It's being called the year of the point guard in the NBA draft, but the Utah Jazz won't be a part of it. With two of the five players currently under contract being point guards -- Howard Eisley and Jacque Vaughn -- along with the fact that John Stockton is planning on returning, the Jazz probably won't be looking for help at that position.
Besides, the five top point guards are expected to be gone by the time the Jazz draft at No. 19 on Wednesday evening anyway. Utah has three late first round picks -- 19, 24 and 28. Expect them to trade at least one of them and maybe even two, most likely for future picks. The Jazz don't want all three first-rounders because it would be hard for two or three rookies to make Utah's veteran team next fall.In fact, the Jazz would really rather have early second round picks than the late first rounders in some ways, truth be told. That's because first round picks are guaranteed three-year contracts under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. Second-round picks can be signed to "make good" deals, meaning the Jazz can bring them into training camp and keep them if they are good enough to make the final roster - like Bryon Russell and Shandon Anderson were -- or cut them without a three-year financial obligation if they can't make the grade.
In any event, the 19th selection that the Jazz own is Utah's best since 1993 when they chose 18th. The Jazz hope this year's pick is more fruitful, however. Utah selected Luther Wright in '93, and he played a grand total of 92 minutes over two seasons in a Jazz uniform.
Scott Layden, the Jazz director of basketball operations, is always tight-lipped about exactly what direction the team will go on draft night. As usual, the Jazz plan on taking the "best athlete available" that they feel will fit into their system regardless of position -- with the possible exception of a point guard, which they probably wouldn't take.
One of the biggest name players who may be around when it's Utah's turn is 6-4 shooting guard Trajan Langdon out of Duke. Langdon is considered by many to be the best pure shooter in the draft and with an eye to when Jeff Hornacek retires, he could be a good fit. The Jazz may need some insurance at that position, too, since Shandon Anderson is a free agent and may be enticed to leave by lucrative offers elsewhere -- especially if he is promised a starting job, too. The knock on Langdon is that he can't create his own shot and that he's never fully recovered from a knee injury after his freshman season in college.
Other possible Jazz picks as "two guards" include 6-5 Rodney Buford of Creighton and 6-4 Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma State. Both are good outside shooters and were scorers in college.
Should the Jazz decide to go after a center their top choice would likely be Alek Radojevic, a 7-3 project from Yugoslavia who played last season at a junior college in Kansas. He made himself available for the draft when the NCAA ruled him ineligible because he had played professionally for a brief time in Europe. Radojevic is said to have a nice shooting touch but needs work on his defense. Still, his stock has been rising and he likely will be gone by the time the Jazz draft.
Other centers the Jazz may consider include Washington's Todd MacCulloch, Northwestern's Evan Eschmeyer, Old Dominion's Cal Bowdler and Penn State's Calvin Booth. MacCulloch, a 7-footer, is probably the best offensive player of the bunch. He led the nation by shooting 66 percent from the field last season. The questions about MacCulloch deal primarily with his foot speed, or lack thereof.
The "best athletes" available when the Jazz draft may well be small forwards. UNLV's Shawn Marion, Georgia's Jumaine Jones, St. John's Ron Artest, Xavier's James Posey, Minnesota's Quincy Lewis and Miami's Tim James may all be gone before the Jazz select 19th. Then again, one or two might slip through the cracks and the Jazz could have themselves a new back-up for Russell.
Most experts agree that after Duke's Elton Brand -- who will go in the top three overall -- there aren't many quality power forwards in the draft. Should the Jazz choose to look for a back-up (heir?) to Karl Malone the list of power forwards that will likely be available include New Mexico's Kenny Thomas, Kentucky's Scott Padgett and TCU's Lee Nailon. Thomas is probably the most well-rounded of the bunch, but he was inconsistent in college. Padgett is the best outside shooter but may not be big enough to be an NBA power forward. Nailon is probably the best scorer of the three, but he may end up being more of a small forward if he can develop an outside game.
The Jazz also still own the NBA rights to 6-8 banger Torraye Braggs, their second-round pick last season out of Xavier. Rather than waiting out the lockout, Braggs played in Spain last season with good success. He is expected to take part this summer in the Rocky Mountain Revue.