SPORTS

Utah Jazz select Kentucky forward Trey Lyles to help frontcourt depth

06/25/2015 10:45 EDT | Updated 06/25/2016 05:59 EDT
SALT LAKE CITY - Canadian Trey Lyles certainly wasn't a "sexy" pick for the Utah Jazz at No. 12.

He's not a knock-down shooter like former Kentucky teammate Devin Booker, who went No. 13 to the Suns. He wasn't the college player of the year like Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky (No. 9) or a high-risk, high-reward player like Kelly Oubre (No. 15).

General manager Dennis Lindsey simply became enamoured of the 6-foot-10, 241-pound forward's versatility and all-around game.

"His playmaking with the ball, his handle ... ability to keep his head up and play unselfish basketball is superior," Lindsey said. "Trey made some sacrifices not playing as many minutes at the four, which is his natural position. But playing the three, he learned to handle the ball, learned to execute. A big part of our game going forward is bigs that can guard smalls."

Lyles, who was born in Saskatoon but moved to Indianapolis at a young age, is the first Saskatoon-born player to be drafted into the NBA.

The Jazz then took another Canadian, 6-foot-4, 186-pound Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan of Aylmer, Que., with the No. 42 pick. He averaged 19.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a junior and led the Atlantic Coast Conference in points per game. Daniel Diez from Spain was selected with the No. 54 pick and traded to the Trail Blazers for cash considerations.

Lyles averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Wildcats and was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team after his lone collegiate season. He has a 7-1 wingspan with large hands and Lindsey believes he can get bigger.

"I know it's a young team and I feel ... going to that situation is perfect," Lyles said. "I'm a guy that can step in and help contribute immediately.

"Being able to contribute offensively and defensively, just being a guy that goes out there and if they need a bucket, I'll be able to be a guy that can go get one. And just be a high-character guy that's going to fit in."

The Jazz went into the off-season needing shooting after averaging the fifth-fewest points per game last season. Frontcourt depth became a priority after the team moved Enes Kanter to the Thunder.

Lyles, 19, could fill a stretch-four role one day, though he shot just 13.8 per cent from 3-point range. He worked out with the Jazz on June 13 and said he wasn't able to show all of his game on a Kentucky roster that had four players selected in the first 13 picks. He knocked down 25 of 40 corner 3-point shots during his workout with the Jazz.

Lindsey said Lyles is a better rebounder than his numbers show and called him a good midrange shooter that should be able to improve. He also thinks Lyles can be a "very solid" corner-3 shooter in time.

"I'm able to knock it down consistently," Lyles said. "Coach and managers for Jazz were able to see that. It's something I have confidence in."

Lyles has the mobility to guard multiple positions and the pick-and-roll while his length is something the Jazz covet. Point guard Trey Burke is the only player projected to be in the top-eight rotation, not including Lyles, that is under 6-foot-6.

"More playmaking ability for myself and my teammates," Lyles said when asked what he couldn't show at Kentucky. "Being able to score more. Post up a little bit more. I didn't get to play a lot of the four. Just a whole lot of versatility."

The Jazz finished the season with a 38-44 record, a 13-game improvement from the 2013-14 season, and were slotted No. 12 after a tiebreak drawing with the Pacers. The improvement was the second-best in the Western Conference and the sixth-best in the NBA.

Lyles said he can fill any role.

"I'm a guy who's pretty flexible on the court and pretty much can do whatever the coach asks of me," Lyles said. "I feel comfortable in any kind of lineup. It doesn't matter to me. I just know that I'll be able to transform to anything that's needed of me."

The Jazz had the sixth-best win percentage (.655) after the All-Star break and aspires to be in the playoff race next season. The five teams in front of them — Warriors, Clippers, Cavaliers, Spurs and Rockets — were all playoff teams.

Defence was the Jazz's calling card during their post All-Star success. The Jazz ranked No. 1 in the league, holding teams to 89.0 points per game and No. 2 in opponent field goal percentage (42.2) during that period. The emergence of 7-foot-1 shot blocker Rudy Gobert after Kanter was traded solidified the defence.

The offence, however, was the second-worst in the league after the break and where the biggest strides can be made during the off-season.

MORE:cpSports