The 2014 NBA Draft has been regarded as one of the best drafts, as well as one of the deepest drafts since the 2003 NBA Draft that gave us guys like LeBron James. The Utah Jazz are hoping that this class produces the same as that class as well.
The Jazz currently own the fifth pick in the first round. At the fifth position, the Jazz would hopefully like to land a guy that can help turn around a franchise and help push towards becoming a championship caliber team in the future. Could that player be a point guard?
In last year’s NBA Draft, the Jazz decided to trade up to the ninth overall spot to grab Trey Burke out of the University of Michigan. Trey was drafted in hopes that he can become the next great point guard in the Jazz’s storied history. He still can be that, but is there a player that could be a better fit than Trey? There could be, but I am not sure I would give up on Trey so quickly.
Trey dealt with injuries to start his rookie campaign, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, and finished the season with an assist season average that was higher than any other point guard in Jazz franchise history. That list includes guys like John Stockton and Deron Williams.
A couple of the guys on this list who are listed as point guards could possibly be used in a two point guard lineup. Lets take a look at the top point guards and how they would fit in Utah.
1. Dante Exum – Australia
Exum has shown that he is slipping a little bit in the past few mock drafts. In fact, in the most recent mock draft on Sports Illustrated, they have him falling to number five to the Jazz. The Jazz would gladly take him to play next to Trey. Adding his length on the perimeter with Gordon Hayward on the wing, means the Jazz could be a very good perimeter defensive team next season.
Exum has great size for a guard, can get to the rim, and can finish with either hand at the basket. He would fit nicely next to Trey if he can shoot the ball. One of the knocks that Exum has had is his shot needs some work. In his workouts, however, his shots seem to be looking better. His other knock is that he hasn’t really proved himself against a high level of competition. His potential is high, but is unknown until he plays against better talent.
Many have said that after a few seasons, when we look back on this draft, Exum could very well be the best player in this draft. He could fit very well in Utah if he is willing to play next to Trey and play off the ball at times. Exum feels like he can play the point guard position, but the Jazz would ask him to do more than that.
2. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State
Smart is another guy who could fit very well in Utah, but would be asked to do more than play the point guard position. Smart is smaller than Exum in height, but is stronger than Exum and
outweighs Exum by more than 20 pounds.
Smart was an excellent defender while at Oklahoma State, and next to Trey could make for defenders to have a hard time getting to the rim. He is also an outstanding player in the open court and is nearly impossible to stop on the fast break with the ball in his hands. His coaches in college have also raved about his leadership qualities and his character.
The one thing that makes me weary about Smart is his shooting. He can get to the basket and draw contact, but he struggles shooting the ball. If he plays next to Trey, he could be playing a lot off the ball. Trey would be looking to set him up for wide open jump shots from beyond the three point line. If Smart struggles to hit that shot, the fans could lose interest in him quickly. If he works on that shot, he could fit very nicely with the Jazz.
3. Tyler Ennis – Syracuse
Ennis is a guy that the Jazz wouldn’t reach for with the fifth pick, and probably wouldn’t even consider with the 23rd pick if he was still available. Ennis was one of the best freshman point guards in the nation last season at Syracuse, but he fell apart in the second half of the season.
Ennis has a nice 6′ 7″ wingspan that helped in college, translating into steals. Syracuse runs a zone defense which could also help in those steals, sagging back and getting his hands into passing lanes. Not taking anything away from what he did at Syracuse, but that could have some effect on it. Also, only playing a zone defense makes people wonder if he can play man to man.
Aside from those things, Ennis is a small point guard, which the Jazz already have with Trey. Ennis might be smaller than Trey. There is a really good chance that they wouldn’t be able to play next to each other on the court. If the Jazz give him any kind of look, it would be in a back up role, but most Jazz fans would more than likely prefer the Jazz bring back Diante Garrett to play that role again.
4. Shabazz Napier – UConn
Napier is another guy who will be around when the Jazz are drafting at the 23rd position. Like Ennis, Napier is a smaller guard, but can score the ball better than Ennis can. With Napier, as well as Ennis, you are looking at what he can do for you as a back up.
Leaving Connecticut with two NCAA titles, Napier is a proven winner and intense competitor who looks as NBA-ready as any point in the crop. He’s a versatile scorer who who shoots it very well from the perimeter—helping offset his lack of high-grade explosiveness—and is also an excellent defender. He’ll rebound and do the little things to help his team succeed, and looks like a solid bet to become a useful cog somewhere. Napier’s not Kemba Walker, but shouldn’t be judged off the NBA success of his former UConn running mate. If the Jazz are looking for immediate point guard depth, Napier is equipped to fill a role right away.
Lacking the size many teams value in their ball handlers, Napier has to prove he can cut it physically. Although he’s improved as a passer under Kevin Ollie, he’s still a shoot-first guy with questions surrounding how well he can distribute in the NBA. Though he can light it up, Napier has bouts of streakiness where he’ll put his head down and look for buckets. Can he become more than a spark off the bench? He’s also 22 years old. You know what you’re getting with Napier—he has value in the late first, but seems unlikely to be a home-run pick.
5. Jordan Clarkson – Missouri
Clarkson is a big, athletic ball handler and a well-rounded scorer coming off a productive year at Missouri after sitting out 2012-13 post-transfer. He’s more of a combo guard, often relied upon to initiate offense for himself and others and can get to the rim, finish and draw fouls. He’s a long defender that can bother smaller guards. He’s reportedly performed well for teams in workouts, and the upside his physical tools present makes him an intriguing selection.
Is he really a point guard though? Clarkson’s not the best distributor and is still learning the position in terms of seeing plays develop and making good decisions. He’s also not an outstanding perimeter shooter (28.1 percent from three last season, regressing from 37.1 percent as a freshman). It’s worth nothing that Clarkson’s father was diagnosed with cancer in February, which may have affected his play. The way teams feel about his potential growth in those two areas will determine where Clarkson ultimately falls.
He could potentially be somewhat a steal if he pans out thanks to his size, but at this point, I’m looking at, again, bringing back Garrett and rolling with him over an unproved talent like Clarkson.