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5 prospects the Jazz should consider with 23rd pick in the draft

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Colorado guard Tyler Bey (1) shoots over California forward Andre Kelly (22) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 71-65.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

There is an uncountable number of mock drafts in newspapers and on websites all over the internet. You’ve probably seen your fair share at this point, and if you’re a Utah Jazz fan you’ve probably seen a lot of the same names crop up over the last few weeks as potential targets for the Jazz with the 23rd pick in this year’s draft.

It’s very tempting to go with the grain and it’s really easy to watch some highlight reels and buy in to the the consensus picks. I get it, believe me. But I always seem to stray a little bit away from the grain.

Below are five players I think Jazz should target in Wednesday’s draft. You might recognize some of their names, but these probably aren’t the guys you’ve seen projected as locks for the Jazz.

Tyler Bey, Colorado, 6-foot-7

I’m not going to try to hide the fact that I’m very high on Tyler Bey. He is my pick as a sleeper in this draft. It seems as if most people have Bey ranked very late in the first round or early in the second round, but I think he’s much better than that.

Bey seems to fit the mold of a wing/small forward in the NBA and his most impressive attributes are on the defensive side of the ball. Standing 6-foot-7, Bey has a 7-foot-1 wingspan and he uses every bit of it to block shots on the perimeter, close out on shooters, grab steals and all around disrupt when he’s on the floor.

As a junior, Bey led the Pac-12 in rebounding last season and was the 2019-20 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. His instincts on switches, lateral speed and help rotations are incredible. If the Jazz are looking for somebody to come in and help now, someone who can impact on the defensive side of the ball and bring physicality to the game, Bey looks to check all the boxes.

On the offensive side, Bey was used more as a power forward in college and so there will be some transitioning that needs to take place, but that’s to be expected with a lot of players at his size. Even so, his familiarity with playing in the post gives him a level of versatility that’s also intriguing and led to him being an effort rebounder who increased his activity vertically and improved his footwork over the years. He’s also very explosive and athletic for someone his size.

His perimeter shooting comes from a pretty small sample. He averaged just one 3-point attempt per game in his junior season, but he hit at a 41.9% clip and increased that percentage from just 22.7% in his sophomore year.

There are some questions about his shooting mechanics and technique. Bey starts his shot low and his release can be a little funky and inconsistent, but there’s already evidence that he’s coachable and can improve. There are also concerns about his ability to handle pressure, especially with the ball in his hands. But with the Jazz, he wouldn’t need to have the ball in his hands a lot and again, he’s a guy who has shown improvement year to year.

Overall, I think this is exactly the type of player the Jazz could use and he could get into the rotation right away.

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Mississippi State guard Robert Woodard II (12) looks for an open teammate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Starkville, Miss. Auburn won 80-68.

Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State, 6-foot-7

With increased usage in his sophomore season, Robert Woodard showed massive improvement in nearly every aspect of his game.

A lot of what can be said about Bey can be said about Woodard. He has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, showed incredible improvement from the 3-point line, averaging 2.3 attempts last season and hitting 42.9%, and plays excellent team defense.

Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said on Friday that he is looking for somebody unique. That could mean that they’re unique in how they play the game, in their abilities or their body. Well, Woodard is a unique athlete. He’s 6-foot-7, 230 pounds and completely ripped. To say that his strength and speed is impressive would be an understatement.

Woodard is really versatile defender who does not give up on plays. He recovers quickly, has the length to close out on anybody and plays well as both an on-ball and weak-side defender. He’s a little bit slower on switches, but to be totally honest, from the tape that I watched it didn’t really seem like the Mississippi State team had a set scheme for switching. I think that if Woodard were taught a system, he would be able to anticipate things a little better.

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DePaul forward Paul Reed (4) shoots against Butler guard Kamar Baldwin (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Chicago.

Matt Marton, Associated Press

Paul Reed, DePaul, 6-foot-9

This probably isn’t a name that you’ve seen too much of, and to be honest the Jazz could probably move down in the draft to get Paul Reed if they decided to go this route.

Reed is an NBA power forward, which doesn’t exactly fit the need of a wing defender for the Jazz, but Utah is also lacking in size and bench rim protection. Reed has a power forward frame with a center’s reach (7-foot-2 wingspan) and is a blocking and rebounding monster who relishes in being able to deny someone when they think they’re in close range.

