Jazz pick 6-11 center Kanter, guard Burks

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Utah Jazz likened Enes Kanter to a “bull in a china shop,” one they felt fortunate to grab with the No. 3 overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Though they didn’t land local star Jimmer Fredette, who ended up being a top-10 pick, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor said Colorado guard Alec Burks is another player who likes contact and will only get better.

“We got some size and feel both kids can get better,” O’Connor said of the 6-11 Kanter and 6-6 Burks, both 19. “We added a couple of more pieces that we can grow with what we’ve got.”

The Jazz could have four players 21 or younger in their rotation next season, with Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward expected to improve even more from their rookie season.

In Kanter, the Jazz get their coveted big man, especially considering the injury issues that have plagued Mehmet Okur.

Kanter’s raw skills and NBA size made him the top-rated center in the draft, though he also can play power forward.

He is a bit of a mystery as he hasn’t played basketball in nearly a year after being ruled ineligible at Kentucky.

“It was so difficult because I couldn’t play,” said Kanter, who is from Turkey. “I still didn’t give up. I knew in the end I would be fine.”

Kanter showed flashes at the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit, scoring 34 points for the World Team to break Dirk Nowitzki’s record (33). He also was Most Valuable Player for the 2009 Turkish under 18 national team.

“I will bring the team toughness and post moves, rebounding, everything,” Kanter said. “I will try to do everything to make the playoffs.”

Five guards went before Burks, and the Jazz admitted there was still some debate within the organization on which player to take at No. 12.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said Burks‘ versatility to play the No. 2 guard and a little point guard was key. So was the improved shooting he showed at a workout Monday.

Burks averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Colorado as a sophomore last year.

While Fredette was a guy who could bomb 3s from anywhere, Burks is more of a shooting guard who can rebound and defend, with a 36-inch vertical jump. He hit better than 50 percent of his shots overall but less than 30 percent from 3-point range.

He said he knows he can work to improve that part of his game.

“With my athleticism and the way I handle the ball, I just feel like there aren’t a lot of people that can stay in front of me,” said Burks, the first Colorado player in school history to score over 770 points, grab 240 rebounds and hand out 100 assists in a single season.

“I hit the 3s in college when I needed to.”

Kanter said he already feels at home in Utah, with fellow Turkey native Okur “like family” even though the two have never met.

“He’s strong,” said Corbin, who went one-on-one against Kanter during a private workout in Chicago. “He’s a big young fella and he knows how to use his strength and his weight. For his age I thought he was pretty advanced with his basketball skills.”

Corbin compared Kanter to Alonzo Mourning, and in some ways to Karl Malone, in the way he can run the floor.

Jazz President Randy Rigby announced the first pick at Utah’s downtown Salt Lake City arena, where more than 7,000 fans showed up to cheer on a team that they hope is rebuilding for the playoffs.

The Jazz finished 39-43, only the second time in the last 28 years they finished below .500. They also are the only team in NBA history to start 15-5 and 27-13 and not make the playoffs.

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 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 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.

Corbin acknowledged the Jazz have some big bodies to choose from, with 6-10 Al Jefferson, 6-10 Favors, 6-8 Paul Millsap, and Okur, if healthy.

“If you deserve time, you’ll get it,” Corbin said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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