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Utah Jazz spring second surprise on draft night, trade for French center Rudy Gobert

SHARE Utah Jazz spring second surprise on draft night, trade for French center Rudy Gobert

SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz surprised a lot of folks by moving up five spots to take Trey Burke in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft. Then as Jazz followers were waiting for their team's mid-second round choice to happen around 9:30 p.m. MDT, the Jazz pulled another surprise an hour earlier by trading for big man Rudy Gobert, who was picked by the Denver Nuggets late in the first round.

The 7-foot-2 center from France, who turned 21 the day before, worked out at the Zions Bank Basketball Center on June 15 in a group of six players that included Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (21st pick) and Brandon Davies. Apparently he impressed Jazz coaches and scouts that day. He was briefly interviewed by the media on hand, but was overshadowed by Davies and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, who worked out in an earlier session that morning.

“Obviously we like his size and athletic ability and he cares about winning,’’ said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “He picks things up fast — he’s still learning about the basketball game and how we play here in the U.S. He works extremely hard and has a good idea of what makes him effective on the floor, blocking shots, rebounding, setting screens, and his activity on both ends of the floor.’’

Gobert was listed in most mock drafts as a first-round choice — as high as No. 18 on some boards. He played for the silver medal French team at the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-20 championships and was named to the all-tournament team. He most recently has played for Cholet in France’s LNB Pro A League.

Gobert was the tallest player to work out for the Jazz. His 7-foot-9 wingspan is the fourth-longest wingspan in the history of the NBA combine and his standing reach is 9 feet 7 inches, second-longest in the history the NBA combine, meaning his hand is within 5 inches of the rim from a standing position.

General manager Dennis Lindsey says there are “some contractual things we have to work out,’’ but he hopes to have Gobert in camp this summer.

“Rudy was so unique with his length and his care factor you will really appreciate how hard this kid works,’’ Lindsey said. “He’s not in it because he’s tall.’’

SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT: Lindsey said Gobert was high on the Jazz's list of potential draftees and they were considering him with their No. 14 and No. 21 picks.

“We had some heartburn when we gave up those picks,’’ he said. But thanks to a commitment by the Miller family, the Jazz were able to acquire Gobert with cash and the No. 46 pick.

“We were really excited when the Millers OK'd the cash,’’ Lindsey said.

How much cash?

“I can't comment,'' he said. "But it was a significant amount.’’

NIGHTMARES: For Lindsey, it was his first draft as the main guy after working as an assistant general manager for Houston and San Antonio.

He called the hubbub around all the phone calls and trades “crazy” and “a mad scramble” and said it produced nightmares.

“Sometimes you wake up late at night with scary thoughts like, ‘What if all the guys are gone?’ Or, ‘What if the phones don’t work?’" he said. “It’s your worst nightmare that the call won’t come and you skip the pick and get fined and kicked out of the league in embarrassment. Those are the things that keep you up.’’

BONJOUR: With Frenchman Gobert coming to the Jazz, Corbin was asked how good his French was.

“I took it in ninth grade,’’ he said. “Bonjour!’’

NUMBER WARS: Utah’s No. 1 draft pick may have to do some negotiating to be able to wear his college number with the Utah Jazz next year.

Burke wore No. 3 during his career at Michigan, but the Jazz already have a player wearing No. 3, backup forward DeMarre Carroll. The former Missouri forward is a free agent, but a lot of folks figure the Jazz will re-sign him this summer.

DEJA VU: Like they did in 2005, the Jazz traded their two first-round picks to move up in the draft to get Burke.

In ’05 the Jazz owned the No. 6 pick and the No. 27 pick and traded them to Portland for the No. 3 pick. Everybody knows the Jazz used that pick to get Deron Williams, who has turned into an all-star point guard.

But who did the Blazers get in return? A couple of forwards with remarkably similar, but average statistics.

At No. 6 they took Martell Webster, certainly not an All-Star-caliber player, and with the second pick they took Linas Kleiza, who has averaged 8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in his seven seasons for Denver and Toronto.

Webster, who came out of a Seattle high school, has played in the league for eight years for three different teams and has averaged 8.9 points and 3.3 rebounds while starting approximately half the games he’s played in.

Folks also forget that there was another pick involved in the trade, a first-round pick (No. 30) in the 2006 draft, who the Blazers used for Joel Freeland, who played overseas for eight years before joining Portland this year.

NO WORKOUT: The Jazz had 72 players on their workout schedule this year between mid-May and mid-June. Burke, however, wasn't one of them. His agent preferred him not to work out for a team picking as low as No. 14 in the draft.

Burke worked out for most of the teams in the top eight, including Orlando on June 2 New Orleans on June 14. He worked out for the Kings, Suns and Pistons in the past week.

After his workouts, Burke told a Michigan paper he expected to go between the No. 2 and No. 7 picks before Detroit, his home state team, picked at No. 8. Instead he went a pick later at No. 9 to Minnesota.