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Kevin O'Connor & the 1st Round - A Scary Combination?

Let me preface this by saying that I know the Jazz haven't exactly been swamped with "good" picks (lets say top-15 is good? or should it be higher?) during the Kevin O'Connor era. There are plenty of reasons for this. Stockton & Malone. Sloan. Deron. Luck. Team play. Whatever you want to thank, you can. But still... the Jazz have had a 1st round pick every year since O'Connor took over. And obviously you're looking for someone to have an impact, or you wouldn't even draft anyone (or draft someone to leave overseas forever). And there are always late 1st-rounders/early 2nd-rounders who make an impact, you just have to find them.

I also know he's had some hits in the 2nd round. We'll worry about that later. For now, I'm just looking at the #9 pick, and wondering how I should be feeling about the Jazz having the pick.

In his time, he's explored pretty much every possible draftable area in the 1st round. Save for 1 (more on this later). A quick glance doesn't give us much to be hopeful about. And further glance just seems to support that feeling.

2009- PG Eric Maynor, VCU (Senior)

Its too early, but indications seem to be "hit". Of course, he dealt Maynor to Oklahoma City half a season in, giving him in the shortest stay of any Jazz 1st rounder KOC has drafted (and not traded on draft day). The next PG to go was Darren Collison (UCLA, Senior), who went to the Hornets 1 pick later. There were plenty of people on the Collison bandwagon, but he expressed a disinterest in coming to play behind Deron Williams, all but ending his chances of landing here. The pick was good; the outcome doesn't seem so hot though.

2008- C Kosta Koufos, Ohio State (Freshman)

Seemingly a "miss", but maybe he'll have 1 more shot? He's gotten his chances and done decent in the NBDL, but time has been much more limited in the NBA, being stuck behind Mehmet Okur, Jarron Collins and occasionally Kyrylo Fesenko. There are big issues with his game (he goes up too weak, for one) the haven't seemed to change much in his time here. Whether thats on him or on the Jazz is unknown, but it hasn't work out as well. The next C to go was Serge Ibaka (Europe, 2 years), though he's marked down as a forward (he went the pick after Koufos). The next C (according to the NBA draft board) to go was DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M, Freshman) who went 13 picks later (in a different round too). Bad pick, but options weren't good. All young, inexperienced guys... it would come down to development. Jordan & Ibaka are both shot-blocking forces, Koufos not so much. Arguably the Jazz should've gone another direction here.

2007- SG Morris Almond, Rice (Senior)

A definite "miss". Not so much because he couldn't play, but because he never got a shot before being kicked to the curb. He did shine in the NBDL though. He just didn't seem to play enough defense for Sloan. The Jazz took him because they needed a shooter and a 2-guard, or so they thought. Ronnie Brewer exploded in his second season, making this pick more-or-less irrelevant. Almond came in as a shoot-first guy who was used to having the ball. He seemingly struggled to adapt to a "sidekick" role, though his numbers when playing with the starters weren't too bad. A knock on his game from the start was defense... and that remains the case. The next SG to go went 2 picks later. It took a new team, but Arron Afflalo (UCLA, Junior) seems to have come around as a defensive presence of sorts. Which the Jazz needed even back then. Wasted pick.

2006- SG Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas (Junior)

A "hit". But like the last "hit', he's now on another team. Brewer was never going to be the outside shooting wing the Jazz were looking for (at least seemingly looking for, given that Jeff Hornacek hasn't laced up in like 10 seasons). That was known from the get-go. He is a slasher who can play some D. He did that here. There were rumors the Jazz liked Thabo Sefolosha (Europe), but he went the pick before the Jazz. The next 2-guard to go was Quincy Douby (Rutgers, Junior), who went 5 picks later. So, 2 of KOC's last 4 first-rounders have been good, but neither guy is still on the team.

2005- PG Deron Williams, Illinois (Junior)

A no-question "hit". The Jazz needed a PG, and after a trade up from #6 to #3, they got their pick of the so-considered 3 best PGs in the draft (at the time)... Williams, Chris Paul (Wake Forest, Sophomore) and Raymond Felton (North Carolina, Junior). Williams was considered a better fit for the Jazz offense (at least by the Jazz) and somewhat more durable, which the Jazz had come to expect with John Stockton at the helm. It'll constantly be debated whether the Jazz took the wrong guy or not, but quite honestly, this was a "can't blow it" pick, and KOC didn't blow it. This pick (#3) was the highest KOC has ever had, and luckily it worked out. This years picks (#9) is the next highest pick KOC has seen. The lone "hit" for KOC still on the team (and 1 of only 2 first-rounders still on the Jazz).

