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Jazz should not rush to trade Enes Kanter

A primer on why teams trade, which teams could trade with the Jazz, and my personal feelings on what to do with Enes Kanter.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NBA trade deadline will be on February the 19th, which for those of you following along at home, is a little over two weeks from now. Ideally trades used to happen in the NBA to make two or more teams "better". A team would have a need, and go for it. Today the needs mostly seem to be either to bolster a bench or to shed salary. If you are making a move at the deadline it used to mean you were trying to win a title. Today it means you may be trying to move out of the first round, or avoid paying so much in the luxury tax. And really, blockbuster trades seem to be a thing of the past, at least during the season. In the off-season big name players seem to get traded in sign-and-trades, not for one another.

The Utah Jazz currently sit at 17-30, and are in a proverbial "dog fight" against the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, and Los Angeles Lakers for those precious 11th to 14th spots in the Western Conference. While they are not the 7th to 10th seed doldrums that prevent franchises from ever rising they are far away from the need to improve the roster right now for the hopes of short term, 2015, wins.

Additionally, the Jazz don't have to shed salary. Even with the contracts they are on the books for, for players no longer on the team (Carrick Felix, Jordan Hamilton, etc); and the slew of NBA-DL players who have come and gone (Elliot Williams, Patrick Christopher), the Jazz are still only paying players $58.6 million USD this season. The salary cap for this season is in excess of $63.2 million, and the luxury tax starts off at $77.0 million. Many teams are on the opposite side of the thrifty threshold. And if you were looking to shed salary one of the targets would HAVE to be the Utah Jazz. The highest payrolls for non-contenders are for the Brooklyn Nets ($91.2m), New York Knicks ($81.7m), New Orleans Pelicans ($77.5m), Los Angeles Lakers ($77.3m), Indiana Pacers (this year) ($74.8m), and Sacramento Kings ($70.7m). Four of those teams are going to be paying the luxury tax this year unless they can move some salary. I'm not crazy about renting someone else's problem, even if it's for future draft picks. (N.B. The Jazz do not owe any picks to any team, and in addition to that have one extra first rounder, and seven 2nd rounders owed to them in the next FOUR (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) drafts.)

If we go beyond all of that, just purely within the vacuum of this season, I think it's fair to suggest that the Jazz DO need wing help. No Alec Burks has caused a cascade of problems for the team. Some of which would have been mitigated by an increased role for rookie 'steal of the draft' Rodney Hood. Both of those players have played a grand total of 1337 minutes this season, which isn't much over the course of 47 games. As a direct consequence head coach Quin Snyder has had to look elsewhere for starting material, even breaking down and starting Patrick Christopher for one game.

Right now the team has settled upon some sort of mix between Joe Ingles (27.1 mpg in January) and Elijah Millsap (20.1 mpg in January) -- with Gordon Hayward picking up most of the rest of the wing minutes. Furthermore, we are seeing more of the Trey Burke + Dante Exum combination, which we need to see. But even if we all have an idea who will be the long term starter going forward I think it's okay not to jump to conclusions on having to move one of them, even IF the trade deadline is approaching.

If you were going to get rid of a player because he doesn't mesh with the other players, the coach, the front office, or isn't with the game plan, then well, that's an option too. However, our collegiate atmosphere seems to have prevented that from happening.

The only other reason why the Utah Jazz WOULD be interested in a trade is if, for the first time ever, they wanted to get a return from a player that may be moving on. The Jazz got something out of Randy Foye 's unrestricted free agency (was involved in a three team trade that brought the Jazz back Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, and Richard Jefferson). But he was the exception, not the rule, as the Jazz let Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Josh Howard, Marvin Williams, and countless others walk while taking with them thousands of minutes from the team.

A number of Jazz players are going to be free agents this summer. Jeremy Evans is not going to get a lot of attention, and I think that if the team will have him back that he will come cheaply. (I wouldn't expect him to get much of a raise from his $1.8 million this year.) Shooting guards Ian Clark and Joe Ingles will be free agents as well. Both will have qualifying offers that are under $1.2 million dollars, so those three guys could all be back for less than $6 million on the books. (Though, I think Ingles deserves at least Steve Novak money, and he will earn $3.75 million next year.)

The Turkish elephant in the room is Enes Kanter. Kanter was supposed to be pushed this season by Trevor Booker (who has only a partially guaranteed contact for next season), but I believe we know who is the superior player at this point. The future RFA is only 22 right now, and as a #3 pick, his starting salary for his next contract will be at $7.4 million. The rest of the "C4" got paid. Fellow 2011 draft pick Alec Burks signed for a deal that starts at $9.46 million next season. Derrick Favors got locked in for $12 million per. And Gordon Hayward just got $15+ per season this past off-season on the open market.

Bigmen get overpaid, and the Jazz may not wish to over pay for Kanter. They have to find money (under the cap now, yes, but who knows what financial situation the team will be in a few seasons from now?) for Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, and hopefully Trey Burke too. Balancing rookie deals with extensions will be the job for someone else, not I. But I could make a case for and against trading Kanter at this juncture.

His trade value is still pretty high, and while he is making only $5.7 million this season, the Jazz can take back plenty more salary. A cash strapped team would trade of Enes in a heart beat. He's an efficient player who can add a scoring punch, but like I said on this site a while ago, on a team that doesn't need his defense he could look really good.

However, there's no real reason to believe he couldn't ALSO look really good with the Jazz. It's silly to expect him NOT to improve on defense at all. Sure, he may be the best disciple of Al Jefferson, but he also knows that if he wants to play in the NBA for a winner (not just get paid by a lotto team) he's going to have to play defense. Out of the three major bigmen for the Jazz (Favors, Gobert, and Kanter), he's the only one who is a legit face-up threat from a significant distance. Snyder's offense relies upon dribble penetration from guards. In order for there to be space for penetration to occur you need a bigman who can shoot. Kanter's ability to go from "ZERO outside shooting reinforcement for his entire career" to being "a guy who can hit threes on the regular" is unprecedented. But the debate between "is Kanter good" and "do the Jazz need to trade him now" are two separate things.

And with the new cap space available, and the regular 'wait and see' approach, if the Jazz DO want him back, they will have the money available to match any offer. Personally, I don't think the Jazz have to make a trade. They aren't in "win now" mode. They aren't in financial #strugglemode either. There are many of young players that need minutes, and right now they are mostly all getting enough. Renting an expensive vet for a few months doesn't seem like something Dennis Lindsey would do. But we'll see.

The deadline is in a little over two weeks. But we're not going to even scratch the surface of how good Enes can be in that time period. Who Enes could be in three seasons could be a dominant offensive force, and the lack of playing time early in his career kept his talents quite hidden. It would be silly to trade away a guy before you know how good he is.

But that's the uncertainty in sports, and in life in general. Will the Jazz made a move?