Jazz Score Big in Draft

Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant NBAEPhoto: Jesse D. Garrabrant NBAE

It wasn’t the player you expected. It wasn’t the player you thought. It wasn’t the player that everyone predicted would be taken by the Utah Jazz. But it was the player they needed.

As the Twitter account of Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out that Trey Burke had been traded to the Portland Trailblazers my heart sank a little bit, even though I knew it was never a real possibility that Burke would fall all the way to the Jazz at the 14th overall pick. When the correction came out, however, it was a moment of high-fiving euphoria as I learned that the new Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey had somehow landed the best player in college basketball last year. Not only is Burke the Naismith Trophy winner (averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists), he plays a position that everyone knows the Jazz needed to address.

“I think he’s the only player in this draft that I feel 100 percent about,” said ESPN/Grantland columnist Bill Simmons in a pre draft interview with Burke. And he’s exactly the player the young Jazz needed. After all, the last time the Jazz drafted a player from the Big Ten that led his team to a National Championship, things worked out pretty well for a number of years.

While Burke may be from the same pedigree as former Jazzman and current Brooklyn Net, Deron Williams, he views himself a little differently. Simmons and Jalen Rose asked Burke in the same interview who he was most similar to in the NBA, prompting Burke to compare his talents to those of Chris Paul. His size, his quickness, his ability to create for others are all obvious things that puts Burke’s ceiling as high as a Paul.

With other young players in Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks to team up with Burke, the future is even more bright than Jazz fans could have imagined. It may take a few years, it make take a few losses, but adding a fearless leader at the point guard position will undoubtedly speed things along. It wasn’t long ago that Burke rose up with 4.2 seconds left, from well beyond the 3-point arc, to hit a game tying three against Kansas in the NCAA tournament. Only a sophomore, he led his Michigan team all the way to the championship game. “We felt that being young isn’t an excuse for not going far in the tournament,” Burke said of his Michigan team that featured three starting freshman.

As Burke makes his way to Salt Lake City and begins his journey in the NBA, those words will never be more true. The typically veteran Jazz will now feature some of the youngest key players in the league, and now have a point guard to guide the flow of the game.

No position requires poise, maturity and leadership more than a point guard, and it seems that 20 year-old Trey Burke already knows what is required of him. So, whether  he turns into a Chris Paul or not, Burke has already made it known how he’s going to approach the National Basketball Association.

“I’m going to get to practice early, stay late, and I think that’s how you earn the respect of the veterans,” said Burke.

The Jazz also moved up from 46 to 27 in a trade with Denver to grab Frenchman Rudy Gobert.  Gobert’s talent is raw but he is a monster defensively. The 7-1, 235-pound native of Saint Quentin, France averaged 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game for Cholet Basket of the French League in 2012-13 and was named a 2013 French Pro A All-Star.  Gobert was also named to the U-20 European Championship Division A All-Tournament Team and selected as Eurobasket.com All-European Championships U-20 Best Center in 2012.  The 21-year-old Gobert owns a 7-9 wingspan.

Standing at 7’2″, the 21-year old has a 7’9″ wingspan and and a crazy 9’7″ standing reach.  Hi size alone screams, “rim protection.”  Pairing him with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz now have a ferocious defensive front line.  His offensive game is nothing to talk about but that’s not really why the Jazz drafted him.

The Jazz then made another trade later on in the evening acquiring the draft rights to guard Raul Neto (47th overall pick) from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for the Brooklyn Nets’ 2015 second round draft pick.  The 6-1, 172-pound native of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil averaged 8.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game for Lagun Aro GBC of the Spanish ACB League in 2012-13.  Neto participated in and was named MVP of adidas EUROCAMP 2013.  A member of the Brazilian National Team in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Neto was also a member of the U19 Brazilian National Team in 2009 and 2011.  In addition, the 21-year-old was a World Team Selection at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit.

Overall, the Jazz (Dennis Lindsey in particular) should be applauded for their effort in moving up and landing the players that they wanted.  The future is very bright for the Jazz.


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