Utah Jazz Should Make Shane Larkin, Jeff Withey Newest Jazzmen
RICHFIELD, UT—4:22 P.M.— The big question: Who will the Jazz draft? Nobody knows, and anyone who claims to know is lying. The Jazz brass themselves won’t even know whose name they’ll speak (slowly, but surely) into the war-room phone on draft night until about the fifteen-second mark of their one-minute allotment to use the 14th (and 21st) overall pick. They will also be allotted thirty seconds to use their 46th pick to select a player.
As it stands, the popular choice around the web for the 14th pick is Shane Larkin of the University of Miami. Larkin is a 5’11″ point guard with an electrifying first step and zero-to-sixty quickness that allows him to ride tight gaps to the basket.
Truly, the one point guard that hasn’t been compared to Stephen Curry this year has the most similar game to the Warriors’ sharpshooter—Shane Larkin. His array of floaters and drives, quick release, and shot selection all scream Curry. Granted, he’s not the knock-down perimeter prodigy that Curry was coming out of Davidson, but there are definite similarities in their games.
Larkin averaged 14.6 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds at Miami this year, whereas Stephen Curry averaged 25.3 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds throughout his collegiate career at Davidson. Larkin’s small size and athleticism also draw comparisons to Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets, whose combined college stats were 13.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds at the University of North Carolina.
At twenty-one however, things get murkier. Mock drafts around the web, written by “professionals,” have Utah selecting every player between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
A lot of draft experts fail to realize that Utah will actually have a thin front line going into the draft this year. Seeing as Al Jefferson is unrestricted, as is Paul Millsap, and Marvin Williams holds a player option, that leaves three players to man the power forward and center spots. Can Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Jeremy Evans succeed as a trio next year? Eh… just let that one sink in. What seems to be missing, now, is a complementary defensive piece to thrive as a fearsome backup player alongside the rail-thin Evans. That player, exhale, is Jeff Withey of Kansas. I’ve fallen in love with Withey’s (“with Withey’s?” Huh.) game over the past few years, catching glimpses of KU games on television. He has unbelievable defensive presence and help-defense IQ. Couple that with his shocking ability to not foul players, unrivaled shot blocking ability, good size and athleticism, and you have the best defensive player in this draft, bar none.
Everyone is sleeping on Withey, but why? He played at a top-tier school, his offense is suitable to his game, and he’s the best player available when looking at the opposite end of the floor. He’s 23-years-old, and that’s a deterrent; not a huge one. He’s struggled in workouts, but his game can’t be shown through fundamental drills and one-on-one play. I can’t answer why he’s being slept on; it’s astonishing and questionable, but hugely in favor of the Jazz. Withey’s sweet spot in the draft is right where the Jazz landed with the Warriors’ pick at twenty-one. His most- and least-generous projections have him pinned from seventeen to twenty-five in terms of his draft range. What’s the median on that? Jazz at twenty-one.
Utah would be foolish not to take a hard look at Withey with their second first-round selection; I hardly believe, unless Dennis Schroeder is available, there is any greater value at such a late position in the draft.
Another great pick would be Sergey Karasev of Russia, but that seems like a fading reality, as Karasev’s stock is rocketing as we near the mid point of June, and he has reportedly received a draft promise from a team (much higher than 21 where the Jazz are).
All else aside, Shane Larkin and Jeff Withey would fit in very nicely with the Jazz, who need to fill their roster desperately. Larkin would take the reins at some point in the next year as the team’s point, and Withey would be inserted into the rotation to provide relief for Kanter and Favors while also providing defensive stops and bolstering a yet-identified second unit. Think of Withey as a poor man’s Andrew Bogut.
The best values at each spot in the draft—fourteen, twenty-one—might just be the two players we’ve mentioned here.
Utah should tab Larkin and Withey.
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