The Utah Jazz need a future point guard. That is something that we can all agree on. The only question is how best to acquire a young, promising player. There are essentially three ways to do it, through the draft, by a trade or even through free agency. The Jazz have been positioning themselves to have the flexibility to get a player in any three of these ways particularly through free agency with our abundant cap flexibility(also to be able to keep together our young core). The question then becomes are there any worthwhile point guards in the upcoming free agency period? Chris Paul springs to mind but it appears likely that he'll resign with the Clippers and then again even if he doesn't what are the odds that he would come to Utah? The Jazz are a young and promising team with tremendous upside and, despite Ty Corbin's best efforts, a lot of the young players are still getting minutes in a playoff-bound team.
The Utah Jazz are looking at losing possibly two of their own best players in the upcoming free agency. It is widely believed that the Jazz cannot afford to keep both Al and Paul if they want to continue with their "core 4" transition. Al and Paul have pretty much shown the front office what the ceiling is for the Jazz with them as centerpieces. So who should the Jazz keep? I for one waffle back and forth between keeping Al or Paul probably daily. Paul is clearly the more diverse player and has been with the team his whole career but does his unwillingness to sign an extension signal his departure? Al has improved greatly from the "black hole" that arrived from Minnesota but still has his weaknesses as well but he seems to love it in Utah. The biggest hangup for me however is not Al the player himself but what it means for Corbin and the Jazz style of play if we choose to hold onto him.
Now to the trade. We've established that we need a point guard. We can also all agree that it's probably only possible to retain either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. So here is why the Clippers deal makes so much sense. I've been fiddling with the trade machine every once in a while over the past few weeks and, operating off the assumption that the "core 4" are untouchable, there is quite literally no one else besides Eric Bledsoe that is worth trading for. He's averaging 9.6 pts 3 assists 3 rebounds and practically 1 block a game, when he started for Chris Paul, he averaged even more(15 pts and 6 assists per game if I recall correctly). Reading from clippers blogs, you can easily tell that they highly value Bledsoe. However Bledsoe is not a perfect player by any means. He is hyper-athletic yet prone to turnovers at times and needs to work on his court vision and organization. His weaknesses can be cured though with the miracle salve that is experience.
Clippers fans sure don't like to hear it but Blake Griffin is not a complete player. Griffin can obviously become a great player, he's already well on his way, but not there yet. Deandre Jordan is definitely not a complete player. Paul Millsap has worked hard his entire career, as we all know, to improve his game every year. He is averaging 15 points 7 rebounds 3 assists 1 steal and 1 block per game this year. Millsap could really help the Clippers become that much better.
Now I understand the hesitancy of the fanbase to trade a player in Bledsoe that has loads of potential but this all becomes moot if Chris Paul resigns in the offseason. I also understand their misgivings with regards to Millsap becoming a free agent this summer. If, however, the FO can promise Millsap significant minutes within their big man rotation(and occasionally at the 3), then I believe that Millsap would agree to an extension. Right now the Clippers third-best big man is Lamar Odom(averaging 4 pts and 6 rebounds this season)....let that one sink in. The rotations could be weird but the caliber of players would increase dramatically with this trade. Who knows what Chris Paul really wants but it's been reported that he just wants to be part of a serious contender. Trading for Paul Millsap would very clearly signal that not only is Chris Paul the man going forward but that the Clippers will do whatever it takes to win championships.
The advantages for the Jazz are pretty clear. They get Eric Bledsoe, a promising young point guard who could grow with and become part of the re-branded "core 5", and the latent benefit would be getting something for Paul Millsap as opposed to just letting him walk at the end of the season for a whole lot of nothing in return. The Jazz would have to take on the contract of Butler or Odom. My belief is that it would be Odom because he would become redundant and some of the Clippers believe their 3-point shooting would drop without Butler. The Jazz don't really care, they'd just buy out his contract or send him off to the island of Elba along with Bell. The Jazz could even throw in one of their first-round draft picks in order to give the Clippers even more piece of mind. I know that makes the trade a little lopsided from the Jazz's point of view but this draft class is relatively weak and we have enough youth as it is.
I believe that this trade is a win-win for both teams if we are to look at it objectively with the one exception that Millsap might need to sign an extension in order to justify the trade. still, if we look at the best-case scenario and the Clippers make it to the NBA finals with Millsap being that missing piece, would that immediately make the trade worth it? Hell, the Clippers could win it all conceivably and then the trade would definitely be worth it which in turn would convince Millsap to stay longer, but again, that's best-case. This is the rare kind of trade that could really benefit both sides. The Clippers need to round out their roster and become a more complete team and the Jazz need to start addressing their point guard position for the future. Sorry Mo, you're a good player but not the future of the Utah Jazz.
Utah Jazz roster next season:
PG - Bledsoe, Tinsley, (2013 1st rd draft pick)
SG - Burks, Murphy
SF - Hayward, Carrol
PF - Favors, Evans
C - Jefferson, Kanter
Obviously I've left out Foye, Ma. and Mo Williams but I believe that the Jazz will try to resign Foye. Also I still believe that Hayward should play SF. The frontcourt would be more of a three-man rotation with Evans getting some minutes but by no means is he the exclusive backup to Favors. With three players looking to distribute the ball in the backcourt this could be a really fun team to watch. Also all of these players should be able to mask some of Jefferson's disabilities on defense and we might not collectively groan as often.
Utah Jazz get: Eric Bledsoe and Lamar Odom
LA Clippers get: Paul Millsap, Earl Watson, possible draft pick to sweeten the deal
So that's it, my attempt to convince Jazz fans and Clippers alike that this is a great trade for our teams. Feel free to disagree violently with me in the comments. I'd like to start a dialog about this trade and learn what some people's doubts and misgivings are.