Last night was frustrating for Utah Jazz fans, many were looking at this to be the last necessary foray into the NBA Draft. The core of the team has talent at every position, and is poised to grow together over the next few seasons, and grow into a deadly force. One thing the team does not have is skilled depth, and was forced into trawling the NBADL for replacement level players last season. Utah was picking #12, #42, and #54 -- and the hopes were that the #12 pick would not just add another warm body, but someone who adds something to the team that was currently missing. In my estimation the biggest need was an upgrade over Trevor Booker, Jack Cooley, and Jeremy Evans. A legit back-up center would be nice, and a legit stretch big would be nice too. Utah selected Trey Lyles, who is neither, and who isn't immediately an upgrade over Trevor Booker. What Lyles does have over those other three is that he's younger and has room to grow. We could say the same thing about Grant Jerrett, but well, even I sometimes forget that he's on the roster. With the other two picks the Jazz went with Olivier Hanlan, a combo guard who is battle tested through 3,500 minutes in the ACC, and Daniel Diez, who they promptly traded for cash. Hanlan is also poised to make the team if he plays as well as he is capable of, but I do not know if he can easily replace someone else on the squad. Time will tell.
So what did the NBA Experts think? (At this point in time, the experts are limited to ESPN, CBS, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Sports Bank, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, USA Today, and Yahoo! Sports.)
#12 Pick - Trey Lyles:
Utah gets solid grades for drafting Trey here, though there is a variety of opinion on just how well a fit he is. He ranges from an A+ (Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears) to a D (CBS Sports' Matt Moore). Most everyone gives him an A or a B. ESPN's Chad Ford feels that this is a "solid, not sexy" pick. Intoning that this player that has a high basketball IQ, and is a skilled player in his own right, will end up being an "excellent" backup for Derrick Favors. Ford also believes there's a similarity to Carlos Boozer here, and also adds the theory that playing in Kentucky, out of position, hurt him in a way. Who he can be as a player should be a more competitive and robust individual than the roleplayer on a stacked team. '
SI's Mannix believes that "Lyles has solid potential . . . has a nice low post skill set," however, he's not a rim protector and will have to work on being a consistent rebounder to get playing time in Utah. He does echo the idea that you can't judge Trey on his stats or his on court problems because he was playing out of position and in a much smaller role than one he could adopt at the NBA level.
Marc J. Spears sees his flaws, knows he's hard to gauge, but still feels like Lyles, a "skilled, versatile rookie," will be able to make the Jazz frontcourt even more terrifying.
SB Nation's Kevin O'Connor sees a possibility where he is a good fit, giving that an A, but recognizes that as far as opportunities go, this is only a B for the rookie who spent all of last year coming off the bench. He states:
"Lyles will fit nicely with both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, provided he's able to extend his range. He has good shooting form and the Jazz have a good history of developing shooters, so that shouldn't be a problem. Lyles is an average defensive player, but that issue could be mitigated while playing with Gobert or Favors. Most impressive of all is his elite feel for the game playing off-ball. He rarely turns the ball over and can drive closeouts turning into a playmaker."
B/R's Wasserman perceives Lyles' lack of individual athleticism to be something that probably holds him back more than coming off the bench does, yet feels as though he was the "best available talent . . . [and] Utah gets excellent value in Lyles." A significant part of this will be Lyles offensive game, versatility, and comfort level with his back to the basket, or facing up.
The Sporting News' Scott Rafferty believes that "Lyles' potential hinges on his ability to develop into a reliable shooter," and fears that he may not have been the best stretch-big available. That may very well be the case, but in defense of the Jazz, Lyles appears to be an all-around player, more than a specialist. And while this is independent research, the all-around players seem to be the ones who don't make it, compared to the late lotto picks that already have an NBA ready skill. Meh.
Matt Moore (of everywhere) didn't like this pick at all:
"You have Derrick Favors. You want Paul Millsap. Lyles obviously has great upside and the Jazz can make some gambles here, but it's hard to see why they decided to further complicate an already complicated frontcourt."
USA Today's Ruiz also believes that this could be an "awkward fit."
B/R's Andy Bailey has some great info in his piece, gives a lot of good Utah-specific background and proclaims that "being called a tweener is no longer a kiss of death."
Thankfully, Paul Banks keeps it all in perspective: "Trey Lyles brings some needed versatility to the Utah frontcourt to complement Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. This is a solid pick for a young Utah team that has a bright future."
For me, harshly, I wanted the Jazz to get someone who would be no less than the 3rd best big on the roster from day one. Lyles isn't a 7 footer, and thus, isn't an obviously defensive minded rim protector to help spell either Favors or Gobert. Nor is he a dead-eye three point shooter. But he is skilled, he can make shots, create his own shot, and actually has post up moves. I do think he is in that Carlos Boozer / Enes Kanter mode where offensive abilities are way ahead of defensive fundamentals. But sometimes you need a bench scoring big who can give your offense a little punch. I do not think he is immediately better than Trevor Booker, but he has a little more size and length, which makes up for his more grounded athletic ability. He's still an athlete though, watch some videos of him! He's just not a freak athlete like so many bigman currently appear to be. I'd give this a B- for now, but it could become a B+ result in two years depending on his development, and what the Jazz do with the roster.
