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Jazz expecting immediate boost with No. 3 pick
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said the chance to pick No. 3 in June’s draft means the team is coming back _ a season after losing Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, All-Star Deron Williams and a record-setting 43 games.
The Jazz in February traded away a point guard who was picked No. 3 overall in 2005. But that blockbuster deal with New Jersey in essence netted them two No. 3 picks in return _ the one they won the rights to in Tuesday’s draft lottery and the one used last year on forward Derrick Favors.
Favors, a second-team NBA All-Rookie selection this past season, was acquired along with guard Devin Harris in the Williams trade.
The Jazz, barring any trades, will have four top-10 picks on their roster next season with Favors, Harris (No. 5 overall in 2004) and Gordon Hayward (No. 9 in 2010).
Many mock drafts have Duke guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams going 1-2 in June, though one has Williams falling to No. 3.
Other players projected for that third pick include Enes Kanter, a 6-foot-11 forward from Turkey and Jonas Valanciunas, a 6-10 forward from Lithuania.
“There’s some great young talent out there and there’s some guys that’ll surprise some people once they get into Chicago and you see the size of them,” Corbin said of the draft combine, which starts Thursday.
All 30 teams have access to physical exams of top prospects as well as measurements that show athleticism and agility. Team officials also can watch the prospects in light on-court drills and interview them.
“That stuff on the floor is good, but I think because of this community and the kind of people that we try and bring in here, the interviews are an important part of that,” said Corbin, who took over after Sloan abruptly retired Feb. 9 following 23 seasons as Jazz head coach.
“We really evaluate how a guy will carry himself and can you trust a guy to do what he says he’s going to do. Everybody makes some mistakes, but we put a lot of weight on the interview and the background stuff.”
Corbin said the No. 3 pick will be a player who can make everyone else better, and push to take an existing player’s spot.
“The best guys will be on the floor,” Corbin said.
Analysts believe Kentucky guard Brandon Knight would be a good pick at No. 3.
Ryan Blake, a scout who provides information to NBA teams, predicted a “beauty-is-in-the-eye of-the-beholder” choice between Knight and UConn’s Kemba Walker if the Jazz decide to go after a guard.
The Jazz also could go after a big man with Mehmet Okur’s health status uncertain, Kyrylo Fesenko a free agent, and 6-10 Al Jefferson still searching for consistency.
Having a second pick at No. 12 also will give the Jazz some leverage to make a trade, and fuel plenty of Jimmer Fredette talk over the next five weeks.
Asked how many times he expects to hear Fredette’s name mentioned for that No. 12 selection, Corbin quickly interjected, “How many more times?”
Corbin said the BYU star and consensus national player of the year had a tremendous season, worked hard to get better and deserves all the accolades he received.
He looks forward to seeing how Fredette performs in Chicago since analysts are so divided on how successful the 6-2 shooter will be at the next level.
“He’s a local kid that’s going to create a lot of excitement around here,” Corbin said of Fredette, projected as high as No. 7 or falling to No. 20. “And to get a chance to see him against the other guys in Chicago … will be good.”
The Jazz also expect to bring Fredette and other top prospects to Salt Lake City for team workouts in the next few weeks.
For now, general manager Kevin O’Connor was celebrating a lottery drawing that vaulted Utah up three spots to No. 3. He called it Utah’s best lottery-related luck in 25 years.
“We better not screw it up,” said O’Connor, who admitted being a little nervous owning two picks in the top 12. “We rolled the dice on trading an All-Star and now we’ve got to produce.”
Corbin said the pressure is on him because a team such as the Oklahoma Thunder _ then the Seattle SuperSonics _ got better quickly by taking Kevin Durant No. 2 overall in 2007.
That draft only shows how critical it is to make the right choice. Portland used the No. 1 pick on Ohio State’s 7-footer Greg Oden in 2007, but his career has been marred by injury.
“The pressure’s on, but that’s OK,” O’Connor said. “That’s why you’re in this business.”
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