Following last week’s NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz find themselves with two more young pieces. For a team that already ranked among the youngest in the league, it was imperative that the pieces they added could bring something to the table that would allow them to either mesh with the assets currently on the roster or become standouts in their own right. So did GM Dennis Lindsey and his staff hit the mark?
First Round, No. 5 Overall—Dante Exum, G, Australia:
With the fifth pick, the team took their best shot at obtaining a prospect with the potential to be a cornerstone for the franchise. Having lacked a true No. 1 in recent years and with Gordon Hayward‘s free agency in full effect, now was the time to shoot for the moon. The team tried to land the No. 1 selection via trade, but nabbing Exum at five allowed them to acquire a possible franchise-changer without having to give up major assets.
Exum is extremely young, needs to learn good defensive habits and doesn’t have huge experience going toe-to-toe with high-quality competition. That said, his speed will be elite from Day 1. If he remains at point guard, his size and length will be superior to his opponent’s on a nightly basis. And physical attributes aside, when listening to the young man speak and watching how he conducts himself both on and off the court, it becomes apparent that he has a charisma befitting a superstar.
The situation with Trey Burke will need to play itself out somehow, but when you’re a bottom-five squad in the league, you have to take your shot at the best potential payout regardless of what is on your roster. Exum could be a bust; some have compared him to Leandro Barbosa or Larry Hughes (although people tend to forget that Hughes was an All-Star in the league and a career starter). But there are also the exciting comparisons to guys like Penny Hardaway and all-time greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
All things considered, when you get a player that you had ranked in the top three of draft prospects with the No. 5 pick, you’ve done something potentially great. It may take some time, but Exum could become the face of this franchise. Grade for Exum pick—A.
First Round, No. 23 Overall—Rodney Hood F, Duke:
Another value pick for Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz. Reports abound that the team had Hood as a middle-of-the-first-round guy. Many of the mock drafts leading up to the actual selections had him as a late lottery pick. To get that kind of prospect with the No. 23 pick is a major coup for the team.
Fans may have been following the Blue Devils this season with Jabari Parker-tinted shades, but I speak from personal experience when I say that you couldn’t help but come out of those games with some love for Hood. He’s not a super athlete, but he has solid size for a small forward and his ability to knock down jumpers and play in the pick-and-roll could make him a valuable member of the Jazz rotation.
Kudos to Utah for electing not to swap picks with the Miami Heat and getting such tremendous value with a late first-rounder. Grade for Hood pick—A
Second Round, No. 35 Overall—Traded to Memphis Grizzlies:
Many fans didn’t care for this move, but the bottom line here was that Utah had no intention of bringing three rookies into training camp when their team is already stuffed to the brim with extremely young players. The argument could be made that players with first-round talent were still on the board or that they should’ve received more than a 2016 second-round pick, but the fact remains that this deal was going through regardless.
On the bright side, the future pick won’t come directly from Memphis, but will be the better of two second-round picks that are owed to the Grizzlies that summer. Still, the return leaves something to be desired. Grade for trade/pick—C+
Overall draft grade for the Jazz—A-. It was a great night to be a Jazz fan and a strong indicator of where this rebuild could be heading.