Utah Jazz History: Best.Trade.Ever. Part 1 -- Feelin' a little Horny

April 24, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz assistant coach and former player Jeff Hornacek prior to a game against the Phoenix Suns at Energy Solutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Right now all the SBN NBA Blogs are writing about the best trades ever in franchise history. This is somewhat similar to what we did last week with our #CultClassic players. Over the last few days we've been looking at the trades that the Utah Jazz have made. We did figure out that sometimes trades don't make sense; and that other times, what you put into a trade may later on down the line provide you with a player of greater or lesser value. More than anything we recently did a poll to see how you felt about the Top Trades in Jazz history. And you know what? Right now there's a 189-187 lead in a poll that has over 600 respondents. That means there's a tie at 31% for both the trade to bring in Jeff Hornacek, and the trade to bring in Deron Williams. So you get two #NBABestTradeEver posts today, one for each amazing trade.

So, here's part 1 -- Jeff Hornacek

The Jazz Before the Trade:

By the 1991-92 season the Utah Jazz had been steadily improving over the last decade, making the playoffs 9 straight times in a row. In that '92 playoffs the Jazz made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. However, during that series against the Portland Trail Blazers it was apparent that John Stockton and Karl Malone could not do it all. The second leading scorer on the Jazz that season was shooting guard Jeff Malone - at a very healthy 20.2 ppg, off of 51.1 fg%, and 89.8 ft%. For the most part he retained those averages in the playoffs (20.7 ppg, 48.7 fg%, 86.1 ft%), but there was a drop off. That is only natural. What was highly unnatural for a shooting guard was his 8.3 3pt% shooting average. No. there isn't a decimal place error here, he shot in the single digits in the regular season -- but upped it to double digits in the playoffs. Still, the Jazz went so far with him as the starter.

The very next season the Jazz fell, and fell hard - winning 8 less regular season games, and bouncing out in the first round of the playoffs. This was a step back, and while the Jazz made the playoffs now for 10 years in a row, five of those playoff sojourns ended in a first round failure. Jeff Malone, now on the wrong side of 30, was having the natural drop off that wing players used to get in those days (before modern training practices were adopted). He no longer was a 20 ppg guy in the regular season, and in the playoffs he averaged only 13.4 ppg, while his shooting dipped to 44.6 fg%, and his free throw shooting down to 69.2 ft%. He was once a monster of efficiency who could hide his poor outside shooting. The wheels were falling off. He's not the only reason why the Jazz lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs in '93 -- but his play was the one which dropped off the most. To make it in the NBA now you needed a big three, and the third guy for the Jazz was not getting it done.

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The Problems:

In terms of floor spacing, the problem was apparent. When the going got tough, the inability for Jeff Malone to keep teams honest from deep hurt the Jazz, and made the Jazz easier to defend. (Think of Ronnie Brewer. And then think of how you would defend someone who shot 14% WORSE than him from downtown) Jeff Malone, once a great scorer and super efficient, was breaking down. Even when playing with Stockton and Malone his abilities were diminishing. As things stood - the Jazz had regressed, and in the playoffs had reached their upper limit with Jeff Malone as the #3 guy.

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The Trade:

In the middle of the 1993-94 regular season the Jazz made a trade deadline buzzer beating deal to bring Philadelphia 76ers combo guard Jeff Hornacek to Utah. The Jazz traded Jeff Malone and a 1994 1st rounder (which would become a 1st round, pick #20 - who Philly used on B.J. Tyler who played a grand total of 55 NBA games) to the Sixers. In return, the Jazz got back Jeff Hornacek, Sean Green (a SG/SF in his 3rd season in the NBA who would play 2 mins for the Jazz), and a 2nd rounder (2nd round, pick #33 - that we would later trade to the Boston Celtics to bring BACK Blue Edwards).

Besttradeever_jeff_malone_jeff_hornacek_medium

Of course, you can see the whole shebang here from ancient times

In hindsight it really was a straight up Jeff-swap.

