Utah Jazz Nearing Top 10 Draft Pick
SALT LAKE CITY – Where do the Utah Jazz need to finish in the lottery standings to feel comfortable about who they could pick in the 2023 NBA Draft?
After a stronger-than-expected beginning of the season, the Jazz have lost three straight, and sit just a half-game out of the eighth-worst record in the NBA with 17 games left to play.
While the hopes of landing French superstar Victor Wembanyama will rely on the lottery balls, how much talent is in this year’s draft, and where should the Jazz aim to close the season to be satisfied with their position?
Yahoo Sports NBA Draft Expert Krysten Peek talked to KSL Sports about the Jazz, and how she has separated the players into the tiers in this year’s draft.
🚨 NEW NBA MOCK DRAFT 🚨
Victor Wembanyama is still No. 1, but things are starting to get interesting with the rest of the Top 10 👀
Latest mock draft from @krystenpeek ➡️ https://t.co/UBVQtQL22v pic.twitter.com/rsvhwx8Bvv
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 28, 2023
Though every franchise in the NBA will have different preferences come June, many teams do look at the draft in tiers to determine the quality of players that could be on the board when they are selecting.
With the draft still nearly four months away, here’s how Peek broke down the early tiers in the draft as the Jazz continue to improve their lottery position.
Tier 1: Big Vic
Victor Wembanyama stands alone in the top tier as perhaps the most highly sought-after draft prospect since LeBron James.
The French phenom has done nothing to make NBA teams think he’s anything but the top option in June after averaging 22.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks for the Metropolitans 92 in 21 appearances this season.
Tier 2: Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller
Scoot Henderson was the surefire number-two pick behind Wembanyama entering the season but has been joined by Alabama wing Brandon Miller in Peek’s eyes.
Henderson has had a solid season playing for the G League Ignite averaging 16.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three.
The guard hasn’t proven he’s worthy of challenging Wembanyama for the top pick in the draft, but he’s still expected to be one of the first names called in June.
NBA Draft expert @krystenpeek was in Las Vegas and joined @JakeAndBenZone to discuss Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson.
Plus, they talked expectations for @utahjazz rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji. #takenote | #NBADrafthttps://t.co/MYyiapSVdS
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) October 5, 2022
Potentially joining Henderson is Miller who has been fabulous on the court at Alabama averaging 19.6 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting a stellar 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three on 7.4 attempts per game.
Miller has been named SEC Freshman and Player of the Year and has been the best player on an Alabama team that is expected to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite his terrific play on the court, Miller has placed himself at the center of significant scrutiny off the floor after it was discovered he delivered a gun to teammate Darius Miles which Miles used to shoot and kill 23-year-old mother Jamea Jonae Harris later that night.
Miller hasn’t been charged with a crime related to the murder, but his role in the tragic events won’t go unnoticed leading up to the draft, regardless of his play on the floor.
Tier Three – The Rest Of The Top 10
In what should come as welcome news for Jazz fans, Peek sees picks 4-10 as having a somewhat similar value in the upcoming draft.
That means that despite the Jazz being unable to finish with one of the five worst records in the NBA this season, they can still find excellent talent in the middle part of the lottery.
Though there will be a more significant consensus through the pre-draft process, Peek identified seven players who should be considered tier 3 prospects today.
Amen Thompson is the most popular name outside of the top three in the draft and could jump ahead of Alabama’s Miller due to the off-the-floor concerns.
Thompson is the top athlete in the draft, and at 6-foot-7 has elite size for a guard.
He averaged 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in the Overtime Elite league this season while shooting 56 percent from the floor but just 25 percent from three.
Amen & Ausar Thompson are insane!
The identical twins are both projected top 10 picks in the 2023 NBA draft 👀 pic.twitter.com/uTIJs2fNR1
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) February 7, 2023
Ausar Thompson, Amen’s identical twin also played for the City Reapers on the Overtime Elite and is considered a top-10 pick as well, though most draft experts have him ranked below his brother.
Ausar averaged 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists this season while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three.
Nick Smith was the top overall high school prospect last season and has shown glimpses of why he earned the prestigious ranking when he’s been on the floor at Arkansas.
The scoring guard is averaging 13.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 39 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three, but has only taken the court 12 times this season.
Over his last four games, Smith is averaging 21.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three after returning from a knee injury that cost him two months in the middle of the Razorbacks season.
Very happy seeing Nick Smith Jr fully healthy. Showing off his shot-making ability in this clip. Has some wiggle, elite floater, can finish, and a pro scorer. He’s averaging 21.8 PPG in his last four games. I still believe there’s a real argument for him to go as high as pick 4. pic.twitter.com/OCCWZqVri3
— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) March 5, 2023
Anthony Black has worked his way into tier 3 of the upcoming draft according to Peek as he’s carried Arkansas during Smith’s injury.
Black, a 6-foot-7 combo guard is averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three.
Cam Whitmore is also projected to land in the top 10 in June due to his strong freshman season at Villanova.
The 6-foot-7 wing is averaging 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three.
Villanova has had a down season, but Whitmore has shown promise despite having little help around him.
19 points on 10 shots from Cam Whitmore last night. Was working his 3-point shot, showing some real self-creation, and bullying guys to the basket with his athleticism
Might be the highest-ceiling college prospect in this draft class pic.twitter.com/zBD7scVjkE
— The Box and One (@TheBoxAndOne_) March 1, 2023
Jarace Walker has received significant praise this season for his play as a freshman for the top-ranked Houston Cougars.
Walker’s 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists don’t blow your socks off but his defensive versatility at 6-foot-8 teamed with his developing three-point shot is a unique combination.
Keyonte George rounds out tier 3 according to Peek after a strong freshman season at Baylor.
George is a proven scorer and secondary playmaker averaging 16.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 39 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three.
Tier 4: The Wild Card
While Peek laid out a clear top-10 players, she also told Jazz fans to keep an eye on Michigan sophmore Kobe Bufkin heading into the draft.
Bufkin is averaging 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists for the Wolverines this season, but has made a strong push late in the year.
19-year-old southpaw Kobe Bufkin has put together an impressive February for Michigan, displaying a slithery smooth shot-creation arsenal while comfortably operating out of screens and showcasing promising defensive potential at 6-foot-4. pic.twitter.com/5ORRxfpxDn
— League Him (@League_Him) February 24, 2023
With fellow lottery pick Jett Howard missing games due to injury, Bufkin averaged 17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in February and could be a late riser before June.
Read Peek’s latest mock at Yahoo Sports and stay tuned for more draft coverage at KSL Sports.
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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.
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