What Elijah Hughes Offers The Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz looked to add depth on the perimeter in the second round of the NBA draft. The Jazz acquired guard Elijah Hughes from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for a 2022 second-round draft pick and cash considerations. Hughes was selected with the 39th pick in the draft.
The Syracuse guard played three seasons of college basketball, including his freshman season at East Carolina before transferring to the Orange for his sophomore and junior seasons.
At 6’6 with a 6’7 wingspan, Hughes has good size for an NBA guard, though his length leaves something to be desired. Surprisingly, Hughes weighed in at 230 lbs, an unusually high number for a player his size, though it makes sense in light of his 10 percent body fat percentage.
Before he sees minutes in the NBA, he’ll have to put work into his body to lose weight, increase speed, and drop the double-digit body fat percentage. Though Hughes used his weight to his advantage, there’s significant room for physical improvement.
What Does Hughes Offer The Jazz?
On the court, Hughes is an average secondary ball-handler with good athleticism and body control. He’s got a smooth jump shot, though his shooting percentages weren’t eye-popping during his amateur career.
Hughes shot just 42 percent from the floor, 34 percent from three, and 81 percent from the free-throw line during his junior year at Syracuse. The guard was asked to create a lot of shots for himself on an undertalented ACC roster which hurt his percentages.
Syracuse products are difficult to project as defenders in the NBA as a result of their 2-3 zone. Hughes rarely played man to man defense and regularly sagged far off of perimeter players to clog the lane against opponents. Despite the unique role, Hughes showed a knack for smart defensive rotations in the sometimes complicated zone scheme.
Hughes excels is as a corner three-point shooter mixed with the ability to beat defenders back door for athletic finishes at the rim. The guard regularly had impressive baseline dunks against slow rotating bigs by beating his defender to the hoop.
Despite his mediocre shooting percentages, Hughes maintained a strong effective field goal percentage thanks in large part to his ability to draw fouls as a junior. Hughes averaged 5.2 free-throws per game during his final college season as he attacked the basket looking for contact.
Ultimately, Hughes’ role early in his career will be as a floor spacer, relied upon to knock down open shots without surrendering too many easy looks on the defensive end. If the Syracuse product can do that, further developing his average ball-handling skills will allow him to attack closeouts and get into the paint to utilize his athleticism and strength.
NBA spacing could allow Hughes an easier opportunity to find his own shot, though he’ll have to improve his body to beat NBA defenders with his speed before shot creation will be an active part of his game.
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