SALT LAKE CITY — Over the past five weeks, the Utah Jazz have brought in 14 groups of players — 81 players in all — for workouts. The vast majority will never play in the NBA, but on Monday, the Jazz looked at a player BYU and Utah fans know well, one who will be right in their range for next week’s NBA draft.
Domantas Sabonis, the 6-foot-10 228-pounder from Gonzaga, was one of five players who worked out at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. It was the first time in this year's workouts the Jazz didn’t have an even number of players as Sabonis came on his agent's condition that he not work out against another player his size.
The fact that Sabonis came at all was a bonus for the Jazz, since he said it was his fourth and final workout for NBA teams, after working out for Boston, Toronto and Phoenix previously.
“I’m looking for a good fit, for a team that has a great organization and they want me,’’ said the son of former NBA star Arvydas Sabonis. “I know they’re a great organization, a very young team with a lot of potential. They are rising very high and it’s going to come soon.”
Sabonis is ranked as high as No. 8 in NBA mock drafts and mostly before the No. 18 pick, meaning the Jazz could very well have a chance to take him with their No. 12 pick.
Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin wasn’t doing cartwheels over the player who collected several wins over BYU in his three years in Spokane and was a key player in the Zags’ second-round NCAA Tournament win over Utah. But he was complimentary.
“We got to see a few things we normally don’t get to see up at Gonzaga,” he said. “He’s pretty crafty around the basket with his footwork and his shot-making ability. He had a pretty good workout going against himself.”
Perrin said the Jazz were “thankful that we were one of the four teams” allowed to work out Sabonis. Boston has three picks in the first round at 3, 16 and 23, while Toronto picks at No. 9 and Phoenix at No. 13.
The Jazz don’t have as big of a need for big men with Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles already in the fold, but see Sabonis as a player who is tough inside and can also step out and make jumpers. His rapid improvement from his freshman to his sophomore season was also impressive to the Jazz.
“It shows that he’s been working hard and we take a lot of stock into that,” Perrin said. “He’s got improvement left in his game. He’s a good passing big man and he naturally plays hard. You would think everybody plays hard, but that’s not necessarily the case. When you see a player, especially a big guy who naturally plays hard, you take notice of it.”
Also on hand Monday was Miami’s 5-11 guard Angel Rodriguez, who Ute fans might remember from his MVP performance at last year’s Puerto Rico Tipoff Tournament where he led the Hurricanes to a 90-66 victory over Utah.
“Angel knows how to run a team,” said Perrin. “He played pretty well today and shot it pretty well from three. He has a chance to get a little better. I don’t know if he’s an NBA guy though. Size could be a problem.”
Rodriguez, who has three more NBA workouts scheduled this week, says his size won’t be a problem for him.
“Heart over height, man,” he said. “Sometimes people focus too much on how tall you are and they tend to forget what your IQ is, your feel for the game, your attitude, how much you want to win, do you have heart. All those qualities play a big role too. We don’t expect anybody to say ‘you’re big enough.’ I just want to win.”
The three other players who worked out Monday were Chris Fowler, a 6-1 guard from Central Michigan, Tyler Harris, a 6-9 wing from Auburn, and Matthew Tiby, a 6-8 wing from Milwaukee.