Review of some details from the Utah Jazz’s NBA draft night

The “How ‘Bout This Jazz” newsletter: As the night wore on, some insights into the team’s three picks were revealed and some context emerged about a promising prospect the team passed on twice.

Keyonte George is greeted by NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected 16th overall by the Utah Jazz during the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Even though the Jazz avoided headline-worthy trades Thursday night and simply went for the chalk in making their picks at Nos. 9, 16 and 28, the NBA draft was still a fun, high-energy event.

Perhaps that view is colored by getting to see it from inside a meeting room on the Zions Bank Basketball Campus, where I was just a hallway and a flight of stairs away from the meeting room where the team’s decision makers were figuring out who would best shape your future.

But even though Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge opted to stay, and even though some fans have questions about the merits of Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George’s effectiveness and long-term role, and Brice Sensabaugh’s defensive abilities, I still came away. excited to see how things turned out.

I also enjoyed the postgame where we got official interviews with the three players plus Zanik, followed by an informal conversation with Ainge after all the proceedings were over. So I thought I’d pass on some of the odds from the night that I found intriguing.

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The team’s board

I was a bit surprised during JZ’s interview when I heard him reveal where the Jazz had these guys ranked on their board, with Hendricks at 9, George at 10 and Sensabaugh “top-18” which is such a random, unrounded speak up. that I think we can safely intuit that he was probably 18.

I understand that the motivation behind such a revelation is to shore up the front office – “Look, we got one of the guys we considered at 9, and then two other guys at a really good value without having to spend extra asset capital ” – but it is not without risks. If, for example, Jalen Hood-Schifino or … ummm … OK, let’s just say it, Cam Whitmore ends up playing George, and revealing that your guy was way ahead of the others at your table calls your analysis into question.

(Eric Walden | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik discusses the team’s selection of Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh in the June 22, 2023 NBA draft.

Speaking of Cam Whitmore…

Why did a guy seemingly drop in conversations as high as No. 4 overall only to drop all the way to 20? And why did the Jazz pass on him not once, but twice?

When we talked to some people across the league, a few things came up:

• Declining opinion of him apparently started a few weeks ago in many front offices, rather than the last few days before the draft, and some teams simply had mid-first-round grades on him.

• It is true that some training programs and interviews were not good, but they were secondary. The primary concerns were that his production at Villanova was underwhelming relative to his athletic ability; the lack of a conspicuous skill stood out; and several teams had concerns about his knee, with one team seemingly outright red flagging him.

• His slide was likely exacerbated by not working out for a team lower than the Jazz at 9. So Dallas at 10, OKC at 12, Toronto at 13, New Orleans at 14, Atlanta at 15, Lakers at 17, Miami at. 18, and Golden State at 19, may simply not have gotten much knowledge of him, may not have been privy to his medical information and therefore felt they were operating too much in the dark to pull the trigger.

Why Keyonte George?

You could argue that the Jazz, given a chance to work Whitmore out, could have taken an upward swing on him at 16 when they passed at 9. But go back to what Bart Taylor said the day before draft, and what Zanik said after it: The Jazz had nine players they were comfortable taking at No. 9. Hendricks was ninth. And George was number 10 on their board. So while they may have liked Whitmore, they had him ranked somewhere below those two guys.

As for George, both Zanik and Ainge raved about his “shot creation,” meaning he has such a unique style of play that he can get open looks in ways that other players simply can’t. They believe those shots will go in at a higher rate in the NBA than they did in college — George apparently had one of the best shooting displays of any prospect at his combine pro day — and bad instincts can be tempered by having a lower consumption role. There’s also a belief that the work he’s put into his body — reportedly down from 220 pounds at the start of the season to 185 now — will enhance his athleticism.

And a few personal details

I always like to ask jazz beginners what they’re like off the court, what they’re up to when they’re not dancing, just to get to know them a little bit as people.

Hendricks said he loves bowling and hopes there are some good lanes near ZBBC.

While it’s cliché for new players to say they’re fascinated by Utah’s mountains, George noted that he’s an avid hiker and looks forward to taking his dog Duke out on the trails.

And Sensabaugh said that while he was a total bookworm in high school and college, when he started doing pre-draft work in Los Angeles, he really started getting into clothes and fashion — though he’s more into thrifting and going to flea markets than the exclusive. stuff.

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