It's NBA Draft time. And this means by now we've spent more time reading Chad Ford's thoughts on things than we've read actual world news and events. (Hold on, there's a NEW Zealand now?) So what's one more? This dropped into my inbox from ESPN PR, so I guess that means I'm supposed to plop out a post about it. While there are no specific Utah Jazz questions, here are a few that relate to what Utah Jazz fans may be worried / interested / concerned about. Without further fanfare, here are Ford's answers:
Q. What do you think the Wizards are doing or could do with the 19th? They have a lot of needs. What do you see them doing there?
FORD: Well, they're at the end of what I call a draft tier, and so that draft tier in this draft stretches from about 9 to 19, and then there's sort of a drop‑off and there's other players. They may just be sitting back a bit on this and saying ‑‑ I mean, I've heard so many teams ‑‑ there's like 10 guys that they sort of like in this range, and when you're the Wizards, you kind of take the guy that's left over because of where they sort of sit in the draft process.
I do think, from what I understand, finding a power forward, with Nene in the last year of his deal, would be ideal. I think there's several that they like. They like Bobby Portis out of Arkansas. Not sure Bobby Portis will be there, but he's an all‑around player that does just about everything well, maybe nothing great. They like Montrezl Harrell out of Louisville, a guy who`s very physical and attacking, like Jarrell Martin out of LSU, a guy who's very athletic but perhaps a bit of a tweener, between the 3 and the 4.
And then there's Kevon Looney, who probably is the best prospect of the four, but because of the potential hip injury issue, might choose to go ahead and pass on that there because they actually like a player that they can start to develop this year as opposed to a player that they'd have to wait a full year on.
Q. What are your thoughts on Mario Hezonja, and what risks would a team face taking him so early?
FORD: Well, he's got a potent combination of things that NBA teams like. He has size for position. He's 6'8", can play the 2 or the 3. He's got elite athletic ability. He's bouncy. He jumps out of the gym. He's quick and explosive, and three, he's got a lethal three‑point shot with deep, deep range.
You're always looking at ‑‑ those are the three bigs, right? You have size for your position, check; do you have elite athletic ability for your position, check; do you have one skill that at least typically translates that you can hang your hat on in the NBA, check. You go through this draft and there are not that many players that you can check all three of those boxes off on one. Usually we're checking one, maybe two of those boxes. You check all three for Hezonja.
What's the risk? I don't think it has anything to do with him being a European. He's playing on the second best league in the world right now on ACB. It's better than the NCAA. He's playing on a team that`s made it to the ACB Finals, FC Barcelona. He's played with pros and that`s ‑‑ his entire career and he's got minutes there. The thing about Hezonja is that he has this unusual confidence. There's players that are confident and then there's players that are borderline crazy confident, and Hezonja is right there. And my comp for him is J.R. Smith because I think he has ‑‑ J.R. Smith checked off size for position, he checked off elite athleticism for position, and he checked off in high school an elite skill, that he can really shoot the basketball. All that was true in the NBA, it's just that his decision making, his shot selection and his decision making off the court about what he was going to focus on and whether he was really going to put all this into basketball, that was all the shaky part for J.R. Smith. I don't think I have any of the off‑the‑court issues with Hezonja, but I do have some concern about his shot selection, his confidence, and does he think he's better than he is. If he's comparing himself to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, that's delusional, and you can get into problems when you get into the NBA if you don't know what lane you're in.
If he understands he's in a J.R. Smith lane, and if J.R. Smith had dedicated his life to basketball and stayed out of trouble, we'd be talking about J.R. Smith as an All‑Star, then he's great. If he thinks he's Kobe or Michael Jordan, it's going to be a rude awakening for him when he gets to the NBA.
