Editor’s note: First in a three-part series examining what players the Utah Jazz might select in the 2023 NBA Draft.
June 22 is going to be a busy night for the Utah Jazz. After going through the 2022 NBA Draft without a single pick, the team will enter the 2023 draft with three first-round selections — No. 9, No. 16 and No. 28.
Today we’re going to look at some players who could make a difference for the Jazz with the 28th pick. These decisions are based on who might still be on the board at the end of the first round, who would fit into the Jazz’s roster, who the Jazz have shown interest in and who I personally think would be a good addition to the team.
Once you get past the lottery picks and are nearing the second round of the draft, it’s difficult to find a player that doesn’t come with some question marks or concerns, so these aren’t going to be perfect prospects.
But, it’s also important to remember that stars have been made from late draft picks (Spurs legend Tony Parker and former Jazzman Greg Ostertag were both selected No. 28 overall). There are diamonds in the rough to be found.
Andre Jackson Jr. — UConn — 6-foot-6
On paper, Andre Jackson Jr. does not jump off the page. He was a part of the UConn Huskies team that captured the national title this year, but on that team he put up numbers that don’t stand out — 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting just 28.1 % from 3-point range.
But if you get away from the paper and away from worrying about the numbers, there is a player that is much larger than what the stats suggest.
He is an absolute shark on defense who strikes when he sniffs even the slightest mistake and as far as his offense goes, here’s what Jackson told me in Chicago during the NBA Combine.
“There’s not a lot of players that get invited here (to the combine) with the stats that I have,” Jackson said.
“I might have three points and four rebounds in a game — but everything else I do, that’s where the story is. I do everything and I love it. Thats what teams might not know about me yet is just my love for the dirty work and doing anything that will lead to winning.”
And Jackson is not wrong. He is a do it all, dive on the floor, set a good screen, play defense, clean up messes type of player, and he’s also certain that he has more to give to the game.
His shooting wasn’t great in college, but at the combine he showed some growth and improvement in his form and efficiency, albeit in a small sample size.
He described his focus on improving his shooting, handling and passing, and that showed during his outings in Chicago.
The concern is that Jackson might be exactly what it seems like he is on paper. He might not have more to give, he might be a limited offensive player who only shines in defensive highlight moments.
The hope is that although Jackson might not be a perfect NBA player right away, with the right development and the right players around him he could become the kind of role player that is continually coveted around the league.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. — UCLA — 6-foot-6
Every year as I deepen my draft coverage and get to know players more through film and research, I find myself picking a few favorites and I will not lie about Jaime Jaquez Jr. being one of my favorites in this year’s draft.
Jaquez can score from anywhere on the court, he’s got great footwork, uses ball-fakes, pump-fakes and pass-fakes and seems to create opportunities in high-pressure moments when it seems like there is no way for him to score.
He is great in the midrange, can knock down 3s — especially off the dribble — and is fast with the ball in transition.
On defense, he can get beaten by some of the faster guards, but he’s versatile and is a great rotation and help defender with really good hands and a nose for getting into passing lanes.
In general, Jaquez does a little bit of everything, and he does it all well.
The concerns about Jaquez coming into the draft are mostly about his overall game translating to the NBA. There are also a lot of people that doubt his shooting and worry about his lack of athleticism.
To those people I would like to point to Joe Ingles. Or, if that’s not topical enough for you, let’s look at Nikola Jokic.
I’m not saying that Jaquez is going to be an All-NBA level shooter or that he’s nearly as skilled as a two-time MVP who is in the Finals, but what I am saying is players don’t have to be all-world athletes who are constantly leaping around and above the competition in order to be great players.
Also, I’d like to point to the NBA Combine, where Jaquez turned in the third-highest standing vertical lead and sixth best max vertical leap all participants. How’s that for non-athletic?
Want to get excited about Jaquez? Watch his NCAA tournament highlight reels from 2021 and then 2023. I know that these are highlight reels and thus only show the good moments, but it’s not efficiency that I want you to pay attention to. Look at how different his game is in 2021 compared to 2023.
On the 2021 roster, Jaquez needed to use his footwork a little more. He needed to work with the ball in his hands and he needed to be quick. You can see all of those attributes and abilities in the video.
On the 2023 UCLA roster, the Bruins needed Jaquez to be stronger and to use his strength and size against the other teams and he was able to do that.
