Utah Jazz: Draft grade for Kansas center Udoka Azubuike

The Utah Jazz used the 27th pick in the 2020 NBA draft to select four-year Kansas center Udoka Azubuike to replace Tony Bradley.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, the Utah Jazz had only pick 23 in the 2020 NBA draft due to finishing sixth in the Western Conference. However, a draft-day trade with the New York Knicks saw the Jazz move back in the draft but get another pick in the process.

The Knicks traded pick 27 and pick 38 with the Jazz in return for pick 23. So far the only reason I can see for this is the Jazz were looking to keep their trade options open and believed the player they wanted would be available four picks later.

The Jazz are over the salary cap at the moment, and they also shipped out Tony Bradley and pick No. 38 to the Detroit Pistons for a future draft pick and cash considerations.

With the 27th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft the Utah Jazz select Udoka Azubuike

Udoka Azubuike is a 7’0″, 270-pound center out of Kansas. He has a 7’8″ wingspan and a 9’4″ standing reach. To say that he is a presence in the paint would be an understatement. At the college level, he was an incredibly efficient rebounder and finisher.

He averaged 12.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in his four-year college career He did average a double-double in his final campaign. His 74.6 career field goal percentage was the highest in Big-12 and NCAA history.

However, there was one glaring weakness in Azubuike’s game all through college which he simply did not improve on. He shot the ball at an appalling 41.6 percent from the line. This number will cause Azubuike and the Jazz issues, especially if he is needed in late-game situations.

Azubuike also appears to have no range on his shot whatsoever. Apart from the fact that he is a liability at the free-throw line, he did not attempt a single shot from behind the 3-point line for his whole four-year career.

To say that Azubuike appears to be a throwback is a fairly obvious statement. While Rudy Gobert is also a throwback, he has improved himself from the line. His rookie season was abysmal where he shot 49.2 percent from the line. He is now shooting it consistently between 63 and 69 percent.

However, the greatest need the Jazz had for this offseason was to find a player who could defend the paint when Gobert sat. Bradley tried but was not able to fill this role. Azubuike’s resume says that he should be able to do this.

The problem is that it is often folly to select a center late in the first round. They take time to develop and this means that the Jazz may not have upgraded this position at all. They could have tried to sign a veteran once free agency opened, particularly if they declined Mike Conley’s $34.5 million team option.

If Azubuike can produce numbers similar to or greater than Bradley’s then this selection will be considered a success. This is because he appears to be a significant upgrade defensively.

Draft Grade: C+