When Elijah Hughes was drafted 39th overall to the Utah Jazz via the New Orleans Pelicans, he tweeted, “wow i can’t stop shaking.” Maybe it’s because his NBA dream was finally realized. Maybe it’s because his NBA dream was finally realized with one of the best inherited situations the league has to offer.
The Jazz were swiftly escorted out of the bubble when they lost a seven-game first round series to the Nuggets. But this team has their core. Rudy Gobert is one of the best defenders, twice winning Defensive Player of the Year. Donovan Mitchell made his first All-Star team last year. With 24 points per game, he has the keys to the franchise.
Hughes won’t be asked to hit the big shots like he did for Syracuse. In fact, no second-round draftee is taken with super-stardom in mind. Utah sees an all-around scorer in Hughes who fits their style of play.
Syracuse fans quickly accepted Hughes’ takeover of the program from Tyus Battle purely because of the upgrade he provided as a shooter. The Beacon, NY native hit 36% of his three-pointers in Orange. Head Coach Quin Snyder values shooting, with the best three-point percentage in the NBA at 38%. Hughes has the potential to be a strong shooter off the bench.
However, Hughes is more than just a shooter, and he will be asked to do more in Utah. The Jazz bench ranked 24th in the league with 33.3 points per game last year. Drafting Hughes in the second round, despite the inherent defensive shortcomings that come with playing a zone-defense in college, is a move to improve the bench scoring, one of the many factors that sent Utah packing early in the bubble.
But Hughes won’t be rushed into action. Utah is just hoping he turns into a productive piece. It would not be surprising if Hughes bounces up and down from the G-League to develop, especially as a defender.
This is a good fit for Hughes. The Jazz are in no rush to get production out of him, and he shouldn’t be either. A strong veteran presence, combined with Snyder – a 2018 Coach of the Year finalist – at the helm, should yield a fit for Hughes.