NBA History: Most Hyped Player in Utah Jazz History 1: Ante Tomic

A 7'2 big with "go-to" moves that get him to the line? Why would we want that? - Jamie McDonald

To be hyped you really need two things. First of all, you must possess some quality, even if that quality is only potential. Second, there must be a need. If you are good, and no one needs greatness from you, no one cares. For example, Rasheed Wallace was not hyped when he was on the same team as Chris Webber and Juwan Howard back with the Washington Bullets (Washington Wizards). Sometimes, though, you don't even need to be good -- just in the right situation. For example, every point guard who plays in the New York Media market is amazing, and every player who grows up in that media market and plays point guard is *also* amazing. It must really suck then to know that Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Steve Nash, and Gary Payton are all not form New York -- but that doesn't matter when it's hype you are talking about.

And today we're talking about hype.

With the Utah Jazz there isn't a lot of hype generally because, really, there's no need. The national media rarely feels its' arm twisted to hype up our team. Secondly, our team has been pretty darn good for so many years that we never had that glaring need for hype. We did not need a savior, and rarely did we get a chance to draft one. For example, Karl Malone -- the best player of his draft class -- didn't even win Rookie of the Year. He made a lot of All-Star teams though, as that's voted on by coaches, not fans or marketing departments.

Anyway, let's move on with history and look at the Jazz. Who is the most hyped player in Jazz history? This is a hard question to answer, and really there's no singular ONE right answer -- so I have decided to write about two. The first one HAS to be Ante Tomic.

Tomic is a 7'2 Croatian center who the Jazz drafted as a "draft and stash" second rounder back in 2008. He was a monster in the Adriatic league who followed that up by nearly dominating the FIBA under 20 European tournament with averages of 16 / 8 / 2 /1 / 1 while shooting 61 fg%. He was big, and drew comparisons to Pau Gasol. He was not tested well in the Adriatic and had one more year left with his team in Zagreb, Croatia before his contract ran out.

But before we get there we need to look at the Jazz. The 2007-2008 Jazz team had just won 54 games in the regular season, and Utah had averaged 8.5 wins per playoffs over the last two seasons before drafting Tomic. The team started Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer at the two big positions, and had Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Jarron Collins, and Kyrylo Fesenko all on the team. In the first round the Jazz also picked up Kosta Koufos. So, the Jazz did not NEED Tomic right away, and he wasn't going to come over to be the 6th bigman.

The timing was not right, however, you could not be angry at the Jazz for picking up the MVP of his league -- a guy who could possibly be the next Pau Gasol. We needed skilled height and were right in the middle of our "we can't beat the Lakers and their length" phase where the team lost to LA three times in the playoffs in a row. Tomic was some elusive savior in the distance.

He never was brought into our plans, while guys like Tadija Dragicevic at least went down to the Orlando Summer league once. After his contract with Zagreb was up, he signed on with Real Madrid, in the Spanish ACB league. He played for Real for three seasons, never averaging more than 11 points per game, or more than 5 rebounds per game. The statistics in that league are wonky at best, but he was no longer dominating guys like he did back as an under-20 player. By the time his contract ran out it was the 2012 off-season and our Jazz team was already into the whole Al Jefferson / Paul Millsap / Derrick Favors / Enes Kanter / Jeremy Evans logjam.

On paper we never NEEDED Tomic because we always had a ton of bigs on the roster. That said, how could you say "no" to the "Next Pau Gasol"? You really couldn't . . . yet we did. And Tomic, who probably had no reason to ever test himself at the NBA level, signed on with FC Barca Regal. The closest this Euro multi-millionaire every got to signing with the Jazz was the April's fools piece I wrote last season.

Tomic killed it last year, for what it is worth, and finished with 11.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, and shot 62.4 fg% and was All-Euroleague 1st team for the first time of his life. (Stats for 24.2 mpg, btw) By the NBA All-Star break this year he'll be 27 years old.

His current contract runs out after the '14-15 season. If the Jazz were ever going to make a move for the guy hyped up to be the next Pau Gasol it should be happening next off-season with a one year buy-out. But it just may be never now because we have a 7'2 Rudy Gobert on the team now who plays defense.

Ante was good, and shows that he's still good now. He's not a world changer but was once hyped up to be similar to one of the best players in the NBA (over the last 10 years). But he just happened to be owned by us (his draft rights at least) around the same time when we always had a ton of bigs on the roster.

Now that we look to be a lotto team, and he continues to play in Europe and lead a great life playing for championships (won the Spanish cup two years in a row now) and individual awards (All-Europe team, All-Spain team, Player of the month trophies, etc) -- he may never ever want to come here.

Leaving us with the ghost of yet another 'what if' situation. "What if" he really was going to blossom into a Pau Gasol, and how different things would have been for those Jerry Sloan / Deron Williams Jazz teams. Would Memo have gone to the bench, allowing him to not rush back his recovery? Would we have had the length necessary to challenge and contend better on defense? How many years would it take for him to 'gel' with our Jazz team that was winning 50 games a year, and averaging 8.5 playoff wins a year?

The hype remains because he's a) still good, and b) we still have his rights. While he may never ever become Pau Gasol, in the hearts of Jazz fans all over the world, this chapter of Jazz history will forever remain unresolved.

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