It shouldn't be a secret by now, but I love playing fake Utah Jazz GM. Other than the games and especially the playoffs, my favorite time of the year is before the trade deadline, when all Jazz fans can hope and wait for a big deal or to see the team kept intact essentially. It's an exciting time of the year and you know that I am always coming up with hypothetical trades and you either roll your eyes at my ideas or completely agree, or are somewhere in between. I know this. I have heard the counter arguments. Many of them have been good arguments. I have those arguments with myself. Which is the purpose of this post. I am going to show you the inner workings of my thinking and I will show you the counter argument with those points. I will play the role of devil's advocate and it's your job to figure out my true position, not to argue against me. Hint: I am not sure where my true position is. It's possibly right in the middle.
Myself: It is obvious what is wrong with the Jazz right now and the front office. They are scared. They are scared to do one of two things: 1) taking on extra money for the future by acquiring a good player and making a push to compete and 2) cleaning house and giving up on a season in order to rebuild down the line. So what is the result? Doing not much of anything. Maybe a small trade here or there, but the main objective is to keep the core together. This brings similar results that the team has always had and it makes for frustrated fans. Just throwing it out there. The Jazz have needed to do one of those two things since day one of this season, but at this point the second thing is probably all the Jazz FO can do now.
Other self: Hold on, Clark. There is good reason to believe that this team might have been and might still be good this season. Maybe they haven't won a championship, but they have been good for 48-54 wins the last three seasons. And last year they would have been 4 or 5 games better with a healthy team. Missing Williams cost them at least 3 games I can remember off the top of my head. This team has been one small trade or a couple of games away from being a top 4 seed. Remember that this same team made it to the Western Conference Finals only three years ago.
Myself: Maybe making it to the Western Conference Finals was the worst thing that could happen to this team. It changed expectations for them before they were ready for it. They were probably only the 4th or 5th best team in the conference that year, but got lucky when favorable matchups came their way in the form of the Warriors. But more importantly, that wasn't the same team as now. Derek Fisher was on that team and he was a true team leader. He singlehandedly changed the environment and the expectations of that team from day one. Like him or hate him, the Jazz haven't had a good leader on the team since Fisher left. He's a winner. Period. This team is very different from that team 3 years ago. But this team has had plenty of chances to show they are a competitor in the Western Conference and they haven't done it. They have the same flaws they have always had. Do I believe that they will do well this season?
Other self: No I don't. They are going to have to play really well just to make the playoffs. But I believe it was worth seeing what this team could do together.
Myself: So we are in agreement that the Jazz should do something now.
Other self: Sure. I can agree with that.
Myself. Good. Well, let's get to the trade proposals then. Like I mentioned earlier, the Jazz might have let too much time elapse to make a move to make a push. So I think they need to make some moves to retool for the future. I didn't love the Maynor trade, but I completely understand it. It saved lots of cash and it made the impossible possible. The Jazz could get completely under the tax line. That should be their goal. Not to make the playoffs.
Other Self: Whoa, whoa, whoa! That's blaspheme. You can't say stuff like that. You don't really believe it would be better to save money than make the playoffs, do you? Who are you? Robert Sarver? Chris Wallace? You have to put a winning team on the floor in order to keep fans. And do you know how much money the team makes in the playoffs from ticket sales? How much money would the team lose if they alienate their fanbase?
Myself: Fair point. But if the Jazz cut the last $4.5 million of their payroll, then they get the luxury tax payout for teams that are under the bill. That is projected to be about $4.5 million right now. So the Jazz could make about $8-9 million from getting under the tax. That has to be more money than they could make in the playoffs, right? As far as alienating the fanbase, season tickets are already sold. Fans can't buy those back. The attendance at the games already isn't great and the front office will have all of the offseason to make the team better and win back season ticket buyers.
Other self: But I just believe that the best move is always to win as many games as possible. Karma catches up with you. Losing never solves anything. When teams tank, things don't work out.
