The Free Agency period is well underway and as expected the Utah Jazz have taken their financial flexibility and stayed at home. Utah has never been big players in the free agency market, whether by choice or lack of interest by available free agents. Accordingly, the Jazz's much boasted about financial flexibility remains untapped and it is good time to start looking at ways that the Jazz can utilize the trade market to fill out their balance sheet for the 2013-14 season.
This is the second year in a row I've written this column and like last year the Jazz have a multitude of assets that they should be willing to unload for the right return. That being said, the trades I feel that make the most sense are sign and trade ("S&T") transactions utilizing the Jazz's veteran free agents (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or Mo Williams), or transactions where the Jazz take on an unbalanced amount of salary in return for a serviceable player or asset.
I've split this column into two parts, with today's feature including deals with the lottery teams starting from the ground floor Orlando Magic and moving up to the Dallas Mavericks.
The Trade: Orlando trades Arron Afflalo (3 yrs, $7.5m, $7.5m, $7.5m) and Glen Davis (2 yrs, $6.4m, $6.2m) to Utah for Paul Millsap (S&T est. 4 yrs, $40m)
Why Orlando Does It: Orlando used its number 2 overall pick in the NBA draft to select SG/SF Victor Oladipo. Even before that, the Magic were relatively deep at wing prospects with the emergence of Tobias Harris and Mo Harkless last season. This trade unloads some long-term salary and takes a position of depth to fill a more pressing hole at PF. If the rumors of a S&T of Ryan Anderson for Paul Millsap last year were true, then Orlando still may see Millsap as a potential building piece.
Why Utah Does It: Utah’s roster is currently lacking (healthy) depth at SG and SF. The need to add a wing that can defend is crucial as the team remakes itself into a more defensive focused franchise. Afflalo adds a good defender and someone who can make 3’s at a respectable 38% career rate. Additionally, this trade adds a 3rd big man to the roster who can score in bunches. Big Baby is ideally suited for a bench role and if he stays healthy, can provide a solid low post scoring options for the next 2 seasons.
Who Says No: Orlando was hoping to use Afflalo to acquire a future PG (Eric Bledsoe). Considering the Magic’s biggest need is still PG, they may hold out for a piece that better fits their future core.
The Trade: Charlotte trades Ramon Sessions (1 yr, $5m) to Utah for Al Jefferson (S&T est. 4 yrs, $50m)
Why Charlotte Does It: The Bobcats have quickly emerged as the number 1 (only?) suitor for Al Jefferson's services. The need for low post scoring in Charlotte is unquestioned and they do appear to be a decent match as they boast a a stretch big (Zeller) and a defensive big (Biyombo) to help cover Al's weaknesses. That said the Bobcats do have the cap room to sign Big Al without a trade, so why do one here? This scenario has them sending a $5m commitment at a position of relative strength (Walker/Gordon) and frees up more money for the Bobcats to spend on other needs (like re-signing Gerald Henderson).
Why Utah Does It: Utah may have its PG of the future in Trey Burke but Sessions could be added to be the PG of the present. More than likely though Sessions would become a 6th man scorer extraordinaire, who is relatively good at running the pick and roll.
Who Says No: Utah may love to capture return value in a S&T for Al Jefferson, but I'm guessing they think they could spend Sessions' $5m better somewhere else.
The Trade: Cleveland trades Anderson Varejao (2 yrs, $9.0m, $9.7m unguaranteed) to Utah for Al Jefferson (S&T est. 4 yrs, $50m)
Why Cleveland Does It: In many respects Cleveland and Utah are in similar circumstances. Both have plenty of salary cap room and have a young core of players who need time to develop together. That being said, the reports out around the draft had the Cavs looking to push very hard at making the playoffs this season. One glaring deficiency on their roster right now is low post scoring. Both Thompson and Varejao are decent defenders and rebounders but neither has a history of leading a team in scoring. Al Jefferson may be the low post scoring option this team needs to realize its stated playoff goal.
Why Utah Does It: If Utah does in fact embrace a defense first mentality then adding a veteran like Vareajao makes a lot of sense. Varejao could start next to Favors or Kanter and help be the defensive mentor that each had in Al Jefferson on the offensive side of the ball last year. Of relative importance is the fact that Varejao's contract is only 1 or 2 years longer (Utah's choice) and he would not inhibit any contract extensions the Jazz give out to Favors or Kanter.
Who Says No: While Cleveland is publicly stating that they want to make the playoffs, the private grumblings have them looking to go all-in and pursue Lebron James next offseason. A long-term deal with Jefferson may lock up money they'd otherwise need to save for next year.
The Trade: Phoenix trades Channing Frye (2 yrs, $6.4m, $6.8m player option) and Goran Dragic (3 yrs, $7.5m, $7.5m, $7.5m player option) to Utah for Marvin Williams (1 yr, $7.5m)
Why Phoenix Does It: Since about the mid-point of last season, the Suns have fully embraced a youth movement. They've hired a new GM whom will prefer to have a blank canvas to work from. Step 1 in such plan was realized when the team acquired Eric Bledsoe earlier this week. Such a trade made Goran Dragic's long-term salary commitment expendable. Furthermore, Channing Frye has 2 additional years on his contract and missed all of last season with a heart ailment. In order to speed up their rebuilding process the Suns could be willing to move decent players in return for an expiring contract like Marvin Williams.