#42 Pick - Olivier Hanlan:
Not a lot of people gave an individual rank for second rounders, but both Paul Banks (Sports Bank), and Andrew Bailey (Bleacher Report) give him a B (a B and a B- to be more precise). ESPN's Chad Ford feels as though Hanlan is "exactly what the Jazz [need]" as a big guard who can play both backcourt positions. Ford also opens up the topic on a lot of Jazz fans' minds -- can he replace Trey Burke as Dante Exum's back up?
Most everyone is mentioning his PG/SG or SG/PG abilities, but the Sports Bank guys recognize another talent here: "Jazz have young guards on their roster but could use a shooter which Hanlan does very well."
B/R's Wasserman synthesizes both points and adds a new point to consider:
"Though undersized for a 2-guard, Hanlan put up a ton of production at Boston College, where he showed he can handle the ball and score off of it.
He ultimately projects as a playmaking combo who Utah can bring off the bench to generate offense.
Hanlan would have likely drawn first-round interest if he measured in at 6'6". He is a strong second-round value pick."
If he was taller, clearly, he would have been slotted into being a full time shooting guard. Because he was 6'4 (short by today's standards for a wing) he had to play point a little more. This puts the ball in his hands earlier in the shot clock, but also tells us that perhaps he didn't grow up playing point guard. It's hard to tell, because I'm pretty sure he was the "get the ball to this kid" guy at his small French-Canadian high school. When he moved to the 'States to finish high school and spend three years in college I'm sure he had a lot of catching up to do in terms of old-school "put them in a box" position skill training.
I guess it's like the Lyles situation here all over again, where Trey is basically a 4/3, this kid could be a 2/1 -- but with no absolutely defining skill to help build their games around. I like Hanlan here, he's a solid pick and the right pick. I'd give the Jazz an A here, easily.
B/R's Bailey puts it in a Jazz perspective, and perhaps this is the one we should be looking at instead of trying to evaluate a 2nd rounder on his or her own flaws and abilities:
"A skilled guard who has some natural scoring ability makes sense for the Jazz, who struggled mightily to find any offensive production from point guards Dante Exum and Trey Burke.
However, three-point shooting is perhaps Utah's single biggest need and there may have been some two-birds-with-one-stone players available when the Jazz grabbed Hanlan."
The Jazz didn't go with a draft and stash with #42. They got a player. An a player who could have gone earlier in the 2nd round who is also a player who fits a need. And this is probably the distinguishing factor between the #12 and #42 picks. The Jazz needed another bigman, a talented one to help Favors and Gobert. And the Jazz needed some level of bench scoring and actual point guard capability in general. In both cases greater depth was achieved; however, Hanlan achieves it in a way that was lacking for our squad. Lyles is another non-seven footer bigman who isn't going to stretch the defense just yet.
Time will tell who is even on this team come October, but I think Jazz fans are higher on Olivier right now because of where they got him, compared to Lyles who is a very good basketball player, but perhaps could have been available at #14, 15, or even 16. That affects perception here; even though Lyles is clearly the better player in the long run.
#54 Pick - Dani Diez:
Seeing how we didn't even keep this guy, why bring it up? Well, I kinda have to because I'm anal like that. He gets a C individual rating, with this commentary from Banks, "Man, there are a lot of Euro dudes stealing the shine of dumb underclassmen who declared and haven't gotten drafted." And for the record, I think that C grade goes to the Blazers.
Utah didn't gain anything and didn't really give anything up. The trade appears to be for cash, and not a future 2nd rounder. Personally, I would have gone for Mouhammadou Jaiteh here. The French bigman with the 7'4 wingspan and 9'.25 standing reach and a 31.5" vertical jump . . . this seems like a sure fit. The Jazz did work him out, and obviously didn't like what they saw as they had a chance to get him, but decided not to. They know more about him than I do, so I trust in their judgement. I do think that he is better than Jack Cooley. And would be infinitely cheaper while actually giving the Jazz some defensive insurance inside in case Favs or Rudy get in foul trouble. I now recognize that I've written way more about Jaiteh than I have of Diez, or trading Diez.
To give this move a grade would be silly, but as a silly person I feel that I must. Diez would probably have never come to Utah, getting something for him is better than holding onto another European player's rights. Still, not a great pick in a vacuum. I have to give it a D+.
Utah Jazz Overall:
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman gives the Jazz a B+ here. The Sporting News' Scott Rafferty gives them a B-. And USA Today's Scott Gleeson gives Utah a B. I think that's fair. Most everyone gave a ranking based on just the #12 pick Lyles. And most of those people gave the Jazz a B there too.
I think that the unexpected value of the 2nd round pick somewhat mitigates the overt undervalue of the lotto pick -- evening things out. It's a B. It's not the best. But it is the haul we have from this NBA Draft. I expect the team to look at the undrafted players hard, because they did work out over 100 rookie hopefuls over the last two months. They have data on guys, and will keep making small tweaks. After all, the core of this team exists already. No need to make massive changes or chase butterflies in free agency. This is a good Jazz team. Their main improvements will happen through internal development, not roster reloads.
We're in good hands with Dennis Lindsey.