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Upstill: What should the Jazz do in the draft? Target a three-and-D wing or shooting center

Among the players that could be available for the Utah Jazz at No. 12 in Thursday's NBA draft are, from left, Florida State's Malik Beasley, Marquette's Henry Ellenson, Michigan State's Deyonta Davis, Utah's Jakob Poeltl and Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis.
Among the players that could be available for the Utah Jazz at No. 12 in Thursday's NBA draft are, from left, Florida State's Malik Beasley, Marquette's Henry Ellenson, Michigan State's Deyonta Davis, Utah's Jakob Poeltl and Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis.
Associated Press photos

Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the Jazz brass have their work cut out for them Thursday. If one were to check a few mock drafts, he or she would notice there is no consistency outside the top eight. For example, France’s Timothe Luwawu has been all over mock drafts. One mock has him as a late lottery pick while another doesn’t even have him in its entire first round.

After top eight, it’s anyone’s guess on who goes where.

Every year, ESPN’s draft guru Chad Ford puts out a talent-based tier system for the draft. This year the top tier of talent only has Ben Simmons in it. The fourth tier consists of seven prospects and those players are projected to go around 7-13, right where the Jazz are drafting. Lindsey may not love the leftovers in that tier when the Jazz are up, so they may look in tier five which projects to cover picks 14-35. The enormous size of this tier makes picking in this year’s draft extremely difficult.

Lindsey has been very successful in drafting players for the Jazz. Last season he chose Trey Lyles who looks to have all the tools to be a “playmaking four” in this league, which is one of the hottest trends in the NBA today, thanks largely to Draymond Green.

In the league today, switching on defense is becoming more and more common. This requires a tall and long point guard which Lindsey drafted two seasons ago in Dante Exum. He is 6-foot-6 and has a wingspan of 6-9. Utah head coach Quin Snyder missed Exum immensely on defense last season due to Exum's injured ACL.

Three seasons ago Lindsey struck gold when a draft-day trade landed Rudy Gobert in Utah. Gobert gives the Jazz elite rim protection. Unlike other traditional centers, like Roy Hibbert, Gobert can move his feet laterally to play the switching game.

A shooting center or a three-and-D wing are some other trending player traits the Jazz could look. Having a wing player who can take some of the burden off Gordon Hayward by guarding the opposing team's best offensive wing would be huge. A shooting five man would supply the coaching staff with more flexibility in regards to matchups.

In this year's draft class, the list of potential three-and-D wing players who should be available at 12 are Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz and Malik Beasley. At 6-6 Korkmaz can really shoot the ball and has a quick release on his shot, similar to Klay Thompson. His biggest need is to get stronger to have any hope of guarding in the NBA. He is a solid athlete, one of the youngest players in the draft, which may be why he needs to add strength. If he does, he should develop into a great three-and-D wing. When will Korkmaz come over from Europe is one worry many teams have. He is under contract but does have a $2 million buyout. NBA teams can only pay $650,000 of any buyout so this will get expensive for Korkmaz.

Luwawu is a French forward who stands at 6-7, weighs 205 pounds and is an excellent athlete. Last season he played in the Adriatic Basketball League with Mega Leks. He improved in most areas of his game last season, averaging 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists game. This season he averaged 37.2 percent from the 3-point line, which is a huge improvement from the previous season’s 29 percent. Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express said, “Luwawu's intrigue at the NBA level has always started with his physical tools, but his improved jump shot and play in a large role for prospect-rich Mega Leks are the reason he's regarded as highly as he is heading into the 2016 NBA Draft.”

Defensively, he has the physical gifts that make up a defensive stopper but as Draft Express stated, “Luwawu's defensive ability, as his tools and potential are obvious, but his effort level and consistency were not always ideal.” Luwawu screams with potential but being 21 years old puts a small damper on his upside. In talking to scouts, Ford stated, “Lately I've heard more and more teams come back a bit disappointed after scouting him overseas. He may be on the underrated-then-overrated curve right now.” Scouts are all over the place on Luwawu but with the right developmental staff and a team that wants to shoot for the moon, drafting him might payoff.

Beasley is out of Florida State and was an under-the-radar prospect coming into college. He wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American and didn’t receive an invite to the Nike Hoop Summit. Mike Schmitz of Draft Express, after scouting Beasley during his freshman year, said, “Beasley has been consistent, efficient, and productive, and NBA scouts are certainly starting to take notice of the freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia.”

