Jazz Linked to UConn Prospect in New Trade-Up Rumor

It's still unclear what path the Utah Jazz will take on draft day.
Apr 13, 2024; Hartford, CT, USA; UConn Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) hold the championship trophy as he arrives at the State Capitol and greeted by fans before teams victory parade. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2024; Hartford, CT, USA; UConn Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) hold the championship trophy as he arrives at the State Capitol and greeted by fans before teams victory parade. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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As we inch closer to the 2024 NBA draft, the rumors surrounding the Utah Jazz continue to trickle in. The latest comes from ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, who thinks Utah could move up in the draft to select Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan.

“Clingan is a top-three prospect who might experience a minor drop on draft night because teams that are in the Nos. 3-6 range already have starting centers in place... Clingan isn’t expected to drop past the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 7, whom he just visited for a private workout as well. He is being discussed among teams as a possible target for the likes of Chicago, Memphis, Oklahoma City or Utah, who all might explore trading up for a player in his mold.”

Utah trading up to select a center would certainly be a development coming out of left field. Currently, Walker Kessler is penciled in as the starter, and in last year's first round, the Jazz drafted Taylor Hendricks, who showed potential at the five spot if Utah chooses to go small.

Clingan averaged 13 points and 7.4 rebounds while also blocking 2.8 shots per contest last season with the Huskies and was a major contributor in winning the National Championship. Standing at 7 feet tall with an impressive 7-foot-7 wingspan, Clingan checks the boxes regarding size and athleticism. However, in today’s NBA, where spacing the floor on offense is critical, he is a work in progress as a player who can be an efficient long-distance shooter.

Also, developing into a player that can help with spacing could be problematic, considering he only shot 58.3% from the free throw line this last year. Clingan also shot 25% from the three-point line in a small sample size of only eight attempts.

It would be hard to imagine the Jazz making a move for the projected lottery pick without Kessler being part of the exchange. The second-year Jazzman did struggle in his sophomore season at times, but he Is still an elite rim protector and is only one year removed from finishing third in the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year voting.

However, it was odd when Utah announced that Kessler would participate in this year's Summer League as an established third-year player. Maybe there's something going on behind the scenes that's motivating Utah to make a change at the center position.

Either way, if the Jazz have their eyes set on Clingan, then it will take a trade to move up if they want to draft him. No mocks have him falling to the tenth pick, and although it’s a long shot, some even have him going No. 1 overall. He's drawn Rudy Gobert comparisons as a player who can be a real difference-maker on defense. Jazz fans will find out what will happen soon enough, with the draft slated to start on June 26. 

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Patrick Byrnes

PATRICK BYRNES

Patrick Byrnes is the Deputy Editor of The Frozen Rope — SI.com's team website covering the Utah Jazz.