When you take a seat on your couch and tune in to the NBA Finals, what jumps out at you?
To me, it’s the championship qualities that these two teams share. Having a superstar in Stephen Curry and a borderline/future superstar in Jayson Tatum helps, but it goes deeper than that.
Look at the defense. Look at the wing depth. Look at the shot diet. It’s on par with every other team that has been in the Finals over the last however many years. The Utah Jazz (pre-Ainge) tried to do it their own way, which I can respect, but there’s things that they can learn from these teams on the biggest stage. One being a team that Ainge’s fingerprints remain partly visible on.
Utah desperately needs some activity, effort and length on the perimeter. Anyone with a pulse who will try to keep their man in front defensively. I know it, you know it and the Jazz themselves know it. If it’s any indication, the Jazz’s pre-draft work thus far has featured multiple prospects that fit the bill.
Ainge and company are doing their due diligence without currently owning a pick. Buying into the draft is always an option, and a simple one at that. Most of the guys that have been brought in, though, are likely UDFA’s. We’ve seen countless examples of undrafted players becoming contributors and the Jazz hope to find some more in this class.
One of the more slept on two-way prospects in this class is Bowling Green’s Daeqwon Plowden. His physical profile stands out right off the bat, measuring in at 6’6” with a 6’10” wingspan and a 36.5 max vertical at the NTX Combine. He’s a bouncy wing that proved effective defensively both on the perimeter and as a weak side rim protector.
The shooting is promising too. Specifically from deep. Plowden is going to be a “3&D” guy in the league. He shot 36% from three on nearly four attempts per game over the last two seasons. He won’t create off the dribble nearly as much as he had to at Bowling Green.
That’s not to say that he shouldn’t ever create off the dribble again. I think his handle is underrated and he has good body control. Definitely things he can tap into and develop, but his bread and butter at the next level should be “3&D”.
Fit wise, I think Plowden is awesome for the Jazz. The things he does well are what the Jazz need and he also brings a physical element that I think the Jazz have lacked for the past couple of years. He worked out for the Jazz early this month and should generate interest from teams as a UDFA.
If you’re looking for some quick highlights for a representation on Plowden’s game, check out this video:
I’ve been a fan of Jared Rhoden since he broke out at Seton Hall as a junior playing next to current Bucks big Sandro Mamukelashvili. Despite a couple of really strong junior and senior campaigns, Rhoden didn’t get a ton of buzz until the NBA G-League Elite Camp last month.
Rhoden fared extremely well at the camp and was called up for the NBA Draft Combine. He continued to open eyes with his play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, flashing the “3&D” upside that is so coveted in today’s NBA.
At 6’6” in shoes with a 6’11” wingspan, Rhoden has ideal size and length for an NBA wing. He put on a ton of muscle going into his senior season. He’ll turn 23-years old in August. This is a guy who can come in and play right away when needed.
Rhoden spoke with the Jazz at the Combine, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (subscription required). The team then quickly brought him in for their first set of pre-draft workouts. He’s also had workouts with Boston, Brooklyn, Los Angeles (Clippers) and New York with more scheduled.
Add a bit of consistency to the three-point shot and I’d bet that Rhoden hangs around in the league for awhile. He’s one of my top targets for the Jazz.
I’m enamored by Jordan Usher’s potential fit on the Jazz. The Georgia Tech wing is a big time athlete with size, strength and an improved shooting touch. Early on, he’s going to earn his money with strong defense and contagious energy. Usher’s energy was on full display in his workout with the team earlier this month, writes Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune.
There are more intriguing parts to his game that I think can be slowly utilized at the next level. He has some passing chops and showed a bit in the pick-and-roll at 6’7”. His ball handling is good enough to where he can be used in small lineups to attack closeouts. I don’t love his shot mechanically, but he increased his three-point shooting by six percent last year.
Usher is at the very least an energy guy that can guard multiple positions. That’s valuable in the NBA. The flashes, though, get me excited. In the right developmental system, I think he has a chance to be a diamond in the rough.
Aside from the Jazz, Usher has also worked out for the Lakers and has more workouts scheduled as we creep closer to the 2022 NBA Draft.
One of the best guard defenders in the country this past season was Loyola Chicago’s Lucas Williamson. He’s got ideal size for a combo guard in the NBA at 6’4” with a 6’8” wingspan. I don’t think he’s got the highest upside on this list, but I do think he’s a safe option.
I know that Jazz fans want these long, tall wings that can defend and shoot, and so do I, but take the defense where you can get it. Trent Forrest was Utah’s only plus defender in the guard rotation last year. Williamson may be able to guard some wings, but he’ll mostly be a guard stopper and that’s OK.
While I believe Williamson will be more of a defensive specialist in the NBA, the three-point shooting was good over the past two seasons in Chicago. I do wonder if it will translate with the longer three-point line and the slow-ish release. His free-throw shooting being in the low 70’s is also a tad concerning.
The Jazz don’t have a lot of defensive ability on the guard line, but they have a lot of depth on the guard line. Mike Conley could easily be dealt this summer, but they have young guards in Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jared Butler that would likely be prioritized. Williamson is a good fit on paper, but I’m not sure there’s enough time available for him to truly make an impact. Regardless, he’s a guy I’d look strongly at if I’m the Jazz.
We know what the Jazz need and we know what the Jazz are looking for. Whether it’s via Draft, Free Agency or trades. Defense. Size. Versatility. The 2022 Draft Class provides some fascinating options for the Jazz and I expect them to be active in handing out Exhibit 10 deals and such.