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SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA draft is Thursday, and the Utah Jazz hold the No. 23 pick.
As in most drafts, the later in the first round a team selects, the more open the draft becomes as the pool of players teams are selecting from broadens significantly. This year may be even harder to predict than most, following the league's lottery picks.
Depending on the major outlet you look at, players are projected all over the second half of the first round after the lottery picks. The following is a roundup of what each major outlet has the Jazz selecting, and how I think they’d fit in with the Jazz.
KZ Okpala, F, Stanford
Chikezie "KZ" Okpala had a standout sophomore season for a miserable Stanford team this year, averaging nearly 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Okpala saw his 3-point shooting jump from 22.6% as a freshman to a respectable 36.8% in his second season with the Cardinal. With a lack of ball handlers, and really only one other offensive threat this past year, Okpala was asked to carry a big offensive load for Stanford and was surprisingly efficient doing it.
The question for Okpala is whether he can continue to add weight to his 6-foot-9, 209-pound frame. If he can add weight, his versatility on both sides of the ball could make him a steal late in the draft — as an offensive creator and shooter, while being able to defend multiple positions.
I wrote more in depth about Okpala here.
Romeo Langford, G, Indiana
Romeo Langford was one of the nation's highest-rated recruits coming out of high school, before having an up-and-down season for the Hoosiers as a freshman. During his lone college season, Langford averaged an impressive 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists; but he shot a questionable 44.8% from the floor and just 27.2% from the 3-point line. Lanford was limited by a thumb injury all season, which may have hampered his perimeter shooting.
The Jazz could use more shot creation off the perimeter, and Langford certainly shows the potential to provide that, along with some playmaking for his teammates; but that will depend heavily on his ability to improve his 3-point shooting at the NBA level. The Jazz need shooting on the perimeter, and Langford’s high-level potential is tied to his ability to spread the floor.
Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Bol Bol is perhaps the biggest mystery in the draft, having played just nine games in college. In that time, however, he recorded historic numbers with the Ducks. Bol is a true unicorn and able to handle the ball, shoot 3's and block shots, all while standing at 7-foot-2.
If Bol pans out and is drafted in the 20’s, he’s a potential franchise-changing piece wherever he lands. But he was limited at Oregon due to breaking the navicular bone in his foot, a notoriously problematic break for big men in the NBA. Additionally, there are concerns about Bol’s maturity off the floor and whether he will work hard enough to reach his immense potential.
Bol would provide the Jazz with outside shooting in the front court, having knocked down 52.0% of his 3-point shots at Oregon, averaging nearly 2.8 attempts per game. He would also give the Jazz an option to replace Rudy Gobert in time, should the Jazz decide they are unwilling to extend the reigning Defensive Player of the Year a max contract in the coming years.
Bol is a project and maybe further away from contributing than the Jazz are willing to wait on for a draft pick this year.
Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State
Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the more difficult players in the draft to project and could either make an enormous impact in the NBA as a rookie or be out of the league at the end of his rookie contract. Horton-Tucker has a guard's body, standing at 6-foot-4, but has an incredible 7-foot-1 reach and an incredibly strong frame, despite being one of the youngest players in the draft.
Horton-Tucker shows a strong feel offensively and creates his own looks, despite having a less-than-ideal body for an offensive creator. He’s shown signs of being a playmaker in addition to being a willing shooter.
Despite his long arms and strong frame, Horton-Tucker hasn’t displayed the defensive ability that we have seen from players with similar builds, like Boston’s Marcus Smart. But he does have some of Smart’s drawbacks, like his struggle to shoot the ball from the perimeter. In college he knocked down just 30.8% of his 3-point shots and a concerning 62.5% from the free-throw line.
Horton-Tucker is the type of role player you could see helping to lead a team to a championship, or a player whose frame and hard-to-define game leads him to a long career overseas.
Matisse Thybulle, F, Washington
Matisse Thybulle has one of the most obvious and translatable skill sets in the draft. He set records at Washington with his steal and block numbers. Thybulle created easy transition buckets and jumped in passing lanes and was a weak side shot blocker, something the Jazz could absolutely use. It’s difficult to see Thybulle flaming out of the league with his defensive versatility.
Thybulle also has a better offensive skill set than he showed at Washington. He knocked down 37.9% of his 3-point shots in his first three seasons before shooting only 30.5% his senior season. While the dip in production is concerning, it’s better to know he has shown some ability to knock down the three. He’ll have to prove he can contribute offensively in the NBA if he wants to be more than just a defensive role player.
The strange thing about watching Thybulle is that his offensive setbacks appear to be self made, and likely due to a lack of selfishness. Thybulle often catches the ball and, despite putting the ball on the floor for one or two dribbles, is rarely willing to get all the way to the rim to finish or go to the free-throw line before passing the ball. Unselfishness is great in a team environment, and the Jazz play that style of basketball, but the Jazz need scoring support for Donovan Mitchell and Thybulle simply might not be willing to be the man. Ben Anderson is a contributor at KSL.com, follow him on Twitter @BensHoops. Listen to him 2-6, Monday through Friday with Kyle Gunther on ESPN 700.