2004- PF Kris Humphries, Minnesota (Freshman); SG Kirk Snyder, Nevada (Junior); C Pavel Podkolzin, Europe (2 years)

Miss. Miss. Miss. The Podkolzin-to-Dallas trade worked out... it net the Jazz a first rounder that eventually was used in trading up for Deron Williams. Humphris struggled in trying to replace Karl Malone (that seemed to be his mission), and he was eventually dealt away for Rafael Araujo, who at the time he came out was considered "immediate impact" and the best center of the class (yikes!). Kirk Snyder lasted 1 year before being traded away in a deal that net the Jazz... Greg Ostertag. The next PF to go after Humphries was some guy named Al Jefferson (high school), he went 1 pick later. If the Jazz were willing to try and develop a guy (which seems like the case when you take a freshman), maybe the guy 1 year younger (but more of an inside presence) was worth a bigger look? (Though there's 1 really good reason for KOC to be scared of high schoolers.) Two picks after Snyder saw the next SG go, one JR Smith (high school). Again, high schoolers might've scared KOC (especially high-school 2-guards with questionable mental make-up) but still. Snyder was 'loved by everyone' though, so maybe the Jazz just went with the flow here? I'm guessing Podkolzin was Dallas' pick, but if not, the next C to go was David Harrison (Colorado, Junior) 8 picks later. If the Jazz wanted a big, he was probably a better bet than Podkolzin (or re-trading for Ostertag) to have any sort of impact.

2003- SG Sasha Pavlovic, Europe (3 years)

Miss. Pavlovic lasted all of 1 sub-par year (without enough playing time to develop) before being left unprotected in the expansion draft (and Charlotte took him). The pick right after him was Dahntay Jones (Duke, Sophomore), who has himself become a passable 2-guard who can hold his own defensively. Again, something the Jazz needed.

2002- C Curtis Borchardt, Standford (Junior)

Miss. Entering the league, there were injury questions. They never let him be, and he was injured most of the time he was in the league. He was actually taken 1 pick before the Jazz... the Jazz then drafted Ryan Humphrey (Notre Dame, Senior) and traded him (with their 2nd round pick) for Borchardt. Which never made sense. If the Magic wanted Humphrey, why not just draft him? Especially when you have no idea who'll be around in the 2nd round. Anyhow, 4 or 5 picks after this mess came the drafting of Nenad Krstic (Europe, 2 years) who is still in the league, making him better than the other 2 guys by default. There was also some thought the Jazz liked one Carlos Boozer, but they ended up passing and he fell to the 2nd round.

2001- PG Raul Lopez, Europe (2 years)

Miss. I'm not sure how to grade KOC on this. Lopez, like Borchardt after him, saw his career derailed by injuries. The other thing is that the Jazz decided they loved their roster, meaning they had no space for a rookie. So they drafted a guy that was going to stay overseas for a year, instead of picking a different PG. And by different, the 2 next PGs to go were Jamaal Tinsley (Iowa State, Senior) 3 picks later and Tony Parker (Europe, 2 years) 4 picks later. There seemed little doubt at the time that Parker would've been a better pick, but the Jazz needed the guy to stay overseas for an year, and Lopez was more likely to do that. The Jazz went with Lopez, and he showed up 1 year later and met his new best friend, the injury bug.

2000- SG DeShawn Stevenson, High School

Miss. He's still in the league, but his time in Utah was a mess. The Jazz needed a 2-guard with Jeff Hornacek hanging up his sneakers, and they went with the high schooler. It was a marriaged doomed from the start, when he was arrested on draft night for some reason or another. He didn't get off the bench much early, and never fully developed (as an athlete or as a person, it seems). There weren't really other options though; Marko Jaric (Europe, 2 years) went 7 picks later, and Eddie House (Arizona State, Senior) went 14 picks later... both in the 2nd round.

 

So...

In the end... obviously KOC hasn't exactly had many "no brainer" picks. And he's often seen his guy taken before his pick. But still, you'd hope he could find guys that would contribute for the Jazz... and not just as cheerleaders and NBDL send-downs. He does have a good track record in the top-10, but its a very small sample choice (1 hit, 0 misses). Like I said above, he's tried everything. Foreign players. High schoolers. Small schools. Big schools. Freshman. Seniors. Juniors. The one area he's avoided is sophomores. He's had chances (Chris Paul, Dahntay Jones) but has passed on them.

He also has, overall, a horrible track record (even if half the picks were in the 20s). 12 first rounders. Just 3 hits. Just 2 guys (and only 1 of the hits) still on the team. Obviously hindsight's ... well, hindsight-y, but there were other options if KOC was drafting for position that seemed like better options. 6 of his 12 picks are still in the league, 2 of them having gotten new life after leaving Utah and 1 more potentially looking at that type of situation playing out.

Assuming that the Jazz don't trade up and that John Wall and Evan Turner don't fall, that leaves the Jazz with a couple of options. There's no real small school options, and obviously no high schoolers. There's high-risk guys galore. There's a Europe-born player. Bigs. Wings. Whatever the Jazz want. But to note... there is one guy being mentioned that is a sophomore, so history is against him it seems. That guy? One Greg Monroe.

Just saying. So there's reason to be worried as a fan, even if KOC hasn't missed in the top-10 yet. His first round record isn't uplifting, and with mostly everyone being talked about in the top-10 being an underclassman (read: high risk), you have to worry that the Jazz might select another Kris Humphries or something. That said, there isn't enough to narrow down how the Jazz might draft (some guys seem to prefer big-school guys, or low-risk guys, or only freshman, or something... KOC has shown the willingness to draft whoever he wants).

So, as the draft approaches... just realize that a 1st round pick in the top-10 doesn't guarantee a safe pick, or even someone that'll have an impact (Adam Morrison, anyone?). KOC has his work cut out for him... and draft history has to make you wonder if he'll be able to find the best player for the Jazz (you know... someone that Sloan will let see the court occasionally would be nice).

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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