Efficiency on the offensive end was what stuck out during his year with the Seminoles. Per Draft Express, “Since 1992, only two ACC guards have averaged more than 17 points per game while posting a true shooting percentage over 60 percent: Kyrie Irving (11 games played) and Malik Beasley.” Impressive stuff from a kid not invited to play with the elite high schoolers.

Beasley is just 6-5 and has a wingspan of 6-7, which is a bit small for a shooting guard, but he is an above-average athlete and has a great motor. Beasley is also the one of the best shooters in the draft. According to Draft Express, “Beasley was the only freshman guard in the country scoring more than 20 points per 40 minutes while shooting over 55 percent from 2-point range and 40 percent from 3-point range.”

NBAdraft.net compares Beasley to former Jazzman and three-and-D specialist Wes Matthews. Like Matthews, Beasley lacks the ideal size for a three-and-D wing but makes up for it with athleticism and hustle on the court.

The other positive on Beasley is that he is a great kid and a hard worker, two things that are very important to the Jazz. His stock is dropping due to a stress fracture that was repaired in his right leg. Because of this, he hasn’t worked out for teams or been able to wow them with all he can do.

The potential shooting centers are more tier-four guys than tier-five (like the three-and-D guys) and have only two shooting big men: Henry Ellenson and Skal Labissiere. Labissiere has the most red flags of any player in the top 15 and the Jazz usually stay away from this kind of draftee. The other three players in this tier are Deyonta Davis, Domantas Sabonis and Jakob Poeltl, and none of them showed the ability to shoot in college but in workouts they have shown better range.

Ellenson is the most ready to play stretch five. He is 7-feet, 242 pounds. He had a great freshman season at Marquette, averaging 17 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.8 assists a game. What Ellenson brings to the NBA is a very polished low-post game with excellent 3-point range. He didn’t shoot the 3 great in college averaging just 29 percent but the college game doesn’t give the kind of spacing the NBA provides. Statistically, free-throw percent is one of the top indicators on whether a player can shoot the 3 in the pros. Ellenson averaged 75 percent from the line and should be able to shoot well from 3.

The knock on Ellenson is that he isn’t an elite defender. Many scouts compare him to Kevin Love, not a bad on-ball defender, but the problem is he doesn’t move well laterally and will get taken advantage of in the pick-and-roll. Today, most teams switch defensively one through four and at times five; Ellenson will struggle doing this. Playing the center position more often will help to not expose him as much on defense.

If Poeltl falls to the Jazz, he might be too good to pass up even if he can’t stretch the floor. During a workout in front of NBA scouts, he showed some nice range on his jump shot. His strengths are his ability to defend, rebound and pass the ball. He did get pushed around in college at times and needs to add strength to compete in the NBA.

ESPN's stats department put out its projections for the draft, ranking players on how likely they are to become All-Stars, starters, role players and busts. Poeltl has the lowest bust rate of any player in the draft and highest to develop into a starting caliber player. It also ranks him as the third-best prospect in this draft class. He may never be an All-Star but should be a solid NBA player for a long time.

Sabonis, the son of NBA great Arvydas Sabonis, won’t wow anyone with his athleticism or T-rex complex (tall player with short arms), but he has the highest motor of anyone in the draft and plays great fundamentally sound basketball. He isn’t the shooter his father was, but he has been working on extending his range.

“I’m working on it every day. I’m extending my range, I feel pretty confident about my shot. If I have a chance, I’ll shoot it,” he said, according to Valley of the Suns.

If he can get this down, he would be a steal at No. 12.

Davis has been compared to a young Derrick Favors, an excellent athlete but needs time to develop. His strengths are on the defensive end where he can block shots, rebound and move well for someone his size, and that allows him to switch on defense.

Offensively he needs polishing. He doesn’t have any post moves but does have nice touch around the hoop with range out to 18 feet. After his workout with the Jazz, Utah VP of Player Personnel Walt Perrin told the Deseret News' Jody Genessy, “He had a pretty good workout. He’s got a pretty good shooting touch from 18 and in, very good. He showed an ability to maybe get out to the NBA 3. It’s one of the things that we liked that we saw here.” Had he shown this ability in college, he would be much higher on teams’ draft boards.

The Jazz have had plenty of players in for workouts over the past month, and they need all the intel they can get to help them select the best player possible at No. 12.

Follow Kincade on Twitter @kincade12 or email him at kupstill12@gmail.com