This is part of a SLCDunk series of articles on players who we stanned for when they were drafted by the Utah Jazz or who we wanted to be drafted by the Utah Jazz, but never had the success we boasted they would.
Morris Almond was a 4-year player out of little-known Rice University. He put them on the map for a few years by earning Conference USA Player of the Year and scoring the 3rd most PPG in the NCAA at 26.4 as a senior. He was that 2 guard that could score on you however he wanted. He lead his team in rebounding and was a willing passer as well. Basically everything you’d want in a shooting guard. Scorer? Check. Gets to the foul line? Check. Spreads the floor? Check. Great intangibles? Check.
His pre-draft workouts went really well, and he singled out the Utah Jazz as his preferred destination. Utah had done it’s homework and really wanted him as well. Draft night came and sure enough the Jazz selected him with the #25 overall pick. And that’s about as good as it got.
I was so excited when I found out we drafted Almond. I’m from a small town myself and can’t help but pull for the guys from mid-majors like Rice. I knew he was a lethal scorer and thought he would fit perfectly onto the Jazz roster at the time. With Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur the glaring weakness was at shooting guard. He was the perfect fit as a shooter and scorer for a team that won 51 games the year prior. He was supposed to give us a scoring punch and put us over the top.
Some draft sites had his NBA comparison as Michael Redd. A guy that can get hot and score in bunches. While his ceiling was limited as a 4-year college player, he was a can’t miss prospect that would have a long career in the league. I was so confident that he would be a reliable scorer, and couldn’t wait for him to get to work and earn his way into the rotation.
Watching these highlights again gives me the sads :( If he were in the draft this year I would still want to draft him. I swear there’s a 6th man of the year in there somewhere. Unfortunately that never came to pass.
How It Fell Apart
34 games. The Jazz used a first round draft pick for a team that just made the Conference Finals and gave him 34 games over 2 seasons before giving up on him. They drafted him knowing he would fit the roster yet he played a total of 361 minutes. I honestly have no idea how it fell apart. Maybe his defense was too poor. Maybe his basketball IQ wasn’t high enough. Maybe he didn’t give enough effort in practice. We’ll never know for sure, but Jerry Sloan didn’t feel he was ready to play after 4 years of college ball so he didn’t.
His stints with the D-League came with great success. I was so excited when I’d check the box score and he had killed it yet again. It actually reminds me of how I felt about Rudy Gobert and his games in the D-League. It just seemed like he didn’t belong there. Morris was a D-League All-Star twice and averaged nearly 26 points a game as a rookie. But he never got any real burn as an NBA player.
After his 2 years with the Jazz he bounced around the D-League and overseas, and also played with the Wizards for a bit in the 2011-2012 season. That didn’t last long either, and he never did catch on anywhere else. I can’t help but imagine what would have happened, say, under Quin Snyder and his development staff. Or if he had been drafted in a different year and was given time to learn and develop.
Instead we are left to wonder what could have been.