How did it happen that the Jazz ended up with two players they never imagined would be available to them at their draft positions?
On TIPOFF this morning, we talked about Embiid going No. 3 to the Sixers as the key to the night. This meant the Jazz knew they would have their choice of Exum or Gordon. Utah’s draft board seemed to be Parker, Wiggins (maybe reversed), Exum, Gordon and Smart.
The front office had spent a lot of hours recently watching the film of Smart closely, in case Exum went three and Gordon went at 4. The Jazz were very concerned that this scenario would play out.
Instead, about an hour before the draft, this happened:
Suddenly, Exum was a possibility for the Jazz at #5. Sure enough, Aaron Gordon went at #4 and the young Australian, who at times this season was talked about as a potential #1 pick, was coming to Utah.
Exum is a lightening-fast 18-year-old who, at 6-foot-6, could be a unique piece as a point guard. It will take him some time to develop. He’s very raw, particularly on the defensive end. He’s not a sure thing. One scout called him the pendulum player in this draft—he could be a superstar and he could be a bust.
I found him to be delightful in our conversations. He was very sure of himself in the interview settings. He’s engaging. He’s crisp in his speech. He’ll be a fan favorite, and the accent certainly doesn’t hurt.
One scout said: “Big point guard. Ok shooter who will get better with strength. Long point guard—great handle with super vision. Can guard multiple positions. Excellant burst. Elite speed with and without ball.”
As we were going through the media car wash with Danté Exum, I looked at the draft board and realized that Rodney Hood was still on the board. From previous conversations with Jazz people, I knew he was very high on the Jazz board and one of the players the Jazz were willing to move up to grab.
The Jazz were sitting at #23 and as the draft hit about #17 the Jazz started to offer #23 and #35 to move up and draft Hood. A few teams said no, and as they were saying no other teams made their intentions known—and all of sudden it became clear to the Jazz they were going to get Hood by staying at #23.
One last issue had to be clarified—the Miami Heat were desperate to grab Shabazz Napier and they wanted Utah’s pick. However, Miami only offered second round picks in order to move those few spots, so the Jazz declined and took Hood.
Hood is left-handed and has good size for his position at 6-foot-9. He shoots it well for a small forward or shooting guard, and he controls the ball well. He averaged 16 points per game at Duke while shooting 42% from three.
One scout texted me: “Shooter, can guard the ball. Good floor game. Best player that participated in Chicago.” Another said: “He can shoot and knows how to play.”
After those two wins, the Jazz weren’t able to find a player to stash overseas. The team didn’t want to go into camp with three rookies and nine players with four years or less of experience in the NBA, so they made a trade with Memphis. The numbers probably won’t work out on this deal, since Memphis’ pick could be worse than #35.
Frankly, I’m not sure the Jazz had many players they really liked at #35 because in some of the conversations during the week they were very concerned about #23 and how they didn’t have enough players they liked at #23. That became a non-issue when Hood fell into their laps.
There’s a really good chance that we look back at this draft five years from now as the turning point for the Jazz franchise.