From the moment the 2017 NBA Offseason started, the basketball gods have frowned upon the Utah Jazz. From the Gordon Hayward exit to the difficult scheduling sprinkled with injuries, the Utah Jazz’s season hasn’t come together quite as many fans hoped it would. But hope springs eternal, and now trade season is upon us. What does that mean for Utah? Let’s dive in.
Will the Utah Jazz be buyers or sellers?
43 games into the regulars season, the Utah Jazz are 17-26. They are just as many games out of the playoffs (5) as they are out of the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. While they could make moves to make a late season playoff push, such a move would have limited upside. The teams ahead of them—Trailblazers, Clippers, and Pelicans—are gaining momentum and are probably going to be making playoff push type moves to accelerate their movement toward that goal. That means any move that Utah makes would have to best theirs, and one of those three teams would have to make a late season tumble which is rare.
The most likely scenario is Utah will be a seller at the trade deadline, which isn’t the best scenario for Utah. It’s a buyers market right now when it comes to the assets that Utah is willing to part with. The market is filled with big men who are available, and, unfortunately, the players who are on expiring contracts—Joe Johnson and Derrick Favors—are both big men. What works in Utah’s favor—pun intended—is they are expiring contracts. So if a team like Cleveland wants a highly skilled defensive big man, they can do it without a lot of long-term salary tied up. Utah also has some young assets—Rodney Hood, Dante Exum, and Tony Bradley—that they could move to sweeten the deal and help with future cap flexibility.
What Utah Jazz players and assets are available?
The easy answer to this one are those that are on expiring or non-guaranteed contracts: Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, Thabo Sefolosha, and Jonas Jerebko. Ekpe Udoh has played exceptional enough that Utah would be hard pressed to let go of that contract. But the more nuanced answer to this is almost anyone not named Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert.
The Utah Jazz has found two cornerstones in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell—thank you, Denver—and it would makes sense that they’d go full speed at a chance to either acquire the third piece to that foundation or an asset like a draft pick that could help them build around that foundation.
There are some caveats, however. Ricky Rubio probably isn’t getting many trade inquiries due to his play. Alec Burks has been inquired about but teams want compensation coming back for taking him. Rodney Hood and Dante Exum probably could be had, but the Utah Jazz would be charging a high premium on those two. Joe Ingles could probably even be had, but it would require, once again, something valuable coming back. All in all, the Jazz are open for business this trade deadline, and, with a wide array of position players available, we should expect them to be active this trade deadline.
What Utah Jazz players and assets are unavailable?
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell obviously are off limits. Dante Exum is most likely in this camp as well due to his young age and potential. Rodney Hood is 50/50. Utah’s first round draft picks are most likely unavailable or they would be exchanged with heavy protections as the floor for Utah is much lower than their ceiling for this season and the next.
What holes should the Utah Jazz try and fill at the deadline?
This a hard one, not because the Utah Jazz are lacking elite players, but this is a team filled with specialists, but not enough top tier talent. With Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in place, the top priority will be to try to find a deal that places the long-term success of that core over the short term success of it.
It’s tempting to look at Donovan Mitchell currently and say, “Screw it. Let’s go compete right now.” But the Utah Jazz should be cautious about this. Look at the New Orleans Pelicans or the first LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers teams. They rushed to put people around their star and it blew up spectacularly. The Utah Jazz have Rudy on contract for three years after this one. They have Donovan Mitchell for the forseeable future. It would be a smart move by Dennis Lindsey to ride out this season and take the “L”s and get a good draft pick.
So how should they approach this deadline? Find players who’ll develop and thrive at the same time as Donovan Mitchell. That could mean targeting draft assets or young players who Utah feels they could develop better than other teams. That could mean freeing up more cap space to be one of the few teams with cap space over the next couple years. Look for Utah to have a more long term view when it comes to the trade deadline.
What’s the Utah Jazz’s dream trade?
The dream Utah Jazz trade would look something like this. It doesn’t necessarily mean JR Smith is coming to Utah. That’s not what makes this a dream trade. It would be the Jazz receiving one or two of Cleveland’s bad contracts and the Brooklyn pick in exchange for Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood. The Utah Jazz would probably try to make it Derrick Favors and Alec Burks, but Cleveland would probably not budge on that one. This way the Utah Jazz get some extra chances at a #1 pick and if they miss out they’re able to rebuild quickly in the wake of losing George Hill and Gordon Hayward from last year. That’s the dream trade for Utah at this juncture.
Who do you think is untouchable for Utah? What’s your dream Utah Jazz trade? Put your answers in the comments below.