SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz have drafted a young center, while trading another one away.
The Jazz selected Kansas 7-foot, 270-pound center Udoka Azubuike, with the 27th overall pick in the NBA Draft. They also drafted Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes with the 39th pick, and traded center Tony Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for cash and future considerations.
Azubuike, a native of Nigeria and the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, averaged 13.7 points and 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks last year as a senior for the Jayhawks.
“I think my role will be learning from the guys who have been there,” Azubuike said. “Guys like Rudy Gobert who have been there. With my length, my athleticism and my work that I bring to the table, I feel like I can be a helping hand to Rudy.”
“He comes from a great program,” said Jazz general manger Justin Zanik. “He has improved every year. Being a part of a great culture, defense, offense, great production in terms of winning. He’s as prepared as a college player can be.”
Azubuike has a 7-foot-7-inch wingspan and 9-foot-4 standing reach. He is considered to be a very strong finisher at the rim and an improving defender. But he needs to work on his free throw shooting, having shot 44 percent from the line last year.
Azubuike finished his career at Kansas as a 74.4 percent shooter from the field, he highest career percentage in NCAA history.
“His strength and ability to finish with contact,” said Zanik. “In our opinion, he is the most impactful defensive player in the draft.”
Azubuike is expected to be Gobert’s backup this season, and he can’t wait to learn from the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m so excited to be alongside a guy like Rudy.” Azubuike said. “He’s a defensive specialist, and when I was in college, that’s pretty much what I did in terms of blocking shots or rebounding the ball. I kind of played a similar role. I’m just excited from day one to learn from him.”
Bradley was due to make $3.5 million this year for the Jazz. The Pistons are sending cash to the Jazz along with the future considerations. The Jazz need to free up salary in order to try to re-sign free agent guard Jordan Clarkson.
Bradley, a first round pick in 2017, averaged 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in three seasons with the Jazz.
After trading the 38th overall pick to Detroit along with Bradley, the Jazz then traded back into the second round and selected Syracuse guard Elijah Hughes.
Hughes led the ACC in scoring last year at 19 points per game. He is a 42 percent shooter from the field, and made 34 percent of his three-point shots last season.
“My style of play is kind of an all-around offensive threat,” Hughes said. “I can put the ball on the floor, make plays, knock down open shots. I’m just kind of a full offensive threat. I’m ready to compete from day one.”