Why Utah Does It: Utah believes it has its young core, though some key pieces are needed. The Jazz's recent pursuit of stretch 4's would make a healthy Channing Frye an ideal fit next to Favors and Kanter. Dragic on the other hand is a slightly overpaid veteran PG who can serve as a mentor (or backup) to Trey Burke as he breaks into the league.
Who Says No: While Phoenix may have reservations on unloading some of its better talent, I'd guess that Utah would similarly prefer not to tie up too much money over the next 2-3 seasons.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Trade: Greivis Vasquez (1 yr, $2.1m) to Utah for Alec Burks (2 yrs, $2.2m, $3.0m).
Why New Orleans Does It: The Pelicans have been shaking things up early on in the offseason by trading for a major piece in Jrue Holiday and trying to sign another in Tyreke Evans. While I ultimately expect Sacramento to retain Evans, it is clear that the Pelicans are looking for an upgrade at SG. Alec Burks is no Tyreke Evans yet but they both do have a similar attacking style. Vasquez is now expendable with All-Star Holiday on board and may be the player they choose to part with to address other needs.
Why Utah Does It: Coach Ty Corbin no doubt prefers experienced veterans to youth, and frankly what coach doesn't? Vasquez may not be better than Burke long-term but he does have experience as a starter and as a play maker who gets his teammates involved. With his size, it is also possible that Burke and Vaszuez could play heavy minutes together with Vasquez guarding bigger guards on defense and serving as the ball distributor on offense.
Who Says No: New Orleans has their sights set higher than Burks for now...but this may play out differently after July 10th.
The Trade: Sacramento trades Jimmer Fredette (2 yrs, $2.4m, $3.1m) and Chuck Hayes (2 yrs, $5.7m, $5.9m) to Utah for a future conditional 2nd round draft pick.
Why Sacramento Does It: It is so hard to read what Sacramento is doing right now. On the one hand, they flirted with adding the high priced Andre Iguodala and on the other hand they considered letting the more reasonably priced Tyreke Evans walk. However, one thing that is almost universal when new ownership and GM's take over is that teams try to rid themselves of their predecessors mistakes. In this case the Kings overpaid to sign Chuck Hayes a few years ago and appear to have overdrafted Jimmer Fredette. By agreeing to offer Jimmer to Utah they are able to unload Hayes as well and save the team about $8-9m against their cap the next 2 seasons.
Why Utah Does It: Utah is in the position where they can use their flexibility to add assets on short-term deals and not hinder any of their long-term finances. In this trade they inherit the bloated contract of Chuck Hayes but also add Jimmer to provide some bench shooting. All Utah has to give up in this scenario is a conditional second round pick and the opportunity cost of keeping Hayes and Jimmer on their balance sheet for the next 2 seasons.
Who Says No: I suspect that Utah management are not as enamored with bringing in Jimmer as the BYU/Jazz fans are.
The Trade: Washington trades Emeka Okafor (1 yr, $14.m) and Kevin Seraphin (1 yr, $2.7m) to Utah for Marvin Williams (1 yr, $7.5m) and Paul Millsap (S&T est. 4 yrs, $40m).
Why Washington Does It: Washington, like Cleveland and New Orleans, is one of the few lottery teams looking to make a heavy push to win now and make the playoffs next season. To that end they have shored up their wing position by adding Otto Porter in the draft and re-signing Martell Webster. The Wizards do however appear to be in need of a more versatile PF if they are looking to compete with the Miami Heat in the eastern conference. Millsap would seem to be a better fit next to Nene than Okafor is and would benefit in an uptempo game with John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Why Utah Does It: Utah is looking at losing Millsap for nothing and likley feels that Marvin Williams is expenable after his late season bench demotion last year. This trade salvages some short term value and gives them a 1 year starter in Okafor who specializes in defense. Furthermore, Seraphin has steadily improved and is capable of being a solid 4th big man and French mentor to Utah Jazz draftee Rudy Gobert.
Who Says No: If Utah cannot convince Millsap to stay, then obtaining a short-term option along the front-line would be beneficial, but this is an awful lot of money to spend for just that 1 year.
The Trade: Detroit trades Rodney Stuckey (1 yr, $8.5m) to Utah for Marvin Williams (1 yr, $7.5m)
Why Detroit Does It: Detroit created a fairly large hole at SF in its roster when it dealt Tayshaun Prince to Memphis last season. While Marvin Williams isn't likely to be able to fill that hole, he does give them a spot starter. Furthermore, Stuckey became expendable when the Pistons drafted Caldwell-Pope at #8 and with the conversion of Brandon Knight to SG.
Why Utah Does It: Stuckey would help fill the Jazz's need for another playmaker and veteran who can log some minutes at PG. While Stuckey may not be an upgrade over Alec Burks in that role, he does fill a position of greater need and may provide more utility to Ty Corbin's rotation than Marvin did last year.
Who Says No: Detroit is likely to be hesitant to acquire Marvin until he proves himself healthy.
