Dennis Lindsey had said if this Utah Jazz team couldn’t capitalize on their continuity, he’d make moves quickly. He had learned from the 2014-2015 season where he executed too much patience in Utah’s development. This year, he will err on the side of small sample size rather than large, and that’s where the Jazz get a move like Kyle Korver for Alec Burks and two second rounders.
If you’re looking for Utah’s motivation in trading for the Cleveland Cavalier’s Kyle Korver it’s this: The Utah Jazz needed shooting desperately so they we’re going to show any prejudice in the package that shooting came in.
It didn’t matter if that package happened to be someone who is 37 years old and well over the hill in terms of basketball age. It didn’t matter if it took giving up their second best athlete on the team next to Donovan Mitchell in Alec Burks. It didn’t matter if they had to give up two second rounders—which, by the way, aren’t worth much to Utah when you think about Dennis Lindsey’s track record of G-League and Undrafted Free Agent finds.
While it’ll be impossible to evaluate this trade in terms of grades now—I mean, c’mon, how badly were the trades that jettisoned Jimmy Butler and Paul George panned for Chicago and Indiana initially—we can extrapolate what this means in terms of what Utah is trying to evaluate with their roster.
For the first quarter of the season, Utah’s silver lining with their roster has been two fold. It has been a mixture of how difficult their schedule has been and how many open looks they generate on a game by game basis. While no trade will change the difficulty of their schedule, this trade is meant to take advantage of the latter. But not in the way you might think.
The Kyle Korver trade has to be seen like the first test in a hypothesis. Utah has a theory that they generate more open looks than anyone else because of their offensive system. But, that thinking could be flawed. Utah has a lot of open looks, but without different personnel, it’s impossible to know if it’s just defenses lagging off of sub-par three point shooters like Rubio, Exum, Crowder, Favors, and O’Neale or if it is actually the system.
Enter Kyle Korver.
He’s a low risk trade target that won’t sink your cap space. Utah was going to be losing Alec Burks after this season anyway. They were more interested in the cap space than more years of Alec Burks. That’s been the worst kept secret for Utah over the last two seasons. So they trade someone who wasn’t going to be in Utah next year anyway for a career 40%+ 3 point shooter.
Can Kyle Korver defend? Not really at this age, but Burks wasn’t exactly a lockdown defender either. What they want from Korver is to prove once and for all, is the system generating open looks, or the lack of a jump shooting threat generating the open looks.
This move is going to be scrutinized by Utah’s front office because their trade deadline strategy and offseason strategy will be guided by its success or failure. If Kyle Korver and Joe Ingles find additional success from the outside while Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert enjoy greater success in the paint, Utah will know they need to be guided by the principle of finding a better stretch big like a Kevin Love type. If it doesn’t work out, they’ll know that “adding shooters” to their team still doesn’t fix a lot of their problems.
If Korver finds himself feasting in the corners while teