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Jakob Poeltl's journey to basketball stardom was a 5,000-mile trek from Austria to Salt Lake City. Is there a chance now his next move could be just a few blocks down the road?
After a highly successful two-year stint at the Huntsman Center, the former Runnin' Ute center will be at the NBA draft in New York City this week, waiting to hear his name called and find out where the next stop will be on his journey. And some experts believe it's possible Poeltl could call Vivint Arena home next season.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN analyst Chad Ford has the Utah Jazz snatching Poeltl with the 12th overall pick in Thursday's draft.
"The Jazz don't have any immediate needs. Whomever lands here will struggle to find minutes on a loaded roster. This is an exercise in taking the best player available," Ford explained. "There are a lot of options here and I think it may be tough to pass on [Marquette forward] Henry Ellenson if he's on the board. But Poeltl's ability to help right now at a key position probably gives him the slight edge."
Poeltl is a lottery lock this week. He's one of just a handful of top prospects who have been invited to the NBA draft's green room, where he will be joined by Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak. Most draft experts project Poeltl going inside the top 10, with the Toronto Raptors at No. 9 a popular destination.
Jazz officials, too, believe Poeltl will likely be off the board by the time they are on the clock Thursday night. But this year's draft has left even some of the best analysts and insiders scratching their heads a little.
"I think there's a general consensus around the league of who the so-called top eight are," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said last week. "Then there's uncertainty where the rest of those players go."
In short, it will come down to buyer preference in the mid- to late-lottery, so there's a chance for some surprises.
The Jazz are leaving all of their options open on draft night, and could very well be looking to move back in the first round or to swap the selection for veteran help. But if the Jazz stay put at 12 and Poeltl slips, the big man could be a fit with the Jazz.
The nimble 7-footer averaged better than 17 points and nine rebounds a game last season. Along the way, he earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors and won over plenty of experts.
"I love Jakob Poeltl," NBA TV draft analyst Seth Davis said this week. "People talk about the NBA going away from post play. I don't think basketball has de-emphasized post play, I just don't think there are any more post players. Jakob is a post player."
The 20-year-old Poeltl could add another young talent to a Jazz team on an upward trajectory. Poeltl should have more upside than backup centers Jeff Withey and Tibor Pleiss.
And with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert firmly anchoring their frontcourt, the Jazz could afford to let Poeltl develop without calling on him to produce right away.
"He's got to develop," Davis said, "but he's so big and just has a nose for the ball."
Poeltl's ceiling might not be as high as Kentucky's Skal Labissiere, another big man who will be around in the latter half of the lottery. But his floor isn't as low either.
"He's going to be solid," Davis said. "If he's healthy, he's got a 12- to 14-year run ahead of him, either as a starter or a rotation player on a really good team. He's as can't-miss as there is in that range."
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Where's he going?
Poeltl possibilities from selection of mock drafts:
ESPN • Utah Jazz (12)
DraftExpress.com • Toronto Raptors (9)
CBSSports.com • Milwaukee Bucks (10)
Sports Illustrated • Toronto Raptors (9)
BasketballInsiders.com • Orlando Magic (11)
Salt Lake Tribune • Milwaukee Bucks (10)
P Thursday, 5 p.m. MT
TV • ESPN