With 2017 NBA draft is coming just a few days since the conclusion of the NBA Finals. Dennis Lindsey should take notice of what kind of basketball that was being played there. The champions, Golden State Warriors, won by playing position-less basketball. Position-less basketball requires teams to have players who can defend multiple positions, shoot from deep at a high level and be playmakers with high basketball IQs.
In position-less basketball, there are three kinds of players: First, combo guards, who can play with or without the ball, a Stephen Curry type. Second, wings or 3-and-D guys who can guard most players on the court, a Andre Iguodala type. And third, bigs who can defend in space and protect the rim, a Draymond Green type.
The Jazz have a lot of players who can play in this system. George Hill and Dante Exum serve as combo guards. The wings or 3-and-D guys are Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles, and the bigs are Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles and Rudy Gobert. Consider the value Ingles provided last season in his role. He defended point guards like Chris Paul, forwards like LeBron James and bigs like Green. As the Warriors showed in the past few years, one can never have enough of these kinds of players. As the Jazz scout these prospects, here a few names they should pay close attention to.
This draft is top heavy at the point guard position, but late in the first round, a player like Duke’s Frank Jackson makes sense for the Jazz. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with a good wing span, Jackson has the ability to defend either guard position. On the offensive end he is more of a scorer and shooter than a distributor, but he capable of making plays for others. At the NBA combine, he surprised scouts as being one of the most athletic guys tested. Basically, he is a super athletic combo guard who can shoot from anywhere on the floor, can get to the hoop and finish and can be a solid playmaker when he chooses to. Getting Jackson late in the draft would be a great value for Lindsey.
In the second round, Colorado guard Derrick White is someone to target. He is 6-5, 200 pounds with a wingspan of 6-8. He is a senior, which lowers his upside, and he is just an average athlete. His strengths are his basketball IQ, good feel for the pick-and-roll and a good shooter. Milwaukee drafted Malcolm Brogdon last year in the second round, and he is in the mix for rookie of the year. White could become this season's Brogdon, a solid rotation player.
This draft class struggles for good wing players who can shoot and defend multiple positions. Late in the first round when the Jazz draft, one of the better wings is Semi Ojeleye out of SMU. He is built like a truck at 6-7, 241 pounds, 5 percent body fat and a 6-10 wingspan. He has the ability to defend both forward and guard positions. Defense is his calling card, but he a good shooter, hitting 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. He lacks creativity as a ball handler. He transferred to SMU after two years at Duke. He didn’t play tons there and scouts worry that he hasn’t excelled against elite competition.
Terrance Ferguson is another late first-round wing, who is super athletic and a streaky shooter. Instead of going to college, he played professionally in Australia. There he didn’t get tons of minutes and seems to have a low basketball IQ. He is a long-term project but at 6-7 and 185 pounds, he has all the tools that make a good wing.
A few second-round wings that could become the next Danny Green are Sterling Brown, Wesley Iwundu and Josh Hart. Brown was teammates at SMU with Ojeleye. There he showed the potential to be that 3-and-D role player. Iwundu is a senior from Kansas State who can defend due to his excellent lateral quickness. His jumper is a work in progress but looks fixable. Hart, who led Villanova to a NCAA championship his junior year, is a great teammate with all the intangibles a coach could ask for. He has a great motor but needs to improve his shooting and lacks the playmaking skills to create his shot.
The strength at the end of the draft is in its bigs. There, the Jazz have a chance to select a talented player even if it isn’t their top need. Harry Giles is all over draft boards. Some have him at the end of the lottery while others project him going late in the first round. Giles had three knee surgeries before playing a minute of college ball. Before he tore his ACL, he was one of the top prospects coming out of high school. He struggled during his freshman year at Duke, but with ACL tears, most players aren’t themselves until they get a year of playing behind them. There is a likely chance that Giles will be gone before the Jazz select but if he is there, he’s worth gambling on.
The Jazz had Michigan’s DJ Wilson in for a workout. It was rumored that he received a promise from Utah after his visit, but Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin quickly denied this. What Wilson is a prototypical big man for the modern NBA. He can shoot from three and has the ability to switch on defense. The Ringers’ Kevin O’Connor compared him to Lamar Odom. Wilson has the label of playing soft and avoiding contact, partially due to a thin frame. If he can get his motor more consistent and become a better playmaker, Wilson would be a steal late in the draft.
Jordan Bell from Oregon is coming off a great NCAA Tournament in leading the Ducks to their first Final Four appearance since 1939. Bell was this past season’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and is arguably the best and most NBA ready defender in the draft. His ability to defend on the perimeter and protect the rim is elite. He is also a great athlete and will be a solid roll-man in the pick-and-roll. If Bell had a jumper, he would be lottery bound.
Lastly, and this writer’s favorite is Jonah Bolden. He spent a year at UCLA before deciding to play overseas instead of staying in college. He played in the Adriatic League for two years and was named their top prospect last season, an award previously won by Nikola Jokic and Dario Saric. If Bolden can come close to either of these two players, he is worthy of a first-round pick. At 6-10 and 227 pounds with a 7-3 wingspan, he possesses a close to NBA-ready body and should be able to help a team immediately. He can guard either forward spot and play some small-ball center. He needs to get stronger but has a great feel for the game with a high basketball IQ. He can shoot from NBA range, averaging nearly 40 percent from deep. The Ringers’ Jonathan Tjarks stated that Bolden is “a lottery talent hiding in the second round.”
The NBA game is changing. Trying to uncover players who can excel in this modern NBA world is challenging. To compete with the Warriors, teams need smart and long players who can guard multiple positions and shoot from anywhere. When the Jazz draft, the likelihood that they find an NBA rotation player is less than 50 percent. These players are out there though. The Jazz picked Hood at No. 24 and Gobert at No. 27. Fortunately, Lindsey and team bring in the most prospects for workouts out of the entire NBA to find these hidden gems.
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