Missing the playoffs capped a tumultuous season that saw Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan abruptly retire on Feb. 10, and the Jazz trade All-Star point guard Deron Williams two weeks later. They sent him to the Nets, fearing he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal with the club after the 2012 season.
In exchange, Utah received rookie forward Derrick Favors, point guard Devin Harris and New Jersey’s first-round pick.
That pick ended up being No. 3 overall thanks to some draft lottery luck.
Kanter checked in at 262 pounds, with just 5 percent body fat. Draft analysts called him a perfect fit for the Jazz because he is a high-IQ, high-character player.
Utah fans, unlike a year ago when they booed the choice of Butler star Gordon Hayward at No. 9, cheered when Kanter’s name was announced.
“I’m so excited,” Kanter told fans in an interview shown on the jumbo screen. “I know the Utah Jazz fans are crazy and I love them.”
If Kanter washes out in the NBA, he already knows what his backup plan is.
He wants to be Wrestlemania’s next Undertaker, a character he has followed for years by watching tape-delayed shows overseas of Monday Night Raw in the U.S.
Kanter never played at Kentucky, ruled ineligible because of a prior relationship with a Turkish club team. The lack of exposure in the U.S. hasn’t diminished his confidence. During pre-draft media sessions, he told reporters he’s the best player in the draft, and would have gone No. 1 had he played at Kentucky.
The Jazz have used 6-10 Al Jefferson as their starting center after acquiring him in a trade with Minnesota last summer.
Though he started all 82 games, he wasn’t consistent night after night. He averaged 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds in his seventh pro season, and headed to Santa Barbara, Calif., for much of the offseason to improve his strength, conditioning and athletic skills.
Utah’s two other big men _ Kyrylo Fesenko and Francisco Elson _ are free agents.
While Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor didn’t like losing last season, he welcomed the pressure that came with picking so high.
“We just have to make sure we don’t screw it up,” he said after the NBA draft lottery.