With a trio of first-round draft picks, you might assume that the Utah Jazz had a tense night. That there was scrambling, anxious, eager energy radiating from every member of the Jazz’s front office inside their draft room.

“The way the draft board fell, really took a fortunate turn for us. We got two of the guys that we had in our top 10 — players, frankly, that we were debating which one to take at nine and we ended up getting both of them.” — Jazz GM Justin Zanik

In reality though, the Jazz were incredibly confident in the due diligence that had been done prior to Thursday and when paired with a little bit of luck, it made for a very smooth evening.

“It was all pretty peaceful,” Jazz CEO Danny Ainge said after the draft ended.

Though general manager Justin Zanik fielded multiple calls throughout the night and there were opportunities for the Jazz to make some moves, there was no panic or feeling of necessity to make a deal, especially once things started to unfold. 

The Jazz ended up keeping all three of their picks to target sizable shooting threats that offer unique upside. They selected UCF’s Taylor Hendricks ninth overall, Baylor’s Keyonte George with pick No. 16, and Brice Sensabaugh out of Ohio State with the 28th pick.

Though the draft positions of the players they picked will be etched in the NBA history books, the way the Jazz see it, they got two top-10 guys and a prospect they had ranked just outside of the lottery.

“The way the draft board fell, really took a fortunate turn for us,” Zanik said. “We got two of the guys that we had in our top 10 — players, frankly, that we were debating which one to take at nine and we ended up getting both of them. And at 28 we got a player that we had in our top 18.”

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All three players come into the NBA after just a single season spent in the college ranks. That’s not because the Jazz were looking specifically for young players or targeting youth. Instead, it just so happens that the three players they targeted offer specific talent that fill in some gaps on the roster while also coming with pretty significant upside.

With Hendricks, the Jazz feel like they are getting a player that is uniquely talented in all the ways that can help them. He’s a tall, long switchable defender who can space the floor and knock down shots.

In George, the Jazz believe they have a combo guard that will be just as successful on the ball as he is off the ball and has already shown the ability to score from every level in a way that seems like it will translate seamlessly to the NBA.

When it comes to Sensabaugh, the Jazz might be taking a little bit of a swing on a player that has already had three knee surgeries and is so far an underwhelming defender. But on the other hand, if he can remain healthy and expand his defensive game, it would complement an exquisite offensive package that could make him an ideal sixth man.

“We fielded a lot of calls — people trying to get those picks, or us moving out, or acquiring some capital — but at the end of the day, we added three really talented good prospects,” Zanik said. “But also high character guys that we think we can get better and that have a skill set that we think we can maximize.”

Hendricks came to Utah during the predraft process intending to work out for the Jazz, but a minor injury during another workout (nothing to worry about) meant that he wasn’t able to show off his strengths for the Jazz. But that didn’t stop him from making a big impression and from the Jazz making an impression on him.

Live coverage of the 2023 NBA draft

“I had a really good talk with Danny Ainge, the owner and the head coach and they made me feel pretty comfortable there,” Hendricks said. “So, for them to actually pick me, it’s crazy. I’m happy.”

George worked out for the Jazz and it seemed that things clicked for both sides, with the Jazz becoming even more impressed with George’s game and personality and him immediately feeling like the Jazz were a team that he would feel at home with.

Sensabaugh was only able to interview with the Jazz via Zoom, but he was excited about the prospect of playing on a young team for a young coach in Will Hardy and having an opportunity to really compete for minutes.

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“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in Utah,” Sensabaugh said. “I’m just looking forward to getting to work.”

All three players said they are ready and willing and looking forward to playing in Summer League, but they’ll still have to be evaluated by the Jazz’s health performance staff before any final decisions are made.

George seems like he’s got nothing that could keep him from playing in the Salt Lake City or Las Vegas summer leagues, but the Jazz want to make sure that Hendricks is feeling 100% after his minor injury during draft workouts. Sensabaugh underwent a procedure on his knee in March and was only recently cleared to fully play, but he said that he’s ready to play and there’s nothing holding him back.

No matter what happens throughout the rest of the summer, the Jazz walk away from Thursday night feeling like they accomplished everything they set out to do and did it with relative ease. Now, they can turn their attention to the upcoming free agency period and filling out the rest of the roster.

Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, left, Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, new Jazz head coach Will Hardy and Jazz owner Ryan Smith pose for a photo at a press conference to introduce the Hardy at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
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