SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz made their highest draft pick in years, then immediately had to defend it.
Utah's selection of Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward with the ninth overall pick Thursday was greeted with more boos than cheers at EnergySolutions Arena, where the lanky forward helped lead the Bulldogs' run to the Final Four just a few months ago.
"The only thing I hope is that in two years you're not booing," Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor responded to the boos for the Jazz's lottery pick choice.
Hayward was in New York attending the draft Thursday night, but was aware of the negative reaction before a quick conference call with Utah reporters.
"Hopefully I can do some things on the court and turn those around," Hayward said.
Utah fans were wary of using a rare top-10 pick on a 6-foot-8 forward who weighs in at all of 207 pounds. Jazz fans were also skeptical of point guard Deron Williams when Utah took him third overall five years ago, so O'Connor wasn't too bothered with the negative response.
"They told me they booed John Stockton, too, so let's hope history repeats itself," O'Connor said.
O'Connor acknowledged that Utah probably would have gone with a larger forward or center — if there was one still available that the Jazz had rated higher than Hayward.
By the time the ninth pick came up, the top-ranked big men had gone to other teams, which the Jazz knew was pretty likely in this year's draft once star guards John Wall and Evan Turner went — as expected — with the first two picks.
Hayward impressed the Jazz scouts monitoring his sophomore season at Butler and with the way he played and interviewed with team officials during a pre-draft workout.
"We took the best player available," O'Connor said. "We think he's a multiple-position player and winning counts for something. He's been a winner wherever he's been."
Hayward's final college game was a two-point loss to Duke in the NCAA championship game. He led the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding as just a sophomore and scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs over Kansas State in the West Regional final on March 27 in Salt Lake City.
Butler coach Brad Stevens noted the Utah connection just minutes after the pick with a congratulatory tweet to his former player.
"More great Butler moments coming in Salt Lake City," Stevens tweeted. "Congrats to Gordon & the Jazz!!"
It was Utah's highest pick since trading up two spots to get Williams in 2005. Before that, the Jazz hadn't picked in the top 10 since getting Thurl Bailey at No. 7 in the 1983 draft.
The Jazz had the pick because of a trade with Phoenix made six years ago when the Suns needed to drop salary and made a deal with Utah at the deadline. It was actually the New York Knicks' pick from an earlier Knicks-Suns deal and the protection limit had expired, giving Utah the Knicks' spot in the lottery.
"We felt like it was found money. We didn't have to win 29 games to get the ninth pick in the draft," O'Connor said.
In the second round, the Jazz went with a taller (6-9), slimmer (197 pounds) player in Western Kentucky forward Jeremy Evans.
O'Connor said Evans' weight is an obvious concern, but he blocked 224 shots in college and played well enough in a workout for the Jazz on Saturday for Utah to take him with the 55th overall pick.
Evans played all four years at Western Kentucky and is the school's leader in field goal percentage at 63.9 percent.
"It's one of those things. He's intriguing," O'Connor said. "There's some things about him that you can't teach."