Are any Jazz fans excited about the selection of Trey Lyles out of Kentucky at #12? If they exist, none were in attendance at the Jazz’ ESA draft party Thursday evening, where apathy (perhaps atrophy?) ruled the day. No cheering and no booing after the pick was announced, just a bunch of shoulder shrugs before the crowd descended to take their shot at minor league baseball tickets (hey, this is Utah and we’re talking about free stuff – these guys would dunk their grandma if it meant a freebee). In fact, few moments were cause for any rise from the crowd on draft night. First was the selection of Frank (The Tank) Kamisnky by the Hornets at 9, which elicited cries of relief as we realized Jazz brass could no longer be tempted by yet another tall white guy (way to take one for the team Charlotte). And second (opposite reaction) was after ESPN’s Jalen Rose compared the new Jazz man Lyles to Carlos Boozer – half of the Jazz fans in attendance simultaneously choked on their snow cones.
But what do Jazz fans really know? Heck, they booed John Stockton back in 84 and more recently almost killed one Jazz season ticket holder in 2010 after he’d won the opportunity to announce the selection of Gordon Hayward – the poor guy barely got out the first syllable before he was booed off the podium, never to be heard from again.
So maybe Jazz fan has this one right – there really isn’t a lot to stand up and shout about in Lyles. He didn’t play starter minutes at Kentucky making his stat line look quite pedestrian – 8.7 p/g, 5.2 r/g, and just 1.1 a/g in the 23.0 minutes he averaged on the floor. His 49% field goal percentage is not bad but not great either for a guy who stayed close to the basket most of the game and he showed limited range with the jumper. The best that Kentucky coach Calipari could do on Thursday was to label Lyles his team’s “X-Factor” – hmmm, the X-Factor is not as good as being his teams best player or best big or best rebounder. I can’t expend a lot of energy on an X-factor. No, it would have been much more fun if the Tank had been on the board and the Jazz had taken him – bedlam, or if there had been a trade up to snag the sliding Justise Winslow, or if the Jazz had picked up sharp shooter Devin Booker who seemed to be the crowd favorite.
My take: the rising Jazz made the right pick with Lyles. I know, it’s even more boring of me to agree with a boring pick. And it’s true that Lyles is not a jump-out-of-the-building athlete and does not appear to really excel yet in any aspect of the game but he does have size and a skill set that the Jazz like and need. But what Lyles does appear to possess is that good feel for the game and an NBA power forward body still growing. The comparison to Boozer is not a bad one as Lyles is very nifty around the basket and has excellent footwork for a 19 year old. Already a better natural passer than Boozer ever was with a better handle facing the basket, and the jumper looks good going up, giving hope that his range could be extended with time. With Kanter gone, Lyles fills the need for a big who can fit into the Jazz’ motion offense and play off the pick and role – a skill he reportedly showed in spades during his Utah workout. Jazz fans may have wanted the shooter in Booker at 12 but Lyles is the more versatile pick being able to play the 3 or the 4 – the Jazz will just have to find shooters some where else.
Lyles is dull, but he’ll work.