Although he’s not the guy you would want to task with guarding some of the craftier wing players, he’s not a sieve when he switches onto smaller players and he isn’t afraid to attack when he sees an opening for a steal. With that in mind, Reed is also incredibly fast on the break for his size and has a really nice soft touch around the rim even when he’s playing in traffic. Think Pascal Siakam if you’re looking for a comp.

The Jazz don’t really have a player on the roster that fits this kind of profile and if they’re looking to add something they don’t have, this could be a really good way to get it and possibly get something in return if they’re able to move down the board for it.

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TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) drives on Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

Orlin Wagner, Associated Press

Desmond Bane, TCU, 6-foot-6

The Jazz don’t want to sacrifice shooting and they definitely wouldn’t if they pick Desmond Bane, who was a consistently excellent shooter in his four years at TCU, finishing his senior year averaging 44.2% from the 3-point range on 6.5 attempts per game.

There are a lot of people who seem to be concerned with Bane’s shot because it seems a little wonky and he has a stiff release. But you know who else had a really weird shot that was consistently great throughout his career? Peja Stojakovic, and you’d be hard pressed to find a 3-point shooter in the NBA who hasn’t tried to mimic some of what Stojakovic did on the court.

What’s really nice about Bane’s shot is that he doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands or work off the dribble, though he can. He’s an excellent spot up shooter and can work quickly coming off screens.

You aren’t going to get the same length on the defensive end as you would with Bey or Woodard, but Bane is able to stay with quicker guards a little better and still has versatility on the defensive end. In particular Bane is really good defending off the ball and getting into passing lanes.

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Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman (23) and Aaron Henry (11) and Ohio State’s Luther Muhammad, top left, and Andre Wesson, right, vie for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 80-69.

Al Goldis, Associated Press

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State, 6-foot-8

It really is baffling to me how Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Xavier Tillman is so low in so many mock drafts. Most don’t have him going until the early second round, but I have to think that there is someone out there who sees his value.

Defensive versatility doesn’t even begin to describe it. He is just as good protecting the rim as he is switching onto smaller players and defending on the perimeter. He has foot speed, is physical, aggressive and hustles for extra effort plays. It is absolutely understandable why he was the Big Ten DPOY, an honor he absolutely deserved.

He is lacking a little on the offensive end and doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well, so I understand why he would get a little less attention, but Tillman is just 21 years old. For his defensive prowess, he is absolutely ready to step into an NBA rotation and help now, and he can still develop and has a ton of potential to grow on the offensive end.

Oh, and did I mention that he is excellent passer who has ridiculously good court vision for someone at his size and position? He does.

Players not named

You might be wondering why I didn’t include Arizona guard Josh Green and Maryland forward Jaden McDaniels, the two players who have been most closely linked to the Jazz through the draft process. It wasn’t an accident that they were left off this list.

Green really does fit the profile of the kind of player the Jazz could use. He’s a 6-foot-6 wing who is explosive and shoots the ball relatively well and is an excellent defender. He’s the prototype for a 3-and-D wing in the NBA.

But there is a real concern I have with Green’s inconsistency. Whether it’s shooting or wild turnovers or slow decision-making, he has lapses sometimes that make me think he’d be a risk.

There are two main reasons I left Green off this list. He had surgery last year on his left shoulder and the year before that he had surgery to repair his left shoulder. That worries me.

The other reason is The Athletic’s John Hollinger put together his mock draft and had the Jazz selecting Green at 23, but included this tidbit:

“Green’s background wasn’t totally clean but not anywhere near red flag territory.”

I don’t know what Hollinger is referring to here (I tried to figure it out) but I’m pretty sure it’s not the medical concerns or he would have just said that. Hollinger is a massively credible NBA voice so there’s no reason to think he was being flippant when he wrote this, which is why it deserves attention.

The Jazz are big on character and culture and even something that might not seem like a red flag elsewhere could definitely be cause for alarm here.

With McDaniels, my reasons for leaving him off are a lot easier to understand. Simply put, I think he is too big of a risk and too much of a project.

McDaniels is one of the players who is described as having a ton of upside and potential but is still raw and needs to develop. I get that the Jazz trust their development system and aren’t afraid of drafting someone who needs some time, but they already have players they’re spending time on. They already have projects in the works. I think they’re better off picking someone who can help them win in the immediate future rather than someone who might not pan out.

The Jazz reportedly like both Green and McDaniels, and I totally understand why. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they end up selecting one of the two. But I also wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t.