SALT LAKE CITY — Where the Utah Jazz's last workout on Monday was all about working out established collegiate players with terrific resumes, Thursday's session looked at younger players with more athletic tools. Here's what we learned.
Elie Okobo's potential
It wasn't Elie Okobo's first time working out for the Jazz, as he did last season before pulling his name out of the draft. Now he's back, and he's improved significantly.
"They said I was a good player, but I had to work on my body, my physicality, and my defense," Okobo said. "Since that moment, I think I've improved a lot, because of this season, my experience, and working hard. I think I'm better now."
Okobo doesn't know the French-speaking Jazz players well, but had a conversation with Thabo Sefolosha at the Zions Bank Basketball Center (Sefolosha gave him advice on how to approach the workout), and asked Rudy Gobert over the phone what it was like to play in Utah.
It sounded like Walt Perrin, Jazz vice president of player personnel, was relatively impressed with what he saw from Okobo.
"Smooth offensively, pretty good shooter, handles it pretty well. Tough to see certain stuff 3-on-3 as whether he's a point guard," Perrin said. "Had a pretty good workout and probably has to improve his defense." He also noted that Okobo had the best shooting performance in the workout, though, with this group of six players, that's less of an accomplishment than it might have been on another day.
I'll be honest, I like Okobo a lot. I think he shows a lot of NBA-ready skills, from an already very good pull-up jumper from midrange and the 3-point line to impressive vision and decision making for a 20-year-old. He varies his pace well, too.
He's not good defensively, though. He sometimes shows enough on that end that you think maybe it's an effort issue, but clearly, he'll need to bring it on more possessions at the NBA level than he did in France.
Anfernee Simons' prep-to-pros route
Anfernee Simons is a unique story, as he declined to go to college, instead spending a fifth high school year at IMG Academy to work on his game. From all accounts, he's exactly what you'd expect from a player who made that decision: athletically talented, reasonably skilled, and yet completely unready to play in the NBA next year.
"Anfernee is a talented kid. Very skilled offensively. He's a better competitor when there are people in front of him than in drill situations, so he needs to pick that up a little bit," Perrin said.
"He's going to be in the league. Is he going to play a lot next year? I doubt it, unless he goes to a team without many players. He's a developmental player. But he has skill sets that a lot of NBA guys have."
Perrin was then asked if you often find those skill sets at the No. 21 overall selection.
"May not. And if you do find them, it's a deep draft where you find them in guys who are a lot older than he is," Perrin said.
That's pretty good praise for the young player. But Perrin also noted that he didn't necessarily bring his full effort to the drills section of the workout. And from an interview perspective, I don't think he was impressive at all.
That's the thing with developmental players like Simons: You're betting on them having the necessary work ethic to take full advantage of their tools. If they do, you can get major NBA talent in the back end of the first round. If they don't, you might get a player who never makes it to the NBA.
For what it's worth, Simons has a relationship with Donovan Mitchell (Simons actually committed to Louisville before pulling out after Rick Pitino's schedule), so maybe Mitchell can impart that work ethic and growth ability into Simons if he were to be drafted in Utah.
The other standout players in this workout were Melvin Frazier from Tulane and Rawle Alkins from Arizona.
Frazier is a long wing who turns 22 in August. Perrin wrapped him up by saying, "He brought a lot of energy to the workout. He has another chance to be a very good defender in our league. He's going to have to work on his shooting."
Frazier, for what it's worth, compared himself to Kawhi Leonard, as is basically a requirement for long wings who can't shoot in college. He's not going to be Leonard, but I think he could be a good NBA defender.
Alkins should be familiar to Utah basketball fans after playing at Arizona for the last couple of years. Alkins is long and strong, and again, Perrin said that he expects him to be an NBA player with an ability to contribute on defense.
He's slimmed down some since college, going from 11-12 percent body fat to 7-8 percent, he says, which allows him to move faster on the court. He'll need to show off a more consistent shot and better feel on the floor to stay on it at the NBA level. That being said, I've seen a couple of mock drafts where he falls to No. 52, the Jazz's pick in the second round, and I think he's a no-brainer if he falls that far.
Donovan Mitchell media tour
Mitchell has been on a media tour as he's arrived in Cleveland for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. A list of what he's done:
- Interviewed Kevin Love for NBA.com
- Interviewed Draymond Green for NBA.com
- Spent 30 minutes on ESPN's First Take with Stephen A. Smith
- Went on NBATV's The Starters show
- Joined SportsCenter before Game 3
- Was the featured guest on ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast
That's just in two days of interviews. To be honest, in Utah, we've never seen a player with Mitchell's star power, a player able to attract these kinds of media interviews at the NBA's most important time of the year. It's a very good thing for the future of the Jazz's franchise.