The Utah Jazz have a fun offseason ahead of them, armed with a load of cash and plenty of draft capital. In terms of the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft, the Jazz have three first-round picks, including the ninth overall pick.
Frankly, outside of an outstanding shot-blocker in center Walker Kessler, it’s difficult to determine if any of the team’s rotation players are franchise building blocks.
Though likely to win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award this season, forward Lauri Markkanen averaged a modest 15.4 points per game in the five seasons preceding his career year.
Jordan Clarkson, the only Jazzman to average at least 20 points per game last season outside of Markkanen, is 30 years old. The 2021 Sixth Man of the Year is also likely to become a free agent this offseason.
Talen Horton-Tucker, an intriguing backcourt player who scored 30 or more points in three games last season, is only 22 years old. However, like Clarkson, he’ll become a free agent this offseason and could leave to find a more consistent role or a team with less clutter in their backcourt.
Collin Sexton, though averaging 20.0 points per game in his four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaged 14.3 points per game last season while being moved to the bench. The combo guard has also only played in 59 games over the past two seasons, looking increasingly susceptible to injuries.
So, when looking at early targets for the Jazz with the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, they could really go anywhere (except center, of course).
3 early 2023 NBA Draft targets for the Jazz with No. 9 lottery slot in first round
18-year-old wing Bilal Coulibaly has been gaining steam as a draft prospect over the past few weeks and for good reason. Possessing a tantalizing blend of length, instinct, and athleticism, Coulibaly is already seen as a first-round prospect. His stock should raise even more when he gets to play against other prospects at the NBA Draft Combine.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Coulibaly averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game on 53.0 percent shooting from the field and 32.4 percent shooting from 3 while playing for Metropolitans 92 in France’s LNB Espoirs league.
Coulibaly makes his living by attacking the rim but plays at an unhurried pace, often utilizing eurostep gathers to slither around defenders with his lanky frame. Playing with the space of an NBA court and with the speed of the NBA game will only allow him to thrive in this area from Day 1.
His most elite secondary skill right now might be his passing, as he routinely makes eye-popping plays for his teammates. For any potential star wing, that ability can separate them from the high-level players who fail to win championships. However, over time, Coulibaly could turn into a high-level 3-point threat, especially in spot-up opportunities.
Defensively is where Coulibaly will really demonstrate his worth as a top-10 pick, because his defensive instincts and length allow him to generate quite a few blocks and steals.
With the Jazz, Coulibaly will have time to grow into his own as a player, and a coach that will help him be the best player that he can be. It may sound hyperbolic to say this now, but Coulibaly is at the very least a potential building block for Utah’s roster.
Iowa forward Kris Murray averaged 20.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game a season after his brother, Keegan, was selected fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings.
Mentioning Keegan isn’t just about this prospects NBA bloodlines or to compare their collegiate careers, as Keegan averaged 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game in his second and final season with the Hawkeyes.
It’s because their games, while not identical, truly are similar.
Kris isn’t seen as an elite outside threat like his brother because he shot 33.5 percent from distance last season. However, it’s worth noting his 38.7 percent mark from the season prior. As a player that will likely do the bulk of his damage from beyond the arc at the NBA level, Kris playing with the efficiency he did as a sophomore will prove his worth as a lottery talent.
He may have a bit of a throwback, old man’s game, because he does have a slow first step.
However, the right team will put the ball in his hands on a consistent basis, particularly when he’s spotted up beyond the arc. Smoothening out his shooting release and increasing his shooting range could make all the difference in the world for the right team.
He’s not a perfect weapon, but he’s a weapon. Especially as a player capable of guarding players in space or in the post.
For the Jazz, playing Murray between Kessler and Markkanen could be a lot like having Keegan in between Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes.
Even the biggest Collin Sexton or Kris Dunn fan would have to admit that there’s enough questions surrounding them for a team to be wise in having an insurance policy on hand.
In this case, its Indiana Hoosier guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, a player who ironically enough has an offensive mentality that’s a combination of both Sexton and Dunn’s. Like Sexton, Hood-Schifino is a confident scorer.
Like Dunn, Hood-Schifino loves to look for his teammates with a live dribble. While Sexton is a more methodical scorer — especially from midrange — and Dunn is a more consistent defender, Hood-Schifino is a player who provides balance to the Jazz backcourt.
In the event that Sexton is traded, Dunn doesn’t continue to play well, or that either one suffers an injury next season, Hood-Schifino is also a player that Utah can rally behind as he learns how to master his potential.
At 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, Hood-Schifino also has great size for the position. With an ever-growing number of tall point guards, his size is even more valuable. Especially because it also gives the Jazz the ability to play him beside a smaller guard like Sexton, who projects to be the best scorer in the Jazz backcourt moving forward but was unable to start for most of the season due to he and veteran Mike Conley both being 6-foot-1.
Really, at his size, he could even play at the three in certain lineups.
In fact, a five-man unit of Sexton, Dunn (or Ochai Agbaji), Hood-Schifino, Markannen, and Kessler could be Utah’s best lineup with their speed, firepower, playmaking, and defensive potential.
A one-and-done player at Indiana, the 19-year-old Hood-Schifino could be in Utah for a long time.
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