The Trade: Minnesota trades Luke Ridnour (1 yr, $4.3m) to Utah for a future conditional second round draft pick.
Why Minnesota Does It: The Timberwolves have opened up the vault in order to add shooters to their team. At the same time they'll need to pay big money to retain Nikola Pekovic. Dumping the contract of one of their veteran PG's seems likely and has been widely rumored.
Why Utah Does It: Ridnour gives the Jazz a PG to start on day one of the season. Whether he keeps that job is up to Trey Burke and how he progresses. Regardless, Ridnour is a decent solution as a backup or starter in Trey Burke's rookie season.
Who Says No: Minnesota says no if they can get greater value in a contract dump.
The Trade: Portland trades Wesley Matthews (2 yrs, $6.8, $7.2m) to Utah for Al Jefferson (S&T est. 5 yrs, $50m)
Why Portland Does It: Portland has long been searching for a Center whom would allow LaMarcus Aldridge to log more minutes at his preferred PF position. Jefferson would provide a very good complement to Aldridge with an inside outside game that would really stretch the floor. Matthews is slightly overpaid and became expendable when the Blazers drafted CJ McCollum.
Why Utah Does It: Utah is likely losing Jefferson for nothing barring a mutually beneficial S&T deal. This trade brings Matthews back to Utah and gives the Jazz a versatile wing player who can play some defense and hit some threes. His $7m average salary seems high by itself but it is fairly comparable to the deals being handed out to SG's so far in free agency.
Who Says No: Portland never plays nice with Utah so I suspect they'd try to sign Jefferson straight up instead of giving a way a decent rotation player.
The Trade: Philadelphia trades Thaddeus Young (3 yrs, $8.8m, $9.4m, $9.9m early termination option) to Utah for Alec Burks (2 yrs, $2.2m, $3.0m) and Marvin Williams (1 yr, $7.5m).
Why Philadelphia Does It: Philadelphia entered full tank mode on draft night when they traded Jrue Holiday for a project big man with a bum knee. Accordingly, they may be looking for further options to turn short-term assets into long-term assets. This trade gives the 76ers a decent prospect in Alec Burks who may be able to take over the SG role for the older Jason Richardson. In return Philadelphia also sheds its long-term salary commitment to Thaddeus Young by obtaining Marvin Williams' expiring contract.
Why Utah Does It: While Utah may have a tough time parting with Burks, this trade allows Gordon Hayward to log the majority of his minutes at SG and gives Utah a versatile SF/PF with a decent offensive game. As a pairing, Young and Hayward might make more long-term sense that Hayward and Burks ever did.
Who Says No: While Young is slightly overpaid, the 76ers are not hurting for money right now and may hold out for a more established asset for Young.
The Trade: Toronto trades DeMarr DeRozan (4 yrs, $9.5m, $9.5m, $9.5m, $9.5m player option) to Utah for Alec Burks (2 yrs, $2.2m, $3.0m).
Why Toronto Does It: With the rumors surrounding Toronto trading Rudy Gay, it appears that new GM Masai Ujiri is looking to quickly undo the mistakes of his predecessor and former boss. One of those big mistakes was the mismatched pairing of wings DeRozan and Rudy Gay, which left the Raptors extremely deficient of outside shooting. While Burks doesn't solve that problem by himself, this does allow the Raptors to shed the large DeRozan contract and replace him with the more affordable Burks and a better fitting wing player acquired elsewhere.
Why Utah Does It: Unlike Toronto, the Jazz do have a sharpshooting wing player in Gordon Hayward. What they could use is a more aggressive wing player to play defense and attack the rim. For that reason DeRozan may be a better fit in Utah then he is in Toronto right now. His price tag is a bit hefty but it isn't inordinately larger than similarly priced players got in free agency this year.
Who Says No: The Jazz have not had an athlete of DeRozan's caliber at the wing position for some time (if ever) and frankly I'm not sure they'd know what to do with him if they did.
The Trade: Dallas trades Shawn Marion (1 yr, $9.3) and a future 1st round pick to Utah for Al Jefferson (S&T est. 4 yrs, $50m) and Mo Williams (S&T est. 3 yr, $15m).
Why Dallas Does It: Dallas' clear plan this offseason was to pursue Dwight Howard with their cap space. That plan appearing to have already failed, the Mavericks will be looking at ways to field a competitive team around Dirk Nowitzki. While the Mavericks could sign Al Jefferson outright, they may be looking to do something a little bit bigger. This trade allows them to acquire Jefferson AND Mo Williams while retaining some flexibility for additional transactions.
Why Utah Does It: This trade allows the Jazz to rent out their cap space to Shawn Marion for the hefty price of a first rounder. While the Jazz would prefer to get that 1st rounder sooner than later, the Mavericks are already committed to trading a conditional 1st rounder and thus the Jazz would have to settle for a pick a few years down the line. In the meantime I'd hazard a guess that Marion would want to take a buyout which may save the Jazz some additional money on the transaction.
Who Says No: I have a hard time seeing what the Mavericks end game is but I have a feeling Cuban is eyeing something bigger than Al and Mo.