by Eldon Khorshidi / @eldonadam

When I was assigned GM of the Utah Jazz, I was certain the No. 12 pick would be harder to choose than the No. 3 pick. With the third pick we copped 18-year-old Brandon Knight, a scoring machine with a versatile 6-4 frame and a developing basketball IQ. If my imagination comes to fruition, Knight will be a cornerstone point guard for the Jazz in a few years time. Pairing Knight alongside Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson keeps Utah ahead of the ‘rebuilding’ curve in the basement of the Western Conference.

With a subpar talent pool, many prospects are high-risk-medium-reward projects that leave front office executives scratching their heads and contemplating for days. Utah can go in a number of directions here, like a perimeter scorer in Texas’ Jordan Hamilton or hometown hero Jimmer Fredette or getting a savage like Kenneth Faried. At this point in the draft, there’s no surefire all-stars or cornerstone players. But there are a few diamonds in the rough; a few guys that will almost certainly turn their weaknesses into strengths and develop accordingly. With that being said, I think this pick could do wonders for a promising Utah Jazz team. And no, it’s not The Jimmer…

With the 12th pick in the 2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select…

Tobias Harris from the University of Tennessee.

Harris was a top 10 recruit out of high school and had one of the more accomplished freshman campaigns in college basketball. But his lack of firepower has garnered him little attention. Right right now he does everything at a high level, but no specific aspect of his game is elite. Harris is a tireless worker, to the point where the only thing he knows is basketball. He simply inhales the gym, as both his frame and skill set have grown exponentially in the past two years. He’s been fine-tuning his game with NBA legend George Gervin since middle school, and his mindset and work ethic leads everything he does. It’s evident in all of his interviews, and was proven this past season, as the Long Island native started off slow, had some bumps throughout the Winter, then flourished in March, averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds.

Harris is a jack-of-all-trades. He mostly played power forward this past season, but his 6-8 frame allowed him to slide out and make plays on the perimeter. He also has range, which will force defenses outwards and open up the middle of the floor for Knight, Favors, and Millsap to operate. He can guard both forward positions, and can play anywhere within a zone set because he has quick enough feet to slide over on the perimeter and sound footwork to battle in the paint. Harris needs to learn the intricacies of the NBA game and adjust, which is the critical flaw for most draft picks. But all he has done throughout his basketball career is adjust and improve: he went from a skinny sophomore to an All-American in high school, then struggled early this fall and ended up scoring 19 of Tennessee’s 45 points in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. He’s put himself on the map and has a target on his back, and his reliability lies within his work ethic. When he gets the money, his mindset won’t change.

His shortcoming lies in his average athleticism and ‘skinny’ frame (223 lbs). With his somewhat limited skill set, he needs a role to match his strengths and mask his weaknesses until they develop, and Utah fits the bill perfectly. Knight should push the tempo and speed up the game in Utah the same way he did in Kentucky, finally changing the trademark stagnant halfcourt Jazz offense. As his jumpshot and handle mature, Harris will be deadly in transition and the spot-up game. He can virtually play any role on the fast break: rebound and throw the outlet pass, receive the outlet pass and take off, or trail and get the easy dunk/jumpshot. I projected Harris to sneak into the lottery at the beginning of the college season, and he’s slowly creeping up. He has Shane Battier’s mindset and with a touch of Carmelo Anthony’s skill set. Tobias Harris is the diamond in the rough, and in three years, he could be right there with the Irving’s, Williams’, and any of the other top picks. This kid is out to prove a lot of people wrong, and it’ll all start by a team in the lottery taking a chance on him.

2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayerPickTeamPlayer
1CavsKyrie Irving1676ers
2TWolvesDerrick Williams17Knicks
3JazzBrandon Knight18Wizards
4CavsEnes Kanter19Bobcats
5Raptors Bismack Biyombo20TWolves
6WizardsJan Vesely21Blazers
7KingsKemba Walker22Nuggets
8PistonsKawhi Leonard23Rockets
9BobcatsJonas Valanciunas24Thunder
10Bucks Alec Burks25Celtics
11WarriorsMarcus Morris26Mavs
12JazzTobias Harris27Nets
13Suns28Bulls
14Rockets29Spurs
15Pacers30Bulls