Myself: Unless you are the Spurs in 1996. They gave up that season after David Robinson was injured in order to get Tim Duncan and it changed their franchise for the next 15 years. Or unless you are the Jazz. Their best player right now is due directly to having a horrendous season and getting a top pick in the draft. You build your best teams with top picks in the draft. And there is a difference between tanking by giving away all of your best players and tanking by sitting your good, healthy players, like Boston was accused of a couple of seasons ago. And this is a good draft coming up. So I think the Jazz should give away a player or two that aren't part of the future solution. Figuring out who those players are and aren't is difficult. But it must be done. The other problem with the Jazz is that they are overvaluing their players right now. They don't want to give away Carlos Boozer or Andrei Kirilenko for nothing. But if you make one move that gives you financial flexibility, then you can be more flexible to make other moves you want to make. Do you think the Jazz wanted to get rid of Eric Maynor for nothing? No. But it gives them flexibility. So the Jazz should do a similar thing with either Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, or Mehmet Okur. Or two of the three. Here is some proposals with Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko.
Trade AK to Golden State for Corey Maggette and I don't care who else, as long as they are expiring contracts or Anthony Randolph. You take on longer term contracts with Corey Maggette, but you also can cut up to $4.2 million dollars of salary and it still allows Golden State to stay under the tax the next two seasons and frees up tons of money after that. Golden State does this move because they are shedding $30 million of contract in Maggette after this season and only taking on $17 million next season and will have a huge trade chip in Kirilenko if he doesn't pan out in the run and gun system. My belief, is that he will. Even if you aren't a fan of Corey Maggette, a move like this is a financially beneficial move. If you can agree to immediate buyouts with the expiring contracts you acquire than you might be able to save even more money. I am one of the biggest fans of Andrei Kirilenko, but his huge contract is going to hurt the front office's flexibility for the next two seasons. Giving him up and getting nothing in return would be fine as well. The front office needs to realize this. Maybe Houston wants him for McGrady's salary.
Other Self: Corey Maggette? A guy who scores a bunch but doesn't play defense and hasn't really ever been on a winning team? Isn't that even worse than a guy like Carlos Boozer? And taking on his $30 + million for the next few seasons would be awesome. I can't wait to watch a 34 year old Maggette making $11 million in 2013. Sign me up.
Myself: The Jazz need scorers like Carlos Boozer and Corey Maggette, but they really need scorers who know their roles. Maggette is willing to come off the bench and the Jazz desperately need a scorer who will willingly do it off the bench with the second unit. Maggette would do that. Boozer won't. Plus, Maggette is one of the most efficient scorers in the league; sneakily efficient. He shoots a free throw every 3.9 minutes of game time. Boozer shoots a free throw every 7.3 minutes of game time. Maggette is also a fantastic rebounder at his position and he shoots a good field goal percentage. I don't know why the Warriors are so eager to get rid of him, to be honest. And look at the teams that Maggette has played for. He hasn't always been around good teammates. If you put him on a good team and asked him to score off the bench, he might be the perfect fit for the Jazz.
Other self: But Maggette will still be expensive after Kirilenko's contract will have expired. Maybe the Jazz would be better off just letting AK's contract expire.
Myself: That's true. But I am sure that Maggette for AK makes the team better next season. And the Jazz can deal with the aging Maggette when the time comes, if it comes. But most importantly, dumping AK's salary allows the Jazz to perform a sign-and-trade with Boozer this offseason and they can get a better piece this offseason, rather than letting Boozer walk away for nothing. Isn't the best move to better the team?
Other self: So your answer to bettering the team is by giving away AK, a very good player.
