Utah Jazz The 29th and last pick of the first round belongs to the team with the best record in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. Their GM is Kevin Lachance and he selects:

and he selects:

J.R Henderson, SF, 6-9, UCLA

I. Team Report

The Jazz are coming off their best regular season in the history of the organization. Utah had the best overall record in the NBA this season which was highlighted by a season sweep of Chicago. After a bump in the road against the Rockets, Utah steam rolled the Spurs and Lakers. If ever there were a time that Utah could beat Chicago it was this season. The Bulls were coming off a tough series against Indiana in which they looked vulnerable. The Jazz were well rested, playing well, and had home court advantage. At the present moment Chicago has a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the series. The Bulls defense has smothered the Jazz. It looks as if Utah will have to re-group and re-tool in the off season and take another run at the title next year.

II. Position Analysis

A. Center

When the season opened many Jazz fans had big expectations for Greg Ostertag. Ostertag was coming off a solid second season in which he played very well defensively against Olajuwon and O'Neal in the playoffs. Going into the season Jazz fans expected that Ostertag had worked hard on his offence, therefore becoming more of a factor in games. Utah management had similar expectations and rewarded Greg with a five year $30 million contract. Ostertag was blasted by Karl Malone and coach Jerry Sloan for showing up to training camp overweight and out of shape. In a season in which Ostertag lost his starting job, saw limited action and was forced to run laps after practice, Jazz fans hope Ostertag now fully understands what it takes to be an NBA player. The man that benefited from Ostertag's poor work ethic was Greg Foster. The career journeyman started a majority of the games and did an adequate job. What he does well is hustle, run the court and draw the opposing center away from the basket because of his jump shot. However, he often shoots out of his range. Foster is not a good defender or rebounder. Ideally, Foster should be the 12th man. The Jazz attempted to upgrade the position twice during the season. If Stoudamire was traded to Houston, Toronto would have sent Kevin Willis to Utah. They also acquired Rony Seikaly but the Jazz voided the deal because either Seikaly refused to report or because of Seikaly's injury. Utah may be still looking to upgrade the position.

B. Power Forward

The luxuries of having the greatest power forward in the history of the NBA. Karl routinely torches the opponent for 27 points and 10 rebounds. Karl Malone's game has come a long way since he began his career. He has added a consistent jumper, low post passing and free throw shooting to his arsenal. Maybe the most important step for him was being selected to the 1st All-Defensive team for the second consecutive year. Providing back up for Malone is aging veteran Antoine Carr. Carr's many attributes help solidify Utah's bench. He combines size and experience with defense. Carr can swing to center for limited minutes. Coach Sloan usually uses Carr in that situation only against premier centers for a couple of fouls. Also providing back up play at the four spot is Adam Keefe. Limited by his lack of athleticism, Adam has had adjust his game to contribute. Keefe plays hard, takes charges and rebounds. His points usually come off back door plays and put backs. Keefe also plays a little small forward as well.

C. Small Forward

During the off season starting small forward Bryon Russell signed a multi-year contract. Like Greg Ostertag he used his summer to count his money instead of working on his game. When the season began Russell hadn't adjusted to the new three point line. He quickly lost his starting job to Adam Keefe. However, he worked hard and regained his spot just past mid season. Russell is an exceptional athlete that can slash to the basket, hit the spot up three, and defend. Often Bryon covers the opposition's best offensive threat at the 2 or 3 spots. Russell still lacks the mid range game that will make him a better offensive player. Playing behind Russell is free agent flop Chris Morris. Easily put, Morris is a one on one offensive player playing on a half court, execution team. Morris' lack of discipline on offence frustrates coach Sloan. The two have exchanged words over the past few years. Morris usually spends his time sitting on the bench. Sloan only puts him in when the offence is stagnate. To Morris' credit he is usually quite productive in his limited minutes. Morris is a free agent and will not return.

D. Shooting Guard

It looks as if time is finally catching up to Jeff Hornacek. Nagging injuries really made him look old in the playoffs. Still one of the best pure shooters in the league combined with point guard passing ability makes him well respected around the league. A lack of athleticism combined with a lack of strength has always hurt him defensively. Hornacek can still play and deserves quality minutes. However, the Jazz have to begin looking for a future replacement. Hornacek's back up is second year man Shandon Anderson. A good athlete, Anderson provides a spark off the bench. He lacks range on his jumper but makes up for it with his ability to post up guards. Shandon should be a quality bench player for many years to come.

