The SLC Dunk team of contributors is profiling all the prospects who could be in the neighborhood of where the Utah Jazz are drafting at pick #24. The four categories that we’re making our evaluations are Strengths, Weaknesses, Jazz DNA, and Fit.
Today, we’re taking a look at an international draft prospect, 7-foot-2 Latvian center Anžejs Pasečņiks. First of all, let’s get this out of the way. The name is pronounced like this. I’m not even going to try to write out that pronunciation. Good luck.
Anyways, internet draft experts are all over the map on this guy. DraftExpress and Basketball Insiders both have him ranked as the 30th overall prospect in this year’s draft. DraftExpress has him going to the San Antonio Spurs at 29 in their mock draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford doesn’t have him in his top 35 and he’s nowhere to be found in CBS Sports’ prospect rankings. However, multiple reports have him gaining steam in the draft process, especially after his April 23 performance for Gran-Canaria against Estudiantes, when he flashed his potential, putting up 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist in 21 minutes. He will probably go early in the second round, if not late in the first.
Unsurprisingly, Pasečņiks’ biggest strength on the court is his size and length. He stands at 7-foot-2 and has a wingspan to match. Looking at his profile and physique, it’s impossible not to draw similarities to one early-career Rudy Gobert. Also, his mobility is really remarkable for a player of his size. His offensive game is raw, but more refined than Rudy’s was entering the league by comparison. He’s great diving to the rim and is a good finisher around the rim once he gets there. He’s already shown some range on his jumper, shooting 8-of-18 from 3 this season. He needs a lot of space and the delivery isn’t fast, but he’s got the touch if he can get it off and he obviously would be hard to block at his size. At just 21 years of age, there’s a lot of potential for development in the next few years.
The most glaring weakness in Pasečņiks’ game right now is his lack of muscle or weight. At just 220 pounds, he’s easily moved off his spot by heavier, stronger bigs. Where the Gobert comparison stops is on the defensive end. From the get-go Rudy had great basketball IQ on defense and was a beast defending the rim, both things that Pasečņiks struggles with. He’s mobile and fluid but doesn’t seem to understand how to guard a pick and roll. He’s just not strong enough to guard the post. He gets pushed around and isn’t fast enough on the reaction to alter a lot of shots. He also struggles boxing out on the defensive glass. These are all things that could be fixed as he gains strength and matures both physically and mentally, but right now he’s nowhere near ready to anchor a defense.
I don’t think Pasečņiks has much of a Jazz DNA right now. While he has the length for the super long lineups Quin Snyder likes to trot out there, his basketball IQ isn’t great and he occasionally has a questionable motor. He is a potential threat to be killed when repeatedly targeted by a pick and roll, which combined with the pick and roll defense of our depth guys at point guard would be bad news bears. These things would lead to mistakes that would likely result in a short leash.
I don’t love the fit for Pasečņiks with the Jazz at the No. 24 pick. I think Utah needs someone in that spot who is able to contribute immediately and Pasečņiks is raw and hasn’t gotten a ton of minutes even in Europe yet. He’ll probably take some more time internationally to develop before making the leap to the NBA. If he’s around at pick No. 30, though, he has some draft-and-stash potential for the Jazz should they choose to go that way. If he develops on the defensive end, he could be the perfect backup center to Rudy in 2 or 3 years. The problem is the Jazz probably need a long-term answer at the position sooner than that.
The Utah Jazz should ...
Not draft Anžejs Pasečņiks because of the aforementioned reasons.