by Eldon Khorshidi / @eldonadam

Call me crazy, but I think the Utah Jazz are in a great situation.

When the Jazz traded away their whole franchise—namely Deron Williams—they were left with a lot more than they bargained for. In Williams’ trail lie chunks of gold that Jazz fans discovered over the last third of the season. Derrick Favors is full of talent, with gross athletic ability and a knack for getting rebounds. Gordon Hayward can already create his own shot with ease and has the drive to play in this league at a high level. Veteran Devin Harris, who has an NBA Finals under his belt, has gas in the tank for at least a few more seasons, and the front-court of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson can compete with any in the NBA.

If Kevin O’Connor makes the right moves in the June Draft, the Jazz can rebuild faster than a set of Jenga. But that’s a big if.

With two lottery picks and no glaring hole on its roster, Utah has several options with the third pick, including trading it to acquire veteran leadership or move back in the draft. I think the Jazz should take the best fit with the most talent. There are probably seven or eight intriguing prospects to consider, but after dissecting each candidate…

With the third pick in the 2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select…

Brandon Knight from the University of Kentucky.

With Andrei Kirilenko likely to sign elsewhere, the Jazz are in need of a small forward. But with Derrick Williams unavailable, Kawhi Leonard, Jordan Hamilton, and Tobias Harris become the next best at the position and none are worthy of this pick. And one of them, if not all three, will almost certainly be available when Utah is on the clock at No. 12.

Kemba Walker will be considered here, but Walker is molded for more of a combo-guard offense (see Sacramento at No. 7) at the NBA level than a one-man show.

Enes Kanter is intriguing here, but I wouldn’t take him for three reasons. 1) The majority of the hype he’s garnered is basically a result of one showing—at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. 2) Kanter is a power forward, not a center, so playing alongside Derrick Favors and Paul Milsap could hinder his development. 3) Brandon Knight is the best fit with the most talent.

With Devin Harris still producing at a high level, the Jazz can start grooming the 18-year-old Knight for a full season without expectations or mounting pressure. Knight’s maturity and leadership are years ahead of age, as was evident throughout the college season. He, not Terrence Jones or John Calipari, led his team to the Final Four. With a 6-4 frame and long arms, the Jazz will value his defensive versatility, as he could slide in and play minutes at the two-guard. He is a better scorer than passer right now, but he’s not one of those guys who asks for the ball then phases his teammates out or automatically looks to shoot, like we’ve seen with Russell Westbrook this postseason. (By the way, I’m not a Westbrook hater. The kid is realness, just give him room to breathe).

Knight’s upside is higher than Walker’s, and some argue Knight may even turn out better than Kyrie Irving. He is a silent killer, saucing the competition at every level he’s played. He averaged 33 points per game his senior year of high school, then posted a relatively quiet 17, 4, and 4 in Lexington. His crafty arsenal of moves, endless motor, and tremendous upside make him the third pick.

2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayerPickTeamPlayer
1CavsKyrie Irving1676ers 
2TWolvesDerrick Williams17Knicks 
3JazzBrandon Knight18Wizards 
4Cavs 19Bobcats 
5Raptors 20TWolves 
6Wizards 21Blazers 
7Kings 22Nuggets 
8Pistons 23Rockets 
9Bobcats 24Thunder 
10Bucks 25Celtics 
11Warriors 26Mavs 
12Jazz 27Nets 
13Suns 28Bulls 
14Rockets 29Spurs 
15Pacers 30Bulls