E. Point Guard

The greatest point guard in the history of the basketball, John Stockton is the starter and the starter he will remain until the day he retires. John Stockton may not the best any more but he is still in the top 3. This season John suffered the first major injury of his career. He missed the first 20 games of the season but quickly regained his form. Providing back up and the probable heir to the position is Howard Eisley. After being waived on a couple of occasions by other teams, Eisley has found a home in Utah. Blessed with natural quickness, Eisley has worked hard on improving his basketball skills. He distributes the ball, shoots the three and penetrates. He has played so well that Sloan now plays him when Stockton is also on the court. Providing sparse minutes is former Jayhawk, Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn was Utah's number one pick last year. A small point guard that lacks range but gets the ball to the right person. He has great basketball smarts. Like most rookies on veteran teams he played mostly garbage minutes. Vaughn has the work ethic to work hard in the off season and earn more playing time next season.

III. My Selection

With the 29th pick in the 1998 NBA draft the Utah Jazz select J.R. Henderson, forward, UCLA. Henderson is a good athlete that possess an all round game. He has the ball handling skills of a small forward combined with low post skills. The knock on him is that he is a tweener. He doesn't have the shooting range that a small forward should have. However, at this point you take the best player available. I believe Henderson can develop into a Billy Owens type of player. Someone who can play two or more positions and contribute off of the bench.

IV. Others Considered

Mirsad Turkcan - Turkcan is a typical European power forward. Small forward skills in a big body. He shoots well but lacks strength and defensive skills. If the Jazz are looking to save cap room then Turkcan may be a good pick. They could retain his rights, have him develop overseas, and sign him in a few years.

Ruben Patterson - Patterson is an outstanding athlete. He impressed scouts at the draft camps with his athleticism, defense, and hustle. The problem is he doesn't have the ball handling skills or shooting range to contribute right away. He would be a good second round pick in which you take the best athlete available. I don't think he is worthy of a three year deal.

Sam Jacobson - the knock on Jacobson is that he can't create his own shot. Utah would be a good fit because they set a lot of picks. Sam could get a lot of open looks coming off screens.

V. Who the team will probably take

Rumor has it the Jazz are trying to trade out of the 1st round to save salary cap room. If the Jazz do keep it then look for them to draft a player that slips through the cracks. Their past two draft picks, Ostertag and Vaughn, were players that were considered top 20 players that slipped on draft day. Players such as Henderson, Bailey and Simon are all candidates for their stock to drop. Look for the Jazz to select the best player available that is not a point guard.

VI.  Off Season Moves

Own Free Agents

The Jazz have just two free agents this year and neither is expected back.

Antoine Carr - In his time with the Jazz, Antoine has made a solid contribution to the team. He has given Malone a solid back up and played some center when needed. Early in the season Carr announced he was retiring. Coach Sloan convinced him that he was a key component of the team and to finish out the year. It is expected that Carr will make his retirement official in the off season.

Chris Morris - Morris was signed three seasons ago to give the Jazz the athletic, scoring small forward they had always needed to compliment Malone. Since half way through his first season with Utah they have been trying to get rid of him. They almost did this season in the Seikaly trade that fell apart. Morris will not be resigned.

Other Teams Free Agents

Depending on what the salary cap is set at will determine how much the Jazz have to spend. It is estimated that Utah will have between one and two million dollars to spend plus the one million dollar exemption. There has been a lot of speculation of Isaac Austin returning to the Jazz. At the present time this is not going to happen.

  1. Austin would have to turn down lucrative offers to sign for a lot less money.
  2. Utah is not going to pay Ostertag five million per season to be a back up.

For this to work the Jazz would have to trade Ostertag for a much smaller contract. They would then use the saved money to put together a much more competitive bid. Though this is just speculation, here are some free agents that are more realistic.

Johnny Newman - at 35 years old proved he can still score in the this league. He would be a good replacement for Morris.

Derek Strong - a good back up power forward that can score and rebound. He would be a good replacement for Carr.

Popeye Jones - coming off a season in which he tore his ACL. If he's healthy he could be a real bargain. He rebounds, plays hard and takes charges. He would be a great back up for Malone.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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