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Breakdown:

In the 1993-94 season Jeff Malone was continuing to atrophy. In 50 games for the Jazz he had a PER of 12.9 (15.0 is "average", remember), an eFG% of 49.1%, an Offensive Rating of 108 per 100, and was scoring 16.2 ppg with a Points per shot value of 1.17. He was becoming more of a volume shooter, from being a pin-point accurate shooter. He still couldn't make threes. He did not play defense. And he only averaged 1.3 apg.

After the trade, Jeff Hornacek started to find his spot in the Jazz. The former Phoenix Suns All-Star was having a great year in Philly leading up to the trade. He was averaging 19.1 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 spg, while shooting 47% / 39% / 87%. For the Jazz, in 27 regular season games he had a PER of 17.6, an eFG% of 54.0%, an Offensive Rating of 123 per 100, and was scoring 14.6 ppg with a PPS value of 1.36. And he got EVEN BETTER when the playoffs came around (15.4 ppg, 48 / 91 / 44 shooting), where as Jeff Malone was getting progressively worse in the playoffs.

Statistically this trade was a no-brainer. And on the court the Jazz got a guy who played better defense, was younger, could play both the SG and PG spots, and had range for days. That last part gave Karl Malone more space to work with, which resulted in the Mailman scoring nearly +2.0 ppg in the playoffs (and there were less possessions to work with). This was a clear win for the Jazz that season, as the Jazz returned to the Western Conference FInals.

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The Jazz After the Trade:

Beyond that season's re-advancement to the Western Conference Finals the Jazz would go on a crazy streak of success. While the Jeff Malone era of Jazz ball had a 50% chance of being out of the playoffs in the first round, the Jeff Hornacek Jazz went to the Conference Finals (or better) four times in five years. If you are keeping score at home they also at least ADVANCED ONE ROUND 6 times in 7 years. Both of those are better than the 50/50 shot of even making it out of the first round that plagued the Jeff Malone Jazz.

It wasn't all Jeff Malone's fault - but has his career continued to go down, Hornacek was more capable of giving the team what they needed as the #3 guy. Jeff Malone was a bigger scorer, but Jeff Hornacek was Manu Ginobili before Manu Ginobili. The Spurs wouldn't have been so formidable if you replaced Manu with a Jason Terry w/o a three point shot. (That's basically Jeff Malone for ya) Jeff Malone would only end up playing 110 more NBA games over the next 3.5 seasons. Bereft of Stockton and Malone he became even more of a volume scorer, and he retired after finishing the 1995-96 season scoring 5.8 ppg, and shooting 39.4 fg%. He had nothing to play for and after that last first round exit with the Jazz he would never see the playoffs again.

Jeff Hornacek, on the other hand, went on to play in back-to-back NBA Finals, win back-to-back Three Point Shooting contests at All-Star weekend, and be one of the most important parts on some of our most important teams in Jazz History. There's almost no need to mention ANY statistics, but I will mention that in Jeff's seven years with the Jazz, his PLAYOFF three point shooting % (let alone his regular season three point shooting %) was absurd: .441, .538, .586, .358, .467, .389, and .409. Yes, In Jeff Hornacek's last year as a player, he shot better from three in the playoffs than Jeff Malone did in his last year as a player over-all in the regular season. That pretty much says it all.

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Trade Legacy:

When comparing the two players post trade it's clear the Jazz won this trade. The Jazz also won, in hindsight, as Jeff Malone became increasingly inefficient and injured. Jeff Hornacek added a few new dimensions to the Jazz and helped them get to the top of the mountain. Jeff Malone became an assistant coach and never went anywhere with that. Jeff Hornacek is not the assistant coach of the Utah Jazz and people are looking at him to one day be a Head Coach. Before the trade the Jazz were floundering in the playoffs and had hit their upper limit. A combinations of factors allowed them to advance further - and Jeff Hornacek was one of the most obvious reasons. Hornacek's play has been what the Jazz have been missing from the SG spot for over a decade now. And this trade is one of the best trades in franchise history, and in terms of positive affect for the Jazz - probably the best. (Again: WCF or better in 4 of 5 years STARTING the year of the trade)

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Jeff Hornacek remains one of the most popular players in Jazz History:

So let's take a look at a few videos. I've never seen a guy who made so many shots while being fouled . . .

A genius. BEST.TRADE.EVER.

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