Myself: Good point. Let me clarify. You need good players, but when you have lots of players who are being overpaid then you are screwed as a small market team. Same reason the Jazz can't pay Carlos Boozer maximum money this offseason. Can't overpay him and AK and Deron Williams. Before I confuse you, I just want to say that the Jazz were absolutely right to sign D-Will to a max contract, but he is still overpaid. But they had to do it. In honesty, max contracts are for the upper crust of the league and only about 5-6 players in the league deserve a max contract. Back to the argument. Gotta give up good players when you are financially in trouble. Which brings me to my Mehmet Okur idea. Give him away for nothing too. Let me explain. Okur is a very good player but he is also the center of this team. Name one championship team from the last 20 years that didn't have a very good defensive center. You can't. Even the Lakers have Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Bynum is huge and can alter shots and Gasol is a vastly underrated defensive big. Other championship teams had Ben Wallace, Hakeem, Tim Duncan, and Horace Grant. Luc Longley might be the only exception, but that was the Bulls and they had many defensive minded bigs on that team. So you can have bad offensive center and win championships, but you better have a defensive presence in the middle. I love Okur, but if he isn't the center we need, then move him for more cap relief. On that note:
Mehmet Okur for Zydrunas Ilgauskas
The Cavs need one more shooting big who can stretch defenses. They are looking at the Wizards' Antawn Jamison and Pacers' Troy Murphy. The catch? They want to trade Big Z's expiring contract for the shooter and get Big Z back 30 days after he is bought out by the other team. The nice thing is that most of Big Z's $11.5 million dollars owed this season is already paid for. I think he has only $4.5 left to be paid. And if the Jazz traded Okur for Ilgauskas and bought him out, they could maybe pay less than the $4.5 million. And the Jazz are off the hook for Okur's extension that he signed this offseason. So the Jazz should call up the Cavs and offer Okur for Big Z, with the unspoken agreement that Ilguaskus will be bought out immediately. The only downside to this for the Jazz is that you are giving away Okur and you are left with Kyrylo Fesenko at center. But you can start Boozer and Millsap for the rest of the season or you can pick up a cheap available center after buying Big Z out. Sean Williams just got released.
Other self: Oh great. You want to give away Mehmet Okur for nothing? Who are you, a Lakers fan? He is our third best scorer the last three seasons and if the Jazz don't think he is part of the solution, then they wouldn't have signed him to an extension this last offseason. Obviously the front office likes him.
Myself: True. The front office likes him. I like him. He's a likeable guy. And back then the Jazz were committed to making this team very good going forward. They have been disappointing and no one has been more disappointing this season than Mehmet Okur. The teams' problems aren't due to Okur only, but like I said, it is time to remove the good players that aren't part of the long term solution. You can build your team with high draft picks, but you can also build your team by having lots of cap space. That is how the Blazers and Thunder have built their teams. The Jazz avoided being a bottom barrel team in this league by using their offseason money to acquire Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. You can argue about whether those moves were wise, but the Jazz had money and used it. If the Jazz could trade AK and Okur, then they save about $20 million next offseason when there are going to be a lot of free agents.
Other self: Or they could re-sign Boozer for more money.
Myself: You are right. They should keep Okur around. But seriously, Boozer and Okur can't play together at the same time. I love Okur as a person and a player. He's a special talent. But he isn't what the Jazz need at center in order to be very good in the next 3 years.
Other self: But your proposed trade makes the Jazz lose more games this season. Can you imagine Fes getting 20-30 minutes a night?
Myself: Trading AK and Okur makes our team worse for the rest of the season. It's true. But I am not convinced that this team can even make the playoffs now with a fully healthy team. They probably will, but might not. Why not save that money next season, even if it means that you wont make the playoffs? And we can finally see what Fesenko has to offer on a night-in night-out basis.
Other self: Stop it. Just stop it. The Jazz are a playoff team with this team. They aren't going to miss the playoffs this year if they keep this team. And after you make the playoffs, anything can happen.
Myself: I believe the Jazz would make the playoffs as presently constituted, but I am not positive. I would put it at a 50-50 chance. Look at the standings. The Jazz are in 10th place. They are only 2 games out of the 5th spot, but they are also only 2 games from falling into the 12th spot. In front of them, I only see them passing OKC and maybe the Rockets. You just can't say with confidence that they will make the playoffs. Memphis is playing well right now and could pass the Jazz. And I think the Clippers are starting to look like a very good team. When they get Blake Griffin back, look out. In my eyes, the Clippers have a better chance right now of making the playoffs than the Jazz. I think the Jazz will make the playoffs, but you can't be sure. The worst thing that could happen is the Jazz try hard to make the playoffs by keeping a high payroll this season and next season and then don't even make the playoffs. That would be horrible. A bad season followed by an offseason with no flexibility? No thank you.
