The Utah Jazz worked out 11 draft prospects today including UCLA power forward TJ Leaf who could be a great fit if available once Utah makes their pick.
Although it remains to be seen whether or not the Utah Jazz will keep any or all of their pair of first round and pair of second round draft picks, their search for diamonds in the rough is well underway. The Jazz have already hosted a number of pre-draft workouts with several promising prospects, and 11 more players were in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
For the most part, the players in Sunday’s group were ones that are widely projected to either go in the second round or go undrafted, but one name clearly stood out above the rest – that of UCLA forward TJ Leaf.
At six-foot-ten, 220 pounds, TJ Leaf could prove to be an excellent addition at the power forward spot for whoever ends up drafting him. He averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his freshman season at UCLA and was a highly efficient shooter, converting on 61.7 percent of his attempts from the field and 46.6 percent from three-point range.
A big man who can rebound as well as dial it in from deep is a precious commodity in today’s NBA and particularly given that the power forward position was a significant area of weakness for the Jazz last year, it would make sense for Leaf to be on their radar.
Unfortunately, many mock drafts have him projected to go earlier in the first round than Utah’s 24th or 30th picks, though a few have him in available when the Jazz select. Draft Express currently has him at 21st and most mock drafts have him going somewhere in the range just outside of the lottery, but still prior to Utah’s selection. Therefore, unless the Jazz opt to trade up in the draft to make a move for Leaf, he’ll most likely be gone before they can draft him.
Furthermore, Leaf’s workout with the Jazz was somewhat disappointing – not because of his actual performance, per se, but due to the fact that, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported, per his agent’s request, Leaf did a solo workout rather than going head to head against other players. The Utah Jazz would have obviously preferred to see how he stacked up against similar prospects, but were willing to do what it took to get such a talented player into the gym.
Nevertheless, Leaf appeared to have done well in the small glimpse the Jazz were allowed of him. Not to mention, the former Bruin spoke highly of the Jazz organization and his potential fit there and had the following to say:
"“I think you look at the draft and it’s all about fit. That’s more important than where you get drafted, and we think the Jazz are a great organization. We’re more worried about going to the team with the perfect fit. The Jazz have a great coach and a great system, and I feel like I fit here.”"
Although Leaf has many of the characteristics that the Jazz are looking for in a player, his defense as well as his youth may be somewhat of a concern even if he is available once the Jazz pick. As a team that prides itself defensively, but is also looking to win now rather than merely plan for the future, those are two traits that the Jazz will have to take into large consideration before selecting Leaf.
More from The J-Notes
- With the FIBA World Cup over for Simone Fontecchio, it’s clear he deserves minutes for the Utah Jazz
- Best, Worst and Most likely scenarios for the Utah Jazz this season
- Hoops Hype downplays the significance of the Utah Jazz’s valuable assets
- 3 Utah Jazz players who have the most to gain or lose this season
- Former Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay is a free agent still and it shouldn’t surprise anyone
The draft is now less than two weeks away and you can bet that whether Utah decides to hold onto their picks or deal them in a trade, we’re about to see some exciting movement here soon.
Whatever the Jazz opt to do around the draft, hopefully it will all be part of a successful strategy to keep free agent Gordon Hayward and allow the squad to continue on its upward trajectory from last season.