Utah/OKC Trade Analysis - One Game After, and A Study in Economics

As Jazz fans, we love our players, and I think we all went through the same emotional cycle when we heard about the Enes Kanter trade.

  1. Heartbroken - We all liked Kanter, although we knew it might happen

  2. Doubt - I think we all thought Kanter was worth more, and questioned the FO.

  3. Acceptance or Rejection – There were fans on both side of the fence.

On that day, I was emotional about the trade, just like you guys. Then I started thinking about how this move made sense from an economic perspective. Now, several days after, we're all less emotional, and a good time to take a second look at this trade. It's also nice since both OKC and Utah had one game each, so now I have small-sample-size data to apply to my opinions.

"What every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it, or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people".

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

That's too wordy, here's the bullet-point conversion

  • Cost is the amount of work for acquiring or keeping something

  • Worth (The Price) of something is determined by two factors:

    • How much it reduces cost for owner

    • How much can the owner sell it for

Let's break down Enes Kanter from those perspective

Even conservative estimates put Kanter RFA offer at $14 million per year. A lot of us, myself included, would say "sign him for for 14m anyway, and bring him off the bench for 20 minutes a game". However, what if I tell you there are additional costs to keeping Kanter, a cost that is more than just dollar amount?

Playing time is also a cost for keeping a player. There are 3 values we can directly link to playing time:

  • Production Value – Giving a player minutes will increase his production value

  • Player Satisfaction – Increased production value means higher salary and prestige

  • Development – Players need NBA minutes to develop.

Once you factor in playing time, the situation suddenly seems unideal. Do we really want to pay Kanter $14 million a year come off the bench for 20 minutes? Trevor Booker can do that at about 5 million a year. Kanter's production will definitely go down from reduced minutes, which will lowers his trade value. Not to mention there are times when you simply can't play Kanter against many of the quicker PF on other teams.

Surprisingly, Rudy Gobert's development shouldn't be a major issue; Jazz can probably give 20 minutes for Kanter and still find Gobert and Favors near 30 min at the 4/5 position. Still, the trade removed the minutes commitment for Kanter and gave the Jazz more flexibility. Additionally, considering Jazz likely have a top-10 pick, we can move forward knowing there will be developmental minutes available for a big man.

Originally, I would've tried to retain Kanter as RFA anyway and trade him later; he is 22 years old, and with cap space going up after a year, Kanter can be a pretty good trade chip. However, now that I've considered the reduced playing time, it'll be incredibly hard for Kanter to maintain or grow his trade value.

How much can Kanter sell for? For rebuilding teams desiring a young stud, nothing, because they have the cap space to put up $15-16 million offers this summer. For playoff teams, Kanter will be third big off the bench, and the going price for those are late first round picks (which we got)

Speaking of which, I can totally LA Lakers going after Kanter. That is so perfect for Enes, now I feel selfish for wanting to pay him $14m/yr to be stuck in Utah. Maybe NY Knicks can also be in play? Can somebody look up their cap info?

One Game After

Rudy Gobert crushed the Blazers on Friday, and Enes Kanter beasts out for OKC on Sunday.

Enes had a monster night for his stats, collecting 20 pts, 12 rebound, and 3 assists. He was doing this against Jusuf Nurkic and the Nuggets' depleted front court, but it really shows what a motivated Kanter can do in the right role. OKC has never had inside scoring, Kanter brings balance to OKC offense and should become very valuable to their team this season, especially right now when two OKC starters are injured.

Rudy Gobert's stat against the Blazers does not do him justice; for those who watched the game all saw his defensive brilliance. Rudy maybe the one person besides Anthony Davis who can make LMA struggle. By now the league is on notice, every team in the NBA will want to get their own Gobert, but they cant have him!

I think this is a classic case of a good resource being under-utilized behind more valuable resources. Ironically, OKC had this same issue with James Harden playing behind Durant and Westbrook. We all knew Harden was good, but we didn't know he was capable of becoming 2015 James Harden. In fact, I will even argue that because Harden had to carry a team, he became the 2015 James Harden. The Harden deal will go down as one of the worst trade in history, but that is an incomplete narrative; Harden simply couldn't utilize his full value while in OKC.

Utah also had to choose the players it should prioritize; I think we all agree that as far as the front court is concerned, it should be Gobert and Favors. Unfortunately we simply can't get as much value out of Kanter, trading him was probably best for both parties. Let's enjoy our recently-found defensive identify, while wishing Kanter the best of luck with OKC, and the off-season!

Other Thoughts

  • I think Kanter will leave OKC this off-season; he's asking for 16 million / year
  • How much do we have to give Rudy when his rookie contract expires?
  • Who can we draft next season?
  • Do we have a shoot guard logjam when Alec comes back?
  • And can we get a long, athletic, defensive 3/4 at some point?

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.