Drafted Kentucky-area players in store for big changes

Jun 24 2011 - 3:51pm

New-employee kits for some recent college students with ties to the state of Kentucky who entered the working world as NBA first-round draft picks Thursday night:

New employee: Enes Kanter (the 6-foot-11 center, who sat out last season at Kentucky after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, was taken with the third pick of the first round)

Hired by: Utah Jazz

Last year's bottom line: 39-43 (fourth in NBA Northwest Division; failed to qualify for Western Conference playoffs)

The bosses: After Jazz owner Larry Miller died in 2009, his son, Greg, took over as team CEO. Longtime Jazz executive Kevin O'Connor makes the basketball decisions for Utah. Former Jazz forward Tyrone Corbin replaced iconic Utah head man Jerry Sloan midway through last season as coach.

Key current employees: Forwards Al Jefferson (18.6 ppg; 9.7 rpg) and Paul Millsap (17.3 ppg; 7.6 rpg) led Utah last season. Former Butler star Gordon Hayward (5.4 ppg) was last season's No. 1 pick. Point guard Devin Harris (15.2 ppg; 7.1 assists) and high-ceiling rookie power forward Derrick Favors (6.8 ppg; 5.3 rpg) came over from New Jersey mid-season for Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams.

How the new hire fits in: Last season was only Utah's second losing season in the last 28 years. Once the Jazz traded Williams, Utah was in a revamping phase. The Jazz will rebuild around a young nucleus of Favors, Kanter, Hayward and last night's No. 12 selection Alec Burks. One bonus for Kanter: Also on the Utah roster is veteran center Mehmet Okur, a fellow Turk.

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New employee: Brandon Knight (the 6-3 Kentucky guard was taken with the eighth pick of the first round)

Hired by: Detroit Pistons

Last year's bottom line: 30-52 (fourth in Central Division; failed to qualify for Eastern Conference playoffs for second year in a row).

The bosses: Beverly Hills billionaire Tom Gores (a Michigan State alum) bought the Pistons this month from the family of the late, long-time owner Bill Davidson. Ex-Pistons star Joe Dumars will continue to run the front office after Gores retained him. Detroit fired John Kuester as head coach after a tumultuous season and has not hired a replacement.

Key current employees: Last year's first-round pick Greg Monroe (9.4 ppg; 7.5 rpg; 55% field-goal percentage) showed immense promise at power forward. Rodney Stuckey led Detroit in scoring and assists (15.5 ppg; 5.2 apg) but may be miscast as a point guard. Longtime Pistons stalwart Rip Hamilton (14.1 ppg) feuded with Kuester last year and may not be asked back. Ex-Kentucky star Tayshaun Prince (14.1 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 2.8 apg) is a free agent and may not want to come back.

How the new hire fits in: Detroit hasn't really had its point guard position solidified since it traded Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups. Knight, who hit game-winning shots in two NCAA Tournament games for Kentucky, could develop into Mr. Big Shot 2.0 for Detroit. The Pistons will hope Knight joins ex-Georgetown star Monroe as the cornerstones of their rebuilding process.

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New employee: Kenneth Faried (6-7 1/2 Morehead State big man was taken with the 22nd pick of the first round)

Hired by: Denver Nuggets

Last year's bottom line: 50-32 (second in Northwest Division; lost to Oklahoma City 4-1 in NBA Western Conference playoffs first round)

The bosses: Walmart heir Josh Kroenke, 30, took over ownership of the Nuggets from his father, Stan, after the elder Kroenke bought the St. Louis Rams. Nigeria native Masai Ujiri runs the front office. Cancer survivor George Karl is the longtime Nuggets head coach.

Key current employees: After Carmelo Anthony forced his way out of Denver to New York, the Nuggets are a team without stars. Eight players that finished the year in Denver had season scoring averages ranging from 14.7 (Danilo Gallinari) to 10.5 (Al Harrington). Without Anthony, the team's best player was Brazilian big man Nene (14.5 ppg; 7.6 rpg). However, he has the option to opt out of the final year of his contract if he chooses.

How the new hire fits in: Forwards Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith are both free agents and may not be asked back. Nene could leave, too. With his rebounding prowess and the relentless energy with which he plays, Faried could help fill the void up front. A nice bonus for the ex-Morehead star: He's going to the same city where the Eagles stunned Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.

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