Moving On Up. No later than eleven months ago, Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz front office made a difficult decision that would greatly alter the future of the Jazz. Namely, the Jazz decided they were going to let All-star Paul Millsap and (soon to be announced All-NBA Center) Al Jefferson leave in free agency. In return the Jazz decided to get nothing. No draft picks, no good players. Nothing. They then decided to fill that nothingness with the $24 Million in bad salaries from the Golden State Warriors in return for what was very likely to be 2 late first round draft picks.
The path of the Jazz franchise was laid last July. They wanted to be bad. They were built to lose basketball games. The Jazz were tanking for only the second time in team history, the 2003-04 season being the only other attempt at bottoming out.
The goal of the season was put forth, and the refrain from the Jazz front office has been repeated often that this past season was not to be judged by wins and losses. The Jazz emphasized this by playing "Stand By Me" over the PA system after each Jazz home loss.
Fast forward to today. The Jazz just drew the 5th slot in a 4 player draft. I could rant about the stupidity of this for an eternity, but I suppose it is time to move on.
The Jazz have stated all season that they need a franchise player. They've held out hope that one of their current young lottery picks might be that guy, but alas none has stepped forward at the level needed.
So the Jazz franchise talent search continues. They can pursue the big names in free agency this summer but such is a wasted effort. They could try to trade for Kevin Love and then watch him leave in free agency in July 2015. Alternatively, they can sit back and pray that they luck out and the 5th pick in this draft breaks the long odds and the scouting reports, and transforms unto a franchise player.
OR the Jazz can do everything in their power to trade up, unlikely as it might seem. I've said all year it would be impossible for the Jazz to do so. I misspoke. It is highly, highly, highly, improbable that they will be able to do so.
However, that said the Jazz may be desperate enough to make something happen. The Jazz should be desperate enough to make something happen.
What follows is my analysis of each of the 4 lottery teams sitting ahead of the Jazz and what it might take to move up. I suspect many Jazz fans will feel my price is to expensive, but I call them as I see them.
Cleveland Cavaliers in Win Now Mode? Rumors are already circulating that the Cavs are considering trading the number 1 overall selection. While most of those rumors have them attached to a potential play at Kevin Love, perhaps they'd be willing to take something with a longer shelf life from the Jazz.
Of big concern for the Cavs is inking Kyrie Irving to an extension this summer. Irving has reportedly asked out of Cleveland and may be looking for the Cavs to make big moves, in order to convince him to want to stay. That might push the Cavs to make good on their push for the playoffs last year and land some more developed talent than what is available to them in the #1 slot.
The History. History is heavily against Utah here. In the 29 years since the lottery was instituted, the #1 overall selection has traded hands exactly 1 time. In 1993 the Orlando Magic traded #1 Chris Webber for #3 Penny Hardaway, a 1996 unprotected 1st rounder (#11 Todd Fuller), a 1998 unprotected 1st rounder (#5 Vince Carter), and a 2000 unprotected 1st rounder (#5 Mike Miller). The trade did not really work out for either team as Golden State had to deal Webber 1 year later and Orlando only had a short run with Penny and Shaq before they started to butt heads and Shaq decided to leave to Los Angeles.
The Offer. Cavaliers send #1 overall and Jarrett Jack (3 years, $18.9MM) to Jazz for #5 and #23 overall, Derrick Favors (4 years, $48MM), Alec Burks (1 year, $3MM), and an unprotected 2015 draft pick. (before you ask, yes the Jazz can trade their 2015 draft pick, provided they complete the trade after the draft is over as they will have to here, in order to allow the Cavs to absorb Favors/Burks into their cap space).
The Analysis. The Cavs will be netting 5 picks/players for 1, while also dumping the overpaid Jack. The key here will be the Cavs belief on their ability to win more in the short-term without taking too big of a hit long-term. Favors gives the Cavs a C/PF to pair with Kyrie and Burks solves their huge hole at SG. At pick #5, the Cavs could add Aaron Gordon and hope he can play some SF, or they can add Doug McDermott and hope he can shoot lights out and helps them space the floor. Alternatively, if they feel that Anthony Bennett is already a bust they could look at Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh to pair with Favors. With pick #23 the Cavs could hope another shooter like Nik Stauskas falls, or they could look to stash a player in Europe.
The Jazz would hate to part with all these assets, but in return they'd get their choice at the franchise players. I'd personally want to see them select Joel Embiid and field a core of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward (re-signed), Enes Kanter and Embiid. Alternatively, they could go with Jabari Parker and have him play SF/PF next to Kanter and Gobert.
The Competition. The teams that may be able to cobble a package together to trump the Jazz, would likely have an all-star already on roster and ready to trade. The most interesting team in that vein to me is the Atlanta Hawks, who may be willing to part with an Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver type package in order to retool around one franchise piece.
The Result. Sadly, I do not think this package is enough. The Jazz could potentially supplement by adding more future picks but unless they are able to offer someone like Kevin Love, I just do not see Cleveland budging here and instead hoping Irving buys into the long-term vision of building around him and a true big man like Embiid.