Q. And if a team is looking at Devin Booker and Sam Dekker, what would push a team towards one or the other?
FORD: I think Booker is so easy because he's one of the two or three best shooters in this draft, and you know he's going to hit open shots. You have a league that is now emphasizing three‑point shooting, and you have several teams in the lottery that are desperately in need of shooters, and so it's just easy. Whether he does anything else or not is a bit irrelevant. I'm not sure that Devin Booker won't turn out to be a fairly one‑dimensional player like maybe a Kyle Korver, but if he does that one thing really, really well, he's going to have a long career in the NBA, and I think teams don't see a lot of risk involved with Devin Booker.
With Sam Dekker, there's a lot more appealing things about Dekker. He's got great size for position, much better than Booker does. He's a great athlete, much better athlete than Booker is. He has more experience, he's stronger, he's more versatile than Booker is. And then the question is, do you believe he's going to be able to knock down three‑point shots. He was very streaky at Wisconsin. Sometimes that shot looked like he was a shooter and other times it didn't.
He's had pretty strong workouts, and I think that's really the interesting thing, and his narrative is ‑‑ with Bo Ryan as your coach, he was incredibly critical of Dekker, he often had a quick hook for Dekker, and that messes with a shooter's confidence, so every time Dekker was shooting the ball, he was thinking too much about it. In a more open system with a coach that gives him more leeway, he'll be more confident and better. That's up to every team and coach to decide am I going to buy that, is that true, is this guy saying that I can't be coached. What do you do with that?
But if he went ‑‑ look, we're projecting him to go 8th to the Pistons right now, which is considerably higher than he's ranked on the big board, but if he went there, I think it's a good fit for Detroit, and I think it's a good fit for him. If he went to Charlotte at 9 or Miami at 10, Dekker could be a really, really good NBA player, there's just a little bit more of a risk factor with him than there is with Booker.
Q. How many of say the top 10 picks are we going to be talking about for years to come, and is there one guy outside the top 10 that you think is going to be a guy that we'll be talking about for years to come?
FORD: I'd say there are seven guys in this top 10 that I'm really comfortable with. Towns obviously, Okafor, Mudiay, Porzingis, Russell for sure, and then Justise Winslow and Hezonja. I think all seven of those guys to me are sure things at some level in the NBA. Whether they're All‑Stars are not, I can't necessarily say that, but sure things and that they're going to be in the league a long time. They're at least going to be starters; they're going to have a significant impact on the team.
And then after that things start to break down and get a little bit shaky because each of the prospects that are left has a significant weakness that if it doesn't get fixed could derail their NBA career.
If there's a guy that ‑‑ let's just project out a little bit and say they're not an obvious lottery pick. There's two players that maybe come to mind, actually three. One is Rodney Hollis Jefferson out of Arizona. He's sliding because he can't shoot, and that's fair. He's not a good shooter. He's a bad shooter. But he does everything else well. He checks off every other box. He checks off size for position; he checks off elite athleticism. I think he's the best perimeter defender in this draft and can defend multiple positions, and he's creative and has the ability to get to the basket. All that speaks to me that this guy is going to have a long NBA career.
And by the way, shooting can be taught. I'm not saying that he will learn how to shoot, but if he ever does learn how to shoot, then you're talking about the steal of the draft.
I think people are not sure what to do with RJ Hunter at Georgia State, are not sure what to do with a difficult junior year where he didn't shoot the ball as well as he could have, but to me he's your prototypical NBA 2 guard who is both a playmaker and has deep, deep range on his jump shot. A lot of the criticisms that were leveled his way were leveled towards Klay Thompson, as well, and I think if he had played in the PAC‑12 or some other league where you're more able to judge his talent and where he would have gotten maybe more open looks than he got at Georgia State, I think we'd be talking about him differently.
And then finally Kevon Looney out of UCLA, great talent, has a hip injury that teams are nervous about. Not long‑term that's going to derail his career, but short‑term that it might require surgery, that it might be that's going to hold him out for a year, and that's causing the stock to slide. But this was a kid that at one point was ranked in the top five by teams and I think has immense talent. It may take a couple of years, but he might be the guy in five years that you're like, I can't believe that kid went in the teens or 20s.
