Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Isaiah Stewart
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA draft is tentatively scheduled for October 16. While that might change as the league continues to juggle offseason dates, the Utah Jazz know they’ll have the 23rd pick in the draft. With that in mind, we continue our KSL Sports draft prospects preview with Isaiah Stewart. Stewart is a 6’9, 250 pound center from the University of Washington, projected by most draft outlets to be selected towards the end of the first round.
Isaiah Stewart: 6’9, 250 lbs PF/C – Fr – UW
17 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 57% FG/25% 3p/77% FT
Like most top tier high school recruits (ranked 2nd in the country) the first thing that jumps out about Stewart is his well-developed body. Despite turning 19 after the college basketball season was suspended, Stewart looked like a man amongst boys at the NCAA level.
Not only is Stewart well built, but he also doesn’t shy away from physicality like most other freshmen. That’s a good sign for any team looking to select Stewart as the majority of his development will be focused on his skillset rather than his body.
On top of being one of the most physically imposing players on the floor, Stewart correctly uses his incredible strength to his advantage. Rather than simply looking the part but shying away from contact a la former Jazzman Kris Humphries, the Washington freshman powered his way to an impressive 17 point per game average on an efficient 57 percent from the floor, while snaring 8.8 rebounds per game.
Stewart regularly backs his way into terrific position on the offensive end and has the strength to seal off defenders from contesting an entry pass. To go with his strength, Stewart has soft hands which both serve him when catching tough passes and finishing around the rim.
On top of his strength and soft touch, Stewart has nimble feet allowing him to create good looks, of which he finishes well with a variety of post moves.
While Stewart is a load offensively, his real strength in the NBA might be as a rebounder and on the defensive end. The freshman has a truly impressive motor on the glass, leading to nearly three offensive rebounds per game. Not only is Stewart strong, he understands the art of rebounding, positioning himself as soon as a shot goes up, and maintaining or resetting his position depending on a shot’s trajectory. He’s not a big leaper, but his strength and length allow him to swallow up enormous amounts of space on the glass.
Though he’s far from a seven-footer, reportedly standing 6’9, Stewart’s 7’4 wingspan makes him a deceptively good shot blocker, especially with his willingness to erase space against defenders down low. Stewart moves his feet quickly enough to stick with the oppositions post moves, then maintains verticality and good timing to record a surprising amount of block shots as an on-ball defender.
As the NBA continues to utilize smaller players in the frontcourt, Stewart shouldn’t be at any disadvantage against modern bigs with his strength and length. Even against some of the leagues bigger players, think Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic, Stewart will likely be able to hold his own due to his impressive physical profile.
Though Stewart is an incredible bruiser, he lacks burst as a leaper. At just 6’9, his height will hinder the big man against the bigger strong players in the NBA. In college, he would regularly clear space with his impressive frame, but that will become more difficult at the next level.
Without incredible leaping ability, it’s unlikely he’ll have the same impact as a help-side defender in the NBA, though his quick feet and willingness to compete will aid him regardless of the competition.
Offensively, Stewart is an old school low post player. He catches the ball and uses his strength to go to work. Truthfully, that’s just not a common offensive attack in the NBA, and likely won’t be utilized as much wherever he gets drafted. The majority of his scoring will come on second chance put-backs and running the floor, so his 17 point per game average might be deceptive. Think young Montrezl Harrell.
At this point, any flashes of his faceup potential have been few and far between. That’s not only important for his ability to develop as a scorer but for his ability to operate as a playmaker where he struggles terribly.
Stewart averaged less than one assist per game in college, even though he regularly drew double teams, he couldn’t find them open man for good looks. NBA teams will exploit that by trapping Stewart any time he catches the ball and forcing him to make reads. Right now he can’t do it, so it will take work to get him up to speed.
The freshman showed some promise as a shooter, as his jump shot is unbroken, but converted just 25 percent of his attempts in college. However, Stewart’s 77 percent free-throw completion is cause for optimism as a shooter long term.
How Stewart Fits With The Jazz in the Draft
There has been a groundswell of infatuation with bringing Derrick Favors back to the Jazz after shipping the big man New Orleans in exchange for cap relief last offseason. For fans who miss Favors’ bruising, defensive-minded game, Stewart projects to check the majority of the boxes left vacant in the former Jazzman’s absence.
Despite a somewhat loaded frontcourt with Rudy Gobert, Tony Bradley, Ed Davis, and Jarrell Brantley, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Stewart earn minutes early with the Jazz based on his motor and rebounding. Jazz coach Quin Snyder preaches defense and Stewart could add something that none of the previously mentioned Jazz bigs offer by way of his physicality.
Jazz fans fell in love with Paul Millsap despite his below-average size due to his effort and toughness, and Stewart brings similar attributes in a younger, more talented package.
Like Millsap, if the former highly rated high school prospect can develop as a shooter and passer, his upside skyrockets, despite relatively average athletic abilities. If the Jazz feel sheepish about Gobert’s looming five-year $250 million supermax contract, Stewart could be a wise pick as insurance for the All-Star center.
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