Milwaukee Bucks, New Owners, New Direction? 79 year old former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl has owned the Milwaukee Bucks for nearly 30 years before just recently agreeing to sell. In the latter years the team has allegedly had an edict to try to win every year. Despite these efforts, the Milwaukee Bucks put together the worst record in the NBA, against many other teams who were actively trying to lose. As you can imagine, the Bucks roster is fairly bare, with maybe only SF Giannis Antetokounmpo as their only true building piece (unless Larry Sanders gets his head straight, John Henson adds some weight, or Brandon Knight takes a step forward).
The History. Although there have not been any trades for the #2 overall pick for the past 8 years, there is a far longer list of examples to illustrate a range in value:
- 2006: Chicago traded #2 LaMarcus Aldridge to Portland for #4 Tyrus Thomas, 2004 draft rights to #22 overall Viktor Khryapa, and 2007 2nd round pick (Demetris Nichols)
- 2004: 2 days before the draft, the Clippers traded #2 (Emeka Okafor) to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats for #4 (Shaun Livingston) and #33 (Lionel Chalmers). Charlotte also agreed to select Predrag Drobnjak in the expansion draft, which was basically a $2.55MM salary dump.
- 2001: Clippers traded #2 Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner (traded 3 weeks later to Toronto) for Elton Brand.
- 1999: 2 months after the draft Vancouver traded Steve Francis, in a 3 team, 19 player trade to Houston. Francis forced his way out of town and I do not believe this package was indicative of true market value.
- 1997: Philadelphia traded #2 Keith Van Horn, Michael Cage, Lucious Harris and Don MacLean to New Jersey for #7 Tim Thomas, #21 Anthony Parker, Jim Jackson, and Eric Montross.
- 1995: Clippers trade #2 Antonio McDyess and Randy Woods to Denver for #15 Brent Barry and Rodney Rogers.
- 1989: 5 months after being drafted, the Clippers were forced to trade hold-out Danny Ferry to Cleveland. Like the Steve Francis trade above, I do not believe this trade was representative of true market value.
Trying to sum up the lessons learned from these trades above, it appears that the #2 pick has been available in the past for some relatively highly rated prospects like Aldridge, Okafor, Chandler, Van Horn and McDyess, provided that you can return a pick that is only a few spots lower or a proven player like Elton Brand or Jim Jackson. Either that, or you hope the Clippers hold the pick as they do not seem adverse to trading down.
The Offer. Milwaukee sends #2 overall, OJ Mayo (2 years, $16MM), Zaza Pachulia (2 years, $10.4MM) to Jazz for #5 and #23 overall, Kanter (1 year, $5.7MM) and Burks (1 year, $3MM).
The Analysis. I believe the key to the Bucks willingness to move their pick will be whether the Cavs select Embiid at #1. If so, that leaves the two best players on the board as Parker and Wiggins in some order. With Antetokounmpo clearly set as their SF of the future, perhaps the Bucks will want to focus on selecting another good player at a larger position of need. In fact there are already rumors circulating that Milwaukee may consider taking Dante Exum at #2 if Embiid is off the board. Both Exum and Marcus Smart make a lot of sense for the Bucks who would benefit from a large PG playing next to the shorter Knight.
Additionally, this trade enables the Bucks' new ownership to eliminate 2 of the bad contracts on their books and replace them with young prospects in Kanter and Burks. Kanter would give the Bucks a postman that can score and may be a good complement to the outside shooting of Ersan Ilyasova and the post defense of Larry Sanders. Burks gives them a potential solution at SG, or a superior combo guard off the bench behind Knight and whatever PG the Bucks may take.
From the Jazz standpoint they'd likely miss out on Embiid, but would be able to pick up the future SF of their choice in Parker or Wiggins. The added obligations of Mayo and Pachulia are not ideal, but both are end of the rotation guys with contracts that will not severely impact the Jazz's long-term flexibility. A core of Burke, Hayward, Parker, Favors is pretty solid with Parker and Favors both splitting time at PF. The Jazz frontcourt would not be as strong, but they could look to the free agent market to add depth and Pachulia has been a decent 3rd big man for most of his career.
The Competition. Perhaps the team most likely to compete with the Jazz for this pick is the Boston Celtics at 6, who like the Jazz have a ton of assets to move and no big name stars (sorry Rajon Rondo is no longer a star). That said, Danny Ainge has openly questioned how overrated this draft is and may not be that motivated to move up.
The Result. I think this is a fair package for the Bucks and something they should consider. Ultimately, new ownership will need to consider if they want to make a splash and try to jumpstart their rebuild with multiple mid-level prospects, or stand pat and select that 1 great prospect and patiently wait while their bad contracts melt off their books over the next two years.
Philadelphia 76ers, is it Wiggins or Bust? Nobody went more all-in on the #Riggin4Wiggins campaign this year than Sixers GM Sam Hinkie. The Sixers eschewed free agent signings all summer and stayed well below the salary floor all year, instead of adding talented players. Further, the Sixers dumped some of their rotation players at the trade deadline for the sole purpose of adding more losses. What ensued was an NBA record tying 26 game losing streak and the 2nd best lottery odds in the NBA.
