in order to stay with bigger and stronger wings. Off the ball, Smith uses his high IQ to always be in a position to help around the rim along with quick hands and engagement in order to disrupt passing lanes higher up. Finally, Smith has shown he’s got a nose for the ball and an ability to attack and secure the basketball thanks to his 5.0 rebound average per game last season. Overall, Smith possesses a good amount of athleticism that gives him so much potential on the defensive end of the floor, but he’ll need to polish up his ball handling skills in order to give him more options than just driving on offense. Look for Smith to be selected anywhere from the late lottery to the end of the 1st round in Thursday night’s draft.
This is one of the great mysterys of the draft. Smith literally flys off the screen when you watch him. It is incredible. He gets over 50% of his rebounds on the offensive end of the floor, because he just flys in and dunks them. He goes after every one of them. However, he doesn’t have an offensive game. He ran 8 pick and rolls all season. He took just 38 catch and shoot jumpers all season. He took only 29 jumpers off the bounce. Defensively, he should be really special with his skills and strength. He should be able to switch easily 1 thru 4. However, I have no idea how to project his game offensively. This is a gutsy pick whoever makes it.
Melvin Frazier NBA Draft Breakdown
Height w/o Shoes: 6’4.5”
Height w/ Shoes: 6’6”
Standing Reach: 8’9”
Max Vertical: 40.5”
College Statistics (2017/2018)
2-PT FG%: 62.3%
3-PT FG%: 38.5%
Comparisons: Kent Bazemore, Patrick McCaw
3 Things to Know
- One of the most athletic players in the draft with eye-popping measurables.
- Uses his body and great instincts to wreak havoc on and off the ball on defense.
- He’ll need to adjust his shooting mechanics in order to become more than just a driving threat.
- Explosive driver who uses long strides and long arms to finish at the rim
- Decent shooter with good form and potential
- Great defensive fundamentals and instincts
- On the ball, uses active hands and quick feet to contain on defense
- Off the ball, shows constant engagement and focus when helping on defense
- Inconsistent shooting mechanics with a slow release when coming down
- Needs to improve ball handling
- Limited off the dribble on offense. Will improve when handles are tightened up
- Needs to slow down, as he sometimes rushes and makes silly mistakes
Melvin Frazier of Tulane will be one of the more interesting and intriguing prospects available in the late part of the 1st round in Thursday night’s draft. The 6’6” 198 lb junior from Marrero, Louisiana possesses intriguing measurables like a 7’1.75” wingspan, an 8’9” standing reach, and a 40.5” max vertical, which was tied for 6th best out of all the participants at this year’s combine. While Tulane had quite an underwhelming season finishing at 14-17 on the year, Frazier finished the year impressively averaging 15.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 2.2 STLPG. Frazier’s 15.9 PPG come from his explosive finishing around the rim with good cutting instincts and the ability to use his long strides to throw down monstrous dunks. Shooting wise, he finished at 55.6% from the field, but he’ll need to clean up some mechanical issues with his shot like finding a quicker release and not bringing the ball down so low. Also, while he was able to shoot 38.5% from 3, he’ll probably have a longer adjustment period transitioning to NBA 3 range. Frazier isn’t much of a threat off the dribble either; however, that should improve once he tightens up his ball handling as his athleticism alone should help him create space. Finally, he showed flashes of a high basketball IQ and good court vision; however, he made a number of mistakes that could’ve easily prevented if he slowed down and didn’t rush through things, which will get better with time and more experience. Moving to the defensive side of the ball, Frazier uses good fundamentals and technique when guarding on the ball like a low wide stance while sliding his feet with active and quick hands in order to be a very pesky on-ball defender. He also uses his long arms and length to contest and alter shots. Off the ball, he’s shown 100% engagement by never taking a play off as he uses his long arms to disrupt passing lanes as well as good stunts and footwork in help situations around the rim. Overall, Frazier is oozing with defensive potential that would make any NBA team take a chance on him; however, he’ll need a bit of work on the offensive end to hit his true ceiling. Look for Frazier to be selected during the latter part of the 1st round in Thursday night’s draft.
Frazier is one of my favorites in the draft. He has elite defensive skills. He is a multiple action defensive player. The best defensive players can move from one action to the next and Frazier can do this remarkably well. He is the best defensive player I have seen in the draft. He will be athletically capable on his first day in the NBA. Offensively, the hope is he can be Trevor Ariza. That is who I think he is. He has a high release jumper that may have a hard time making the change to the deeper line. Obviously, if he doesn’t make shots it will be hard for him to stay on the floor. He doesn’t have other aspects to his game. His awkward around the basket. He took just 24 jumpers off the bounce and made only 8. He ran the pick and roll 62 times all year and not with much succcess. He is 3 and D or not.