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Olivier Hanlan Is The Wrong Harmony For Jazz’s Melody

Former Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan finally discovered his new home on Thursday night—he was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 42nd pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. But for Hanlan, home might not be where the heart is, because he does not seem to be a major (or minor, really) part of Utah’s future.

Originally projected to go in the late-second round with the potential to go undrafted, Hanlan rose on many draft boards thanks to his impressive workouts and interviews prior to the Draft. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas had Hanlan as his 30th best available prospect in his final projection for this class.

An undersized combo guard, Hanlan will likely be forced to play the point in the NBA. While his skill set might allow him to play off the ball on occasion, he simply does not have the necessary size or athleticism to receive consistent playing time at shooting guard. Stuck on the depth chart behind starting point guard Trey Burke, Utah’s 2013 first round selection, Hanlan’s minutes will be hard to come by, but he might have a chance to make an impression on one of the youngest teams in the league.

In 2014-15, the Jazz ranked 29th in the NBA in assists per game. Burke is a shoot-first point guard, and while Hanlan’s ability to score is his best facet, he is an underrated passer as well. After gaining a year of experience running the point under head coach Jim Christian’s system at BC, one of Hanlan’s best chances to get in the game might be through his passing. Swingman Gordon Hayward is the unquestioned star in Utah, so Hanlan could win some favor from the front office just by feeding Hayward the ball.

One of the biggest knocks against Hanlan, though, is the fact that he doesn’t have the tools to shut down NBA guards on defense. Utah was towards the bottom of the league in opponent field goal percentage on shots from 20 to 24 feet away from the net, and Hanlan won’t significantly help his new team in that regard. Hanlan’s high level of focus and energy might carry him to respectability on the defensive side of the ball, but it would be unreasonable to assume he would be a lockdown defender for Utah.

Currently, the most intriguing prospect on the Jazz is Dante Exum, Utah’s fifth overall selection from last year. The Australian product underwhelmed in his first season in the United States, averaging fewer than five points per game on less than 35 percent shooting, despite starting for half of the season. Exum has the size and athleticism to play both guard positions, though he appeared mostly at point guard for the Jazz. At only 19 years old, Exum has time to grow into his role with the Jazz, and his upside is still considered to be one of the highest of all prospects from the 2014 NBA Draft.

Hanlan’s fate with the Jazz rests largely, among other things, in Exum’s development—If Exum shakes off his rough rookie season and becomes the player that many pundits expected him to be, Hanlan will get minimal playing time in a crowded backcourt. Adding in reserve point guard Bryce Cotton and shooting guards Alec Burks and Rodney Hood into the mix, it becomes clear that Hanlan has his work cut out for him. To make matters worse for Hanlan, each of those players—Burke included—is under the age of 23.

Frankly, Hanlan does not seem to fit very well on this Jazz team. It seemed that he would be much better suited on a guard-starved team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who play the tandem of Ish Smith and Isaiah Canaan at the point. And while the nicknames for a pair of guys named Ishmael and Isaiah are enticing (I’m partial to The Bible Bros.), as a Sixers fan I would like to see each player firmly plant himself at the end of the bench and stay there for the whole season. At 22 years old, Hanlan would be best-served seeing playing time immediately, and that is something unique that the Sixers can offer him, unlike other teams that are trying to win now.

Hanlan also would have been a better fit as a reserve guard for someone like the Houston Rockets, whose backup guards, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry, are 38 and 37, respectively. The Rockets are strapped for cash and could have used a cheaper guard option off the bench, but opted to go big with Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell instead. There was also a chance that Hanlan could unite with fellow former BC guard Reggie Jackson in Detroit, but that did not materialize as many BC fans would have hoped.

Hanlan will probably appear in Summer League action for the Jazz, either in the Las Vegas Summer League or the Utah Jazz Summer League. The mostly-rookie showcases are the first opportunities that many players get to prove themselves, and Hanlan will want to impress if he hopes to see the floor this upcoming fall. If Hanlan is still in Utah by the start of the season, the D-League is not out of the question, either.

Reaching the NBA is a massive accomplishment in and of itself, and Hanlan should be extremely proud of himself for finally reaching the pros.

But he and basketball fans alike have got to be scratching their heads at how he will fit into his new team’s long-term plan.

Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff

June 26, 2015

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