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The Downbeat #1978: Enes Kanter, the $17M Man

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Beat 1 AllThatAmar

Yesterday the Jazz traded away Tibor Pleiss and 2nd round draft picks for Kendall Marshall cap space. Kevin Pelton from ESPN gave this grade to the Utah Jazz for the trade.

The timing of this rare summer trade was motivated by Marshall's $2.05 million salary for this season becoming guaranteed Sept. 2. The Jazz waived him immediately after acquiring him, leaving this as a straight salary dump from their standpoint.

Pleiss was a rare misstep in Utah's scouting. The Jazz got his rights in the Enes Kanter deal, then signed Pleiss to a three-year, $9 million deal last summer with the first two seasons guaranteed.

Pleiss does seem like the rare scouting misstep by the Utah Jazz. If you look at the Utah Jazz’s past 3 years it feels like they should be allowed one. They have found Gobert, Hood, Lyles, Exum, and Neto with almost surgical precision. Sooner or later it isn’t going to work out. Tibor was that guy.

Beat 2 AllThatAmar

This brings us back to the Kanter trade. If we are evaluating the Kanter trade so far that trade directly yielded the ghost of Kendall Marshall, Grant Jerrett, and one 1st round draft pick from OKC which could turn into a 2nd round draft pick easily, and a 2nd round draft pick from Detroit.

It’s easy and logical to look at that haul from the Enes Kanter and say, “We got screwed.” On the outside look this trade looks like a complete farce of a trade. The Utah Jazz gave up a soon to be maxed out center for essentially “nothing.” But in any type of deal there is more than the direct result from a deal.

When I purchase a sandwich from Arby’s I paid $7 for a roast beef sandwich, fries, and coke. That is the direct assets moving in that trade. But the indirect results of that sandwich for me are first joy, then sadness lots of sadness. There’s also the opportunity cost. Whenever I bring this up on twitter I get bombarded that its a terrible excuse for a bad trade because the direct assets returning do not match up. But that’s not true.

My opportunity cost of paying $7 for that Arby’s meal beyond the sadness and fatness it will cause me is I can’t spend that $7 somewhere else. Maybe Panera had a special running that could have yielded me food, happiness, and a slimmer waistline. That opportunity is gone. That’s a cost. It’s not one that I have spent money on directly but indirectly. Make sense? Good.

By trading Enes Kanter the Utah Jazz avoided paying the opportunity cost of giving a 3rd big man a max contract of 17 Million Dollars per year. 17 Million Dollars per year changes the whole equation to the Utah Jazz’s offseason plans. 17 Million Dollars of money they can’t spend anywhere else. The Utah Jazz made the Enes Kanter trade because 17 Million Dollars spent on Kanter would keep them from their opportunities in the future. This option was even afforded to them because of the rise of Rudy Gobert. So the Utah Jazz made the trade with OKC. OKC sent assets back but no matter the assets brought back from OKC the Utah Jazz gained the opportunity of spending $17M somewhere else. That’s part of the trade.

That’s why I refuse to say the trade for Enes Kanter was a bad trade. That trade allowed for the Utah Jazz to take on players like Diaw, Hill, and Johnson. If the Utah Jazz had kept Kanter they don’t have those players. If the Utah Jazz had kept Kanter, Trey Lyles doesn’t get the chance to shine off the bench last year and going into this year. If the Utah Jazz had kept Kanter they would have kept a malcontent in the locker room. They made the right deal. They made the smart deal. If the Utah Jazz “lost” that trade why is OKC paying a max money player to be their 6th/7th man? The Utah Jazz received market value for Kanter and part of that market value was the saving of their $17M opportunity cost and, finally, in this last offseason we got to see where that money would go.

In addition to just $$$$, the Utah Jazz found something bigger than money: they found themselves. Now that would make an amazing tagline for a Hallmark movie, but the removal of the Kanter allowed the Utah Jazz’s defense to sing. It allowed them to play at a higher even near historic level (if kept up for a full season). Injuries last year robbed us of seeing the Utah Jazz approach that glory, but that shouldn’t be the case this year.

It’s very easy to go to a trade and say “Team X wins because best assets returned” then put the players on the scales and see who’s combined PER, points or whatever is the highest. But that isn’t how the Utah Jazz saw this trade. They saw them saving $17M, gaining a championship level defense, plus some minor trade considerations and said, “YES LET’S DO THIS.” This year will be the year the true fruits of that deal come into being. Many will point to Dennis Lindsey’s offseason, rightfully so, and say that’s when the turning point of this franchise was because we’ll see a team go from non playoff to playoff team. That’s tangible. That’s verifiable. But the biggest move this franchise will have made toward its future and identity will have been the Enes Kanter trade. How in the world that means the Utah Jazz lost the Enes Kanter trade is beyond me.

Beat 3 AllThatAmar

Overlooked in the Tibor Pleiss hoopla was the Utah Jazz signing Marcus Paige. Eric Pincus had this insight:

The Salt Lake City Stars will be a much improved team and it seems Dennis Lindsey is wasting no time in using the Stars as a development tool in Utah. Should be an interesting relationship to follow.

Beat 4 AllThatAmar

Let’s talk about these new Utah Jazz jerseys. The focus on the yellow as the border on the blue jerseys is just muah beautiful.

They just look so clean. I can’t wait to see our guys in the sleeved jerseys.*

*File that away in things I never thought I’d say about any sleeved jerseys.

Beat 5 AllThatAmar

Today we would like to mourn the digital death of Evan Fournier. Rudy Gobert has brought attention to the cause of his French teammate whose face has been digitally dismantled for the sake of basketball. The victim:

Rudy Gobert has even organized a fund where you too can donate to help save Evan Fournier’s face. As always, I worn you, don’t google Evan Fournier. Follow the links provided.

Please help this man get a new face.

Too late.