Olivier Hanlan is headed to the Utah Jazz after being selected 42nd overall in the NBA Draft last night. While Utah was off of our draft radar, we look at how he fell to them and why he'll be a good fit once he lands in Salt Lake City.
How Did He Fall To 42?
The biggest question surrounding Hanlan concerns his draft position. In the days leading up to Thursday, we pretty much all but said he would wind up with either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Boston Celtics, both of whom had a plethora of picks with which they could select him. It also appeared he would be a good fit as either a point guard/shooting guard (Sixers) or even a shooting guard/small forward type player (Celtics).
Instead, he went to neither. The Draft is always a crazy night filled with underreactions and overreactions. The chaos of trading, wheeling, and dealing never really developed last night as expected, resulting in teams simply reacting with their own draft position.
There's one thing about NBA franchises - they're either run by absolute geniuses or absolute morons. If you look back over the early first round, you'll see prime example of this. Over the history of the league, teams who often draft the best available player find themselves falling into some legendary players. Teams who draft for positional need sometimes never really pan out their picks. Still, it doesn't stop teams from making selections and moves based on need rather than intelligence.
In the first round, Jahlil Okafor fell through the first two picks to Philadelphia at #3. The Sixers, who took Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel in the last two drafts, knew the Knicks desperately wanted a big man at #4. If I'm Sam Hinkie, I'm calling Phil Jackson and asking him to move up one spot or I'm trading the pick to someone else (like the Celtics, from whom the Sixers could've fleeced someone like Marcus Smart potentially). Taking Okafor isn't a bad move, especially since Embiid missed all of his rookie year with an injury, but they had options there.
Naturally the Knicks, who still NEED that big man, decided to use the fourth pick on a Latvian guy nobody's really heard of. We knew they needed a big man, but with all of the options on the table, they overreacted and still went after need instead of taking someone like Winslow or Mudiay.
So let's move down in the draft to where Hanlan was picked. As the later picks start rolling, teams are less likely to take someone based on best available. So when the Sixers started taking centers and power forwards for no apparent reason, it started to come into focus that Hanlan probably wouldn't go there.
Enter the Jazz. Despite having Derrick Favors, they picked Trey Lyles in the first round. And despite having a plethora of guards already on the roster, Utah saw Hanlan available at 42 and couldn't resist taking him. By that point, Olivier was clearly the best available player. And Utah went with the best available.
How Hanlan Fits Into The Jazz
Utah has no immediate need for Hanlan among their regular players. Alec Burks was signed to a multiyear deal in 2014 and although he missed substantial time last year with an injury, he's the man at the point for the Jazz. His backup, Trey Burke, could probably start on half the teams in the NBA.
If he's going to work his way into the lineup, it'll most likely be as either a shooting guard or small forward. Utah has Gordon Hayward as their starting SF, and since he's their leading scorer and one of the best shooters in the league, he's probably not being supplanted any time soon. Behind him, though, is a black hole. Chris Johnson isn't exactly the best backup in the league.
In terms of the shooting guard position, Utah's missing some pieces there and could use another true shooter to come off the bench and make some plays. Dante Exum was picked fourth overall last year, but he needs to get better, even if he's still very young at 19, especially since Rodney Hood showed some flashes last year. The 2014 first round pick started 21 games and will likely be entrenched as the starter.
If Exum can't improve, though, Hanlan has a very good shot to get minutes behind Hood and hit some key shots. Hanlan is a very good shooter, and since Exum didn't even average 10 points per game, we can probably expect Utah to use Olivier as a challenge to someone who is very young and very raw. Hanlan was considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft, and since he fell to Utah as low as he did, he could probably be one of those steals we talk about in the postseason in the coming years.
Summarizing The Pick
Obviously we're biased, but one can't help but feel optimistic for Olivier Hanlan. He's going to be challenged to perform on a roster stocked with raw talent, but there could be plenty of opportunity for him. If he proves he can play, he could find himself in line for a team hungry for guards in a couple of years, but at the same time, there is nothing guaranteed. He was analyzed last night as a potential first rounder, but he fell to 42nd overall - 18 picks from being not drafted at all.
Congratulations again to Olivier, and here's to hoping Utah makes teams hate the fact that they didn't go after him when they did.