Not only can you see growth in his game, but you can see his ability to adapt based on the needs of the team.
This is why I’m not worried about Jaquez going to the next level. He has proven himself to be adaptable and is able to adjust whether that’s from one game to the next or it’s from one season to the next.
His off the dribble shooting is great and his form is good, which usually lends itself to increased efficiency off the catch and from the free throw line, so I’m not worried there.
Honestly, I think getting Jaquez at 28 would be a steal.
Kris Murray — Iowa — 6-foot-8
Yes, this is Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray’s twin brother. No, they are not the same player.
Kris Murray tested the draft waters a little bit last year along with his brother but decided to stay at Iowa for another year, and that decision really paid off. He seemed to grow and develop a lot more than was anticipated and he showed a lot more overall strength in his game.
He’s not a selfish player and he doesn’t need the ball in his hands, which is a good thing for the Jazz who are looking like they might have quite a battle in the backcourt, depending on how the offseason shakes out.
Instead, Murray is able to score in a variety of ways, and his length gives him an advantage in a lot of switching situations.
Defensively he’s pretty good on the ball and seems to switch well and use his physicality in smart ways that will translate to the NBA.
Seeing his shooting drop from nearly 40% last season to 33% this season has some people a little worried, but there are certainly reasons for that dip, and the fact that it wasn’t more significant is actually really impressive.
After shooting upwards of 38% from 3-point range in his sophomore season, Murray started taking a lot more 3s in his junior season (from 3.2 attempts per game to 6.8).
Additionally, defenses really started to focus on him on the perimeter in an attempt to deny him open looks. Over the course of a single college season he made not only the volume adjustments but also adjusted to being defended differently and found ways score 20.2 points per game.
There’s a chance that Murray could be off the board by the time the Jazz get to pick, but if he’s there, he might be too good to pass up.
Julian Strawther — Gonzaga — 6-foot-6
If the Jazz are looking for a guy that can move off the ball and absolutely knock down shots who will be available at the end of the first round of the draft, Julian Strawther is the answer.
In his third season at Gonzaga, Strawther shot 40.8% from 3-point land on 5.3 attempts per game.
He hits spot-up shots, has a great side-step and dribble move to get closetout defenders in the air and has been shooting more in motion as of late.
But Strawther isn’t just a 3-point shooter. He’s got a pretty reliable midrange game and knows when to drive and attack in space and use the floor to his advantage.
He’s not the most productive defender at his size, but there is no lack of effort on his part and in the NBA, defensive effort can truly make a big difference. He’s fast and smart and has great feel for the game on both sides of the ball.
In talking with some of the executives and scouts at the combine, there was a little bit of surprise that Strawther was falling down into the second round on some of the mock drafts and projections.
With a little bit of development and some work with an NBA strength staff, it seems that Strawther could be a mix between Duncan Robinson and Desmond Bane.
Jordan Walsh — Arkansas — 6-foot-7
While most people are going to be talking about Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. out of Arkansas, when I’m watching Arkansas games I can’t get enough of Jordan Walsh.
Right up front I want to say that Walsh is a freshman and he has a long way to go and there are parts of his game that are really raw and he does make mistakes, but none of these guys are without flaws and they all make mistakes.
What stands out so much about Walsh is that he just doesn’t know how to quit on defense or on the glass. I think he might not actually know when to quit. Sometimes it seems like, in his mind, a defensive possession isn’t over until he steals the ball or makes a stop.
And at 6-foot-6 (without shoes) with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Walsh uses every inch of himself on defense and is unrelenting at every position.
For a 19 year-old, the way that he fights through and over screens and is able to move within a defensive system, Walsh seems like he’s wise beyond his years and he has so much room to grow.
The downsides are that Walsh is a below average shooter and he fouls a lot. The good thing is that Walsh’s shooting form is nice and fluid and he looks like he can improve his efficiency.
Learning to defend effectively without fouling is going to be the biggest hurdle for Walsh, but he seems hungry and willing to learn.
Walsh has played multiple sports including football and soccer, and it seems that he’s gained quite a bit of coordination and learned how to position his body at different angles.
It would be a bit of a risk to take Walsh, especially if the Jazz intend on keeping Talen Horton-Tucker if he chooses to opt into his player option for next season, but Walsh is the kind of huge-upside, high-ceiling player that is worth taking late in the first round.