The consensus seems to be the Sixers efforts have focused almost exclusively on obtaining Wiggins. Therefore, it may be the Sixers who are looking to move up in the draft and armed with the #10 overall pick and plenty of salary cap space, a swap with Milwaukee may not be out of the question, in order to stave off any potential trade partners that the Bucks may have.
Currently, the Sixers roster is pretty empty but Michael Carter Williams did just put together a Rookie of the Year campaign. Nerlens Noel was the best prospect in last years draft and may prove to be a solid Marcus Camby type player at both the C and PF positions. Thaddeus Young is also an underrated asset on a decent contract and a desirable asset for teams looking to add stretch 4's with real shooting ability.
The History. The #3 pick has moved a decent amount, with packages that were not too overwhelming:
- 2008: Minnesota #3 OJ Mayo, Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker to Memphis for #5 Kevin Love, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins, and Mike Miller.
- 2005: Portland traded #3 Deron Williams to the Jazz for #6 Martell Webster, #27 Linas Kleiza, and a 2006 1st round pick (Joel Freeland).
- 2001: Atlanta traded #3 Pau Gasol, Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright to Vancouver for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley.
- 1988: Philadelphia traded #3 Charles Smith to the Clippers for #6 Hersey Hawkins and a 1989 1st round draft pick (Kenny Payne).
The compensation for the #3 pick seems to have gone down significantly from the #2 slot. The Minnesota, Portland and Philadelphia trades all involved moving down 2-3 slots while adding either a decent starter or later first round picks in that year or the future.
The Offer. Philadelphia sends #3 to Jazz for #5, Alec Burks (1 year, $3MM), a 2016 unprotected first round pick, and the better of Utah or Golden States 2017 first round pick.
The Analysis. If Wiggins is really gone by this slot and Philadelphia does not believe in Jabari Parker, than perhaps they'd be more interested in dealing back and taking one of the young PF's like Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon. Since Philadelphia is already stocked with 7 picks in this draft, they'd mostly be interested in future draft pick compensation in return. Additionally, Philadelphia could use a solid option at SG now and a core of MCW, Burks, Young, Randle, Noel along with pick #10 in this draft is pretty decent.
Trading unprotected picks for the Jazz is very risky, but is likely a good risk to take if the Jazz could land Parker at #3. Losing Burks hurts a bit, but re-signing Hayward and slotting him at the 2 leaves Utah with a starting unit of Burke, Hayward, Parker, Favors, Kanter and the ability to fill out the bench with pick #23 and some choice free agent signings.
The Competition. Boston again may be competition but if Philadelphia is too move back than any number of lottery teams between 4-8 may all be up for grabs as the Sixers would mostly be looking at future assets to add to its depth.
The Result. I think Philadelphia is loathe to trade this pick after working so hard to be so bad to land it. I might rate Philadelphia as the least likely of the top 4 teams to trade out at this point.
Orlando Magic, do they have a Preference between Exum or Smart? The rumor mill has swirled for over a year now that the Magic are absolutely in love with Marcus Smart and want him to lead their future. Perhaps that made more sense last year before Victor Oladipo was selected and Exum now staring them right in the face. As a shorter SG, Oladipo probably makes sense with either Exum or Smart so this one might come down to personal preference.
Elsewhere on their roster, the Magic have solid prospects or players at every position but PF (unless you count Tobias Harris as a PF). This would seem to make a move down 1 slot to Utah make sense, whereas Utah is prime position to land any of the top 3 PF's in this draft. So perhaps the Magic stand pat with Oladipo at the point and add a front court scoring option to pair with Nikola Vucevic.
The History. The 4th spot has not moved back much in the last 29 years, but the 2 examples both involved swapping with the 5th spot:
- 1998: Toronto traded #4 Antawn Jamison to Golden State for #5 Vince Carter and cash considerations..
- 1996: Milwaukee trade #4 Stephon Marbury to Minnesota for #5 Ray Allen and a 1998 1st round draft pick (Rasho Nesterovic).
The compensation for swapping 1 spot has been cash or a future 1st round pick, something the Jazz could and should be willing to offer.
The Offer. Orlando sends #4 to Jazz for #5 and #23 and a 2016 unprotected first round pick.
The Analysis. Orlando moves this pick in 2 scenarios in my mind: 1. Milwaukee chooses Exum at 2 and Parker slides to #4 at which point the Magic decide they have enough wingman prospects and prefer either Smart or one of the PF's; or 2. Orlando really does love Marcus Smart. Either event is contingent on the chips falling perfectly the Jazz way and other teams not offering more to leapfrog the Jazz.
The 2016 unprotected Jazz pick could be really valuable for Orlando but would be easily expendable to land either Parker or Exum. The Jazz may have to sweeten the pot to fend off other suitors though.
The Competition. I happen to think the biggest competition the Jazz have here is that Orlando might in fact look to move up to grab Exum with either Philadelphia and Milwaukee willing to slide down to 4 but not to 5.
The Result. The draft would likely have to land just right for Orlando and Utah to work out a deal, though while not impossible, it still seems likely that Orlando stands pat at #4 and takes Exum.