Q. I was chatting with Kevin Pritchard who said they aren't afraid to trade the 11th pick, that there's been a lot of interest, and also indicated they'd prefer not to move back. So given those three things and reading between the lines, what kind of buzz would you suggest applies to moving that pick?
FORD: I heard the first two, that there's a lot of interest in trading the pick, they're not afraid to do it and they don't want to trade back. What was the third factor?
Q. Those were all three, that he's not afraid to trade it, he did say there's a lot of interest, and what he said was trading down is tough.
FORD: Yeah, because I don't think they should, because I think there's talent there at 11 that might not be there a little bit further down in the draft. And trading up, I do believe is a possibility because I think you look everywhere from the Knicks at 4 to the Kings at 6 to the Nuggets at 7 to the Hornets at 9, all of those teams are open to moving this pick if they can get more asset in return.
So the question becomes for Indiana, is there a guy that we feel isn't going to be there at 11 that we love and that's worth moving up. I'm not sure, again, what sort of asset it's going to require, how far they can move up in the draft, because I do think at 11, given the way that the draft seems to be playing out 24 hours before the draft, things are unpredictable and things can change, I think there's going to be several players that Indiana actually really likes sitting there for them at 11. I think there's a good chance Willie Cauley‑Stein is going to be there. I think some concerns about his ankle have caused him to slip a little bit. I think there's a good chance that Cameron Payne, a point guard that they really like, is going to be there at 11, and I think Trey Lyles, another guy that they really like, I think there's a good chance all three of those players are sitting there on the board when they draft at 11, unless they're going to get in the top 7 and be able to change that out for a Justise Winslow or Mario Hezonja or an Emmanuel Mudiay or something like that, I'm not sure it's really worth trading up.
Q. What is one thing that Oubre should work on this summer to take his game to the next level?
FORD: Well, Kelly Oubre is one of the most fascinating prospects of this draft, because again, he checks boxes. He checks boxes for size for position, and he has a 7'2" wingspan and he can be a 2 guard. That's freaky. He checks size for a few skills. I don't think he's an elite athlete but I call him a smooth athlete, and he can shoot the basketball. He's not an elite shooter, but it's clearly one of his skill set, and he has the ability to defend. He has all the physical tools to do that.
One general manager referred to him as basketball illiterate, and I think that's the issue with Kelly Oubre right now. The physical tools are there, and even some instincts of the game are there, but his understanding of the game, his understanding about anticipating what's happening, especially on the defensive end, and you saw this at Kansas, that one of the reasons Bill Self really struggled to play him at first because he just didn't have a feel for what was happening on the court, and it's very difficult to play anything other than on‑the‑ball defense when a player doesn't really understand what's happening with the offense.
I just think that Kelly has been able to survive like so many kids are able to in the AAU culture by being a good athlete and being talented physically, and he got to Kansas and all of a sudden he had to understand the game of basketball, and I just don't think he'd been really coached.
And unfortunately in the college game, there's just not a lot of time for that. I think Bill Self did a good job. I think he forced Kelly to learn how to play defense, but there is so much more that Kelly needs to work. He's been working out with Drew Hanlen pre‑draft, and Drew Hanlen has worked out Bradley Beal, he worked out Andrew Wiggins last year, and one of the things I love about Drew is Drew takes tape of players that you're similar to and he starts to show you the tape so you can start to learn what these players are doing and you can start to learn the game. And then he takes what you saw on the tape and takes you back out on the court and trains you how to do that.
Drew just released a mix tape of Kelly Oubre. You can look at it on YouTube or on Twitter, and you can see Oubre is getting better. He's starting to figure things out. The training is there.
So if he keeps working hard and he keeps learning and he keeps hungry, he could be one of the 10 best players of this draft hands down. But that's what he's got to do. He's got to continue to be hungry, continue to learn, and continue to grow that basketball IQ because it's just low right now.
There are about 25-30 questions, so I hand picked the "important" ones. Of course, I don't know how much this helped. But hey, ESPN, I'm promoting your guy! Gimme a dollar!