SALT LAKE CITY — Their man was slipping, and the Jazz took action. Twice.
With Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell moving down in the draft, Dennis Lindsey made the call to the Denver Nuggets and traded the No. 24 pick and Jazz power forward Trey Lyles to Denver in exchange for the No. 13 pick, used to select Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.
Then, later on in the night, the Jazz packaged the No. 30 and the No. 42 picks to move up to No. 28 in order to draft Tony Bradley, the huge freshman center from North Carolina.
Mitchell and the Jazz have been mutually admiring each other for months. The Jazz were Mitchell's first workout, and Mitchell was unbelievably positive about the franchise. "He loved us, we loved him," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
"I wanted to work out for the Jazz. I love the organization. I talked to my agent, and he said we like the people and the group. Mr. Lindsey is a great guy, and I played against his son, and the first thing he talked about was the two steals he had against us when we were up 25," Mitchell told KSL.com then.
"That type of camaraderie is something I like in an organization. Having one of the higher-ups interact with a player, and you see, it's just a lot of fun. You don't hear anything negative about the Jazz."
But it's not just the organization Mitchell loved, it's the whole state.
"And Utah, I love it. It's quiet and nice, everything is clean for starters. I'm from New York, where it's loud and dirty," Mitchell said. "But I like Utah a lot. It's beautiful. I just like it out here."
Clearly, Lindsey felt good about Mitchell too. "We had two prospects that we were trying to move up for," Lindsey said, "and Donovan was one of those guys, because of his length, his athleticism and his character."
Mitchell was the prospect at the NBA Combine who had the highest vertical jump and three-quarter sprint times.
Meanwhile, Trey Lyles exits Utah after two up-and-down seasons. After he impressed in the last two months of his rookie season, Lyles really struggled in 2016-17, falling out of the rotation and losing power forward minutes to Boris Diaw, a hobbling Derrick Favors, and Joe Johnson. Lyles wrote a goodbye message on Twitter as he learned of the trade:
Want to say thank you to the Jazz organization/Coaches/Fans/Teammates for all the help and support and a great 2 years!— Trey Lyles (@TreyLyles) June 23, 2017
“We want to thank Trey Lyles, and that was a painful decision," Lindsey said. "We knew Denver had had interest in Trey, but we didn’t know that it would manifest itself tonight relative to No. 13."
Late in the first round, the Jazz noticed Bradley slipping, another prospect they liked. They figured that the Lakers could use as many rookies as possible, so they used No. 42 to move up two picks to No. 28.
Bradley isn't very impressive on film, but his stats jump off the paper once you adjust for the limited number of minutes he played at North Carolina. That means statistical models love him. Kevin Pelton named him as the No. 9 best prospect in this draft, and Andrew Johnson had him as the 6th best prospect.
"You have to look past the per game averages to the more advanced stats," Lindsey explained. "Some of our people who deal with our statistical modeling picked up on the same thing that was in the public, in how productive Tony was."
The Jazz liked Bradley's size, and hope he can be Rudy Gobert's backup at center in 2017-18. Lindsey feels like Bradley has more to his game than he was able to show in his small role at UNC.
"There were two or three things that we think three or four years down the road, he’ll be able to do that players who play on a national championship contender aren’t able to show," Lindsey said.
In the second round, the Jazz used the No. 55 selection on Nigel Williams-Goss, the highly successful point guard from Gonzaga. While the story should sound familiar, Williams-Goss isn't John Stockton. That being said, the Jazz had a chance to ask Stockton about what he thought about the most recent point guard at his alma mater.
"I thought he was the National Player of the Year," Stockton told Lindsey. "You cannot speed him up, he plays with great pace. He plays with great toughness and great character, and he plays like an adult."
And then Lindsey, when he had Williams-Goss come to Salt Lake City, noticed another intangible. "Nigel was one of the top five communicators of all time in the workout. This situation’s coming up, and he’s anticipating it, and he’s working with his other two teammates in 3-on-3 situations, and it’s such a verbal commanding leadership kind of way," Lindsey said. "I can see why Gonzaga went to the national championship game."
That being said, Williams-Goss probably won't get a 15-man roster spot, but instead is a likely candidate for one of the new two-way roster spots between the NBA and the D-League.
For Lindsey and the Utah Jazz, they got the players they wanted coming into the night. "Tonight, we got uniquely lucky as much as anything," Lindsey explained.
But Mitchell disagreed. When asked Thursday why he came to work out with Utah, he said "I don’t like to leave anything to chance."
Whether it was due to luck or hard work, Jazz draft day ended with some excellent matchmaking.
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