Trust me, saying those words is weirder for me than it is for you reading them. This is a big role reversal for me, as I have been a massive proponent of trading Al, and not even caring what we got back. I have been labeled an Al hater before, but that is only partially true. I pretty much only hate about 3/4's of his game. And every point I am about to make is subject to change (and I am sure it will quite irrationally in a game thread) as soon as we lose a game when someone like Luke Ridnour comes through the lane and nails an easy floater, because no one came out to challenge it, while Favors watches from the bench. Also it should probably be pointed out that I think our rotation of big men does need to be adjusted. Sap and Al are not good defensively together. But hopefully Ty figures out the rotation better and finds a way to get Favors and Kanter enough minutes. Although honestly I don't think there are enough minutes in the PF/C positions for those two to make me happy, he has a stupid tough job ahead of him this season.
1. I think the opportunity to get the appropriate value for Al Jefferson has peaked. I don't think we can even hope to get back what we traded to get Al (2 mid 1st rounders and a mediocre prospect in The Koof), and he is a better player than he was then. I am not sure there is a good trade out there for Big Al. No rebuilding team is probably interested in a 1 year rental of Al. And those are the teams that will have high lottery picks, and have the cap space to absorb Al's 15m. I'm sure plenty of contending teams could use a big man who can get his own shot whenever you throw the ball to him in the post, (our GM's phone will be ringing off the hook around the trade deadline if Al is still with the team, and it is weird to not say KOC's phone there) however, those teams are all going to be over the salary cap. Al makes a lot of money. And the Jazz will have to take back some bad contracts. If the Jazz can pick up enough assets to balance giving the competition a really good scoring option AND taking back undesirable contracts, the team should obviously do it. But lets remember that those teams in contention don't have great draft picks, and they probably don't have enough talent they are willing to part with to make a trade work.
The real loser in all of this might be Millsap. His contract is just so much easier to fit into a trade. I also think there might be a better market for a player with Sap's skill set over Al's. And it makes more sense to stick Favors in as a starter over Kanter, and our coaching staff obviously plans on using Favors as a PF. If a player is traded this year it makes way more sense for it to be Sap than for it to be Al unless the FO wants to do everything it can to bring Sap back, then he probably is off limits unless a team comes at them with something they just can't turn down.
2. Kanter killed it this preseason. Wait, why is that a reason to keep Jefferson? It is obvious Kanter worked super hard this off season to be more ready to dominate the NBA, and he gets a ton of credit for doing a lot of things right, but it is also clear that the Jazz in lieu of having a real big man coach, have relied on Al to tutor our future. Some of the moves Kanter pulled off this preseason, I could absolutely see Al's mentoring in. I don't know how many players in the league would be willing to teach and mentor the guys that are going to be replacing them. I am honestly amazed that he is so willing to work with and help develop players that are breathing down his neck for playing time. Al needs to be commended for this.
3. I think one of our team's strengths is how much they clearly like each other and playing with each other. Chemistry definitely counts for something. Dwill was at his best when he was happy and at his worst when he was surly and pouty. We could be a better team if we traded one of our bigs for a PG and had a more balanced roster. But what effect would shipping out Big Al have on the locker room? I honestly don't know. But I love the way the media portrays Big Al treating Kanter. I was super worried when we shipped Memo at the start of last year that Kanter would kind of have to fend for himself in an environment he wasn't ready for. It is pretty clear that Big Al took Kanter under his wing and he totally treats 'The Big Turkey' like a little brother. I think that kind of relationship can only help Kanter going forward.
4. We aren't winning a championship this year, or next year. If Favors and Kanter each get 30 minutes a game our roster still isn't ready for championship contention in the immediate future. My biggest fear is that Favors' growth is being stunted because he isn't getting on the floor enough. I think it is obvious that he is ready to play 30+ minutes a game, and he will have a positive impact on a team's win total. Does that mean he needs to start and play those minutes right now though? I don't know the answer to that question. I have listened to as many interviews with Favors as possible (he is our future after all), and he still seems to have a positive attitude and willingness to wait for his time to dominate. You can tell he thinks he is ready to be a starter and start taking steps towards being a star, but I think he understands and, more importantly accepts, that he has one more year to play behind the vets before the team is his. He comes across as a really mature dude for how young he is. If I honestly thought that having Jefferson or Sap was seriously affecting his mental state and impairing his development, all of you would get really sick of me demanding that we trade one of them. At this point I am torn with what I think will help him more, playing starters minutes, or being able to learn from Sap and especially from Big Al. Honestly right now I think having Al on the team makes both Favors and Kanter better players since we don't have a coach devoted to them, as expressed in reason #2.
5. He is pretty clutch in crunch time. His defense does take away some of that offensive shine, but when we need points with the clock running down, and the play we tried to run busted up, he is for sure our best option to make something happen out of nothing. I just wish Ty would at least consider the idea of defensive/offensive substitutions. Or even just let Favors play at the end of games.
I used to think not trading Al was foolish and the Jazz FO was making the same mistakes it made with Boozer. Big Al obviously is a higher character guy than Boozer and I think keeping him around for the last year of his contract can have long term benefits, whereas I think not trading Boozer hurt the team long term. I think there are trades out there that can be made, but I worry about the long lasting consequences of having the bad contracts which will have to come back to our team. At this point the cap space, flexibilty, and a potential trade exemption (if we did a sign and trade with whatever team Al signed with when he became a FA) could be more valuable to a smart GM than a couple of late first rounders. At any rate it will be a lot of fun to watch the Jazz this season. There is a lot to be excited about, and part of that excitement will be to see how Big Al evolves his game to match that of the team's development. And man, is it going to be so much fun to cheer for this team in two years when our young players start really coming into their own, and guess what, Big Al's finger prints will be all over at least a couple of those players.