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NBA Returning, Draft Prospects, And Mailbag Answers

Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball while defended by James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the first half at Toyota Center on February 09, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA is returning, and the NBA Draft is right around the corner. In the latest Jazz Notes Podcast, Ben Anderson explains the changes to the NBA offseason, discusses draft prospects in the state of Utah, three players who could be options for the Jazz at 23, and answers your mailbag questions.

You can submit questions to the mailbag on Twitter @BensHoops, and you can listen to the full podcast in the player below. At the bottom of the article, you can find a link to subscribe to the Jazz Notes podcast.

NBA Returning

The NBA’s owners and the NBA Players Association have agreed to begin the season on December 22. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league’s players held a vote Thursday and agreed to begin the season in late December rather than the later Martin Luther King Day alternative.

The season will be shortened from 82 games to 72 and will run through mid-July and is expected to wrap up before the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Games. The accelerated start day is projected to earn the NBA an additional $500 million to $1 billion in revenue and will allow the league to host its annual Christmas Day showcase.

There are still several topics on the table that have to be agreed upon between the two sides. Beyond setting an opening date in December, the NBA and the players have to determine when to open training camps, as well as when to begin the free agency period.

Childs And Merrill Getting Drafted?

The NBA draft is a little under two weeks away and both local prospects have a shot at getting drafted. Utah State’s Sam Merrill appears in most mock drafts, generally in the 40-50 range of picks in the second round.

BYU forward Yoeli Childs also shows up on a handful of mocks, though not nearly as often as Merrill. Both players have a shot to make an NBA roster even if they don’t get drafted. Merrill’s shooting is a legit NBA skill, now he has to prove that his playmaking can continue against better athletes at the next level.

Childs has average size, but a unique combination of shooting and athleticism that could be worth taking a chance on for an NBA team.

On Monday, Merrill will join Anderson for a live interview at 10:30 AM on the KSL Sports Facebook Page.

Three Draft Prospects

This week I broke down three additional draft prospects that could be available when the Jazz are selecting with the 23rd pick.

Tyrese Maxey: Tyrese Maxey is one of the most exciting prospects in the draft, especially for players not projected to be drafted in the top 10. The Kentucky freshman appears built for the biggest stages of basketball, never shying away from the spotlight.

The freshman guard is a skilled combo guard able to operate both as a primary playmaker or a scorer off the ball. At 6’3 with a 6’6 wingspan, Maxey showed the ability to compete on both ends of the floor with college basketball’s best talent.

The top concern for Maxey is his low three-point shooting percentage in college. Maxey connected on just 29 percent of his attempts despite 3.6 attempts per game. He’s a willing shooter even when it wasn’t falling, and too often his shot wasn’t falling.

Aleksej Pukosevski: Aleksej Pokusevski is an extremely intriguing European draft prospect due to his elite measurables and athletic fluidity. Seven footers with Pokusevski’s ability to run the floor, change direction, and handle the ball with such control are a rare breed.

Increasing Pokusevski’s stock is the fact that he already shows an above-average feel for the game. Unlike some unicorn bodies found in remote gyms, Pokusevski has been around the game of basketball honing his skills.

Despite his elite physical tools, Pokusevski is unproven against upper-echelon competition. Having played with Olympiacos B, Pokusevski doesn’t have the same proven pro career as other draft-eligible players like Leandro Bolmaro or Theo Maledon.

Robert Woodard:

Robert Woodard is a big-bodied wing who moves comfortably in his 6’7 frame. Unlike a lot of sophomores entering the NBA, Woodard might be ready to compete from a physical standpoint from day one.

Woodard’s athleticism allows him to finish easily above the rim, especially with his impressive 7’1 wingspan. He’s not always a freakish leaper in the halfcourt, but he has the burst. His body control is apparent when running the floor. Unlike some bulky wings, he moves fluidly and rarely looks reckless.

however, Woodard broke the 20 point mark only once during his 65 game career in college, so expecting the wing to be a significant option as a scorer is a fool’s errand. His best skill offensively will be as a ball mover who knocks down open threes occasionally.

Mailbag Answers

I think this makes it more likely that players sign where they have familiarity. With the condensed free-agent window players will likely have less time to explore their options, and money will quickly disappear off the table.

That means I like the Jazz odds of resigning Clarkson more than I might have had the season started in January. It also may increase the Jazz odds of signing Derrick Favors. There’s an understanding of role, value, and mutual familiarity which won’t exist with other free-agent options.

However, it might make signing other free agents slightly more difficult if they also prefer to look at their most recent teams, or higher profile teams when signing in the smaller window.

I think the Jazz are at the point where signing most any other team’s top three players would give the Jazz a decent shot. Basically, they are a true $17-20 million player away from being contenders.

However, that’s why we have salary caps, the Jazz already have that guy in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. Adding another player of that caliber would be significant, but obviously, that’s not on the board.

I listed three names in my article of the Top 10 Free Agents I thought made sense for the Jazz. Justin Holiday from the Indiana Pacers is probably the most proven player on the list but might be hard to pry away.

Maurice Harkless used to be in higher demand but I think he makes sense as a versatile defensive player who is sometimes a hot or cold shooter.

Andre Roberson might be worth a risk depend on his medicals. At one point he might have been the best defensive wing in the NBA, even if he’s a zero on the offensive end. If he could bring that back and come at a discount he might be a nice fit.

You can find additional answers to your mailbag questions in the podcast. You can subscribe to the Jazz Notes weekly podcast and have them delivered directly to your phone.

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