Mar 23, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers forward Cleanthony Early (11) reacts after scoring against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second half in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men

NBA Draft: Evaluating The Utah Jazz's 23rd Pick

With just around two weeks left until the 2014 NBA Draft, a lot of focus from around the Utah Jazz’s fan base has been on their first pick at number five. That first pick for the Jazz is very important, but there is another pick in the first round that has a lot of importance of it’s own surrounding it.

The Jazz made a trade last off season with the Golden State Warriors, and as a result of that, the Jazz own the Warriors’ first round pick this season, which happens to fall at number 23. The Jazz have been holding quite a few pre-draft workouts the last couple weeks, and have been looking at guys who could possibly be available when that pick is back on the clock. Are the players that will be there ones that will make much of a difference?

Here is a look at a few of the players that could be still on the board in the early 20’s range.

Cleanthony Early – Wichita State

I have heard in the last few weeks from numerous Jazz fans that are pretty high on Cleanthony Early. I have to admit that I didn’t see much of him in college. Early just finished up his senior season at Wichita State, and myself, as well as others, hadn’t really seen much of him before the Shockers’ run to the Final Four his junior year. Early averaged a little over 16 points and 6 rebounds in his senior season, which ended with a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament.

The Jazz will need to be looking at a small forward type player, either in the draft or free agency, due to the unknown status of restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. Early is a player who is good, but isn’t a guy who can step in for a player like Hayward.

Early is very athletic and has a very good face up game. However, there are many parts of his game that need a lot of work. He is a good, not great three point shooter. On top of that, he is not a very good ball handler, and struggles defending at times. He is coming off his senior season, which to me is a good thing. Spending all four seasons in college tend to make players more mature heading into the NBA. However, Early makes a lot of poor decisions that a senior shouldn’t make.

There is a lot more things, good and poor, that you can watch in his draft profile video above. Early looks to be a player who, at the next level, has some potential to be a pretty decent role player, but I have my doubts about him playing a anything but a minimal role with the Jazz.

Glenn Robinson III – Michigan

Robinson is another guy that the Jazz could be looking hard at due to them needing to look towards a small forward. Robinson, son of former NBA great Glenn Robinson, does have a little bit of ties with the Jazz. As most remember, Robinson played at Michigan with current Jazz point guard, Trey Burke. That alone could already make him a good fit in Utah, as the two seemed to have had great chemistry on the court together in college.

If you are comparing Robinson’s game to Early’s, Robinson seems to have the leg up here. Both players run the court very well, but Robinson is a better ball handler. Robinson is very explosive and athletic, and could make a lot of exciting plays off the bench in transition. Another comparison between the two, Robinson is a pretty good defender, where Early seems to have struggles on defense.

On a lesser note, he, like Early, is a good outside shooter, but not great. His three point shooting percentage actually went down this season compared to his freshman year. Part of that could be due to not having a point guard to set up easy shots. During his freshman season, playing alongside Burke, Trey drew a lot of attention that left Robinson for open looks. This season, his shots were a lot more contested. He also was terrible from the free throw line during his freshman year. Sophomore year, he improved his free throw percentage by nearly ten percent. Even with the improvement, he’s still not quite where you would like him to be.

Robinson could be a really good fit with the Jazz. He’s a much better defender than Early, and in my opinion, much more athletic. If I had to choose between the two, I am picking Robinson every time. His chemistry with Trey that he already has could definitely be a big advantage for him next season if he is with Utah.

P.J. Hairston – Texas Legends/North Carolina

P.J. Hairston was forced to sit out this past season with the North Carolina Tarheels, and instead played in the NBA Developmental League with the Texas Legends. During his time in the D-League, Hairston dominated offensively and scored the ball very well. He averaged 21.8 points per game with the Legends.

The Jazz could use a scorer off the bench. Hairston can provide just that. Hairston is a great scorer, specifically in transition. As you can see in his draft profile video above, he is nearly deadly when he gets a spot up three in transition. He also shoots very well coming off the screen. He is a very good free throw shooter, which is needed since he goes to the free throw line quite a bit. Hairston is very strong and knows how to get to the rim and draw contact.

As good as he is getting to the rim, he does however make some mistakes that could hurt him at the next level. He typically likes to put his head down and drive to the basket. He doesn’t seem to be looking for an open player when finishing his drive. At the next level, that could hurt him when defenders slide over to take a charge. That could result in him seeing a lot of time on the bench. A few things you can see in the video above consist of scouts seeing a lack of effort. When he brings the effort every play, offensively and defensively, he has a huge amount of potential. When he decides to take plays off, he turns into a liability.

Hairston may very well be a late first round steal in this draft, but only if you can get a consistent effort out of him on a nightly basis. He has good size and could play the shooting guard or small forward position off the bench. Has potential, but at times, looks to have bust written all over him. He could be a steal, or could end up being this year’s Shabazz Muhammad.

We will take another look at more players once we get closer to the draft, but these are really the three main guys I can see the Jazz looking at when they get to the 23rd pick. Another guy I like here is Adreian Payne out of Michigan State. However, he is too good to fall to the early to mid 20’s range.

Out of the three guys that I mentioned above, I think I would be looking the hardest at Glenn Robinson III. He can play the small forward position off the bench, has good size and length, is very explosive and athletic, and can defend well. On top of that, the chemistry that he already has with Trey is something that, to me, is priceless.

If you’re keeping track, my article yesterday on who would be the best player to take with the fifth pick was Aaron Gordon out of Arizona. Adding Robinson gives the Jazz two very athletic players coming to Utah, and that should be a very exciting thing for Jazz fans.

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