Other self: But how can the Jazz improve with your offers? Where will they get good players? If they give away 23 points a game and sign a minimum player, then they are much worse offensively and not better defensively. Thanks for blowing up the team and making life even harder for Deron Williams. Maggette isn't going to fix all of that and he can't block shots at the center position. We might have some cap space, but if people won't sign with Utah in the offseason, then what good is capspace? No good. That's the answer. Give away good players, so you can have cap space to sign different good players? Doesn't add up for me.
Myself: It's definitely a risk. But you have to take risks in order to win. People will sign with the Jazz. People want to win and you can win in Utah. But more importantly, if you can dump Okur and AK, then you can do anything with Carlos Boozer. Even re-sign him, which isn't what I would do. But sign and trades? Oh yes. Right now, GMs want to acquire Boozer, but they are afraid to give up anything of value for him, because they aren't certain he will turn around and re-sign with them. But if the Jazz agree to a sign and trade, Boozer can get his contract with a team that needs a scoring big and the Jazz can acquire players for him. I doubt the Kings would trade Kevin Martin for Carlos Boozer right now unless they knew he would stay in Sacramento. But if Kevin Martin doesn't work out for the rest of the season and Boozer signs a long term deal, then the Kings might be willing to swap Martin for Boozer. Either way, if the Jazz can package Boozer in a S&T for a true scoring wing, then they are much, much better.
Other self: So you want to trade Boozer's 20 points a game for a guy who scores 20 points from the wing? Why not just keep the 20 points a game you have?
Myself: Because the Jazz have two very good power forwards and no big-time scorers at the wing. Whatever you think about Paul Millsap, he was a very good starter last season. He is getting lots of minutes off the bench, but the offense almost never runs plays for Millsap. Boozer gets the offensive looks when both are on the floor. The Maynor trade has killed Millsap's effectiveness, because now the Jazz don't have a player who can get Millsap into scoring situations with the second team. Millsap and a scorer on the wing is better than Millsap & Boozer and a player who doesn't score on the wing. Everytime. And have you noticed that in all of my trade proposals, the Jazz have kept the Knicks' pick? If they don't make the playoffs, then they will have two lottery picks. So my ideas have given the Jazz a core of Williams, Millsap, Miles, Maggette, Fesenko, $15-20 million in capspace this offseason and two lottery picks in a very deep draft. And a possible sign and trade with Boozer.
Other self: Only one lottery pick. The Knicks are making the playoffs.
Myself: That is a problem that I can't fix. I still don't think they are good enough to make the playoffs, but I can't prognosticate with any certainty. But you just shouldn't trade the Knick's pick unless you are certain that the Knicks will make the playoffs. That pick is going to be a good player with a reasonable contract. And as long as the Knicks are out of the playoffs, it has a shot at being a top 3 pick. Thank you lottery.
Other self: Well this all seems great. You have solved the team's problems. Thanks, genius. Your team lacks a scoring big, a good center and wasted cap space. It's better to have a good team than having a really bad team that might be better in a couple of years. Centers that block shots and scoring wings obviously grow on trees so why don't you just go water that tree? And your Boozer for Martin deal is a pipe dream. Kings would never do that deal. Fans will be dying to see a team of Deron Williams, reasonably paid rookie, CJ Miles, Millsap, Fesenko with Maggette, cheap rookie, crappy backup center and crappy veteran coming off the bench. Why wouldn't Jazz fans want to see that team? Sign me up and sign that team up for about 40 wins every season.
Myself: You're wrong, stupid. That team has a bright, bright future. And they will get a pretty good player for Boozer as a worst case scenario. Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas, or Gerald Wallace are other possibilities. Or maybe Michael Beasley. If you want to keep this team together, then watch for more money saving moves here and there. I wish we had Maynor right about now. We need a back up point guard.
Other self: At least my team won't have Fesenko fouling out in 15 minutes every night, jerk face. Boozer for Martin? How about AK and Korver for Lebron James?
Myself: Shut up! My proposals are real. They could happen. You're just being a jerk now.
Other self: You're the jerk, fake Kevin O'Connor. Keep dreaming.
Myself: I will. It's better than watching this team drop inexcusable games and wallow in mediocrity.
Other self: Okay, Lakers fan.
Clark's wife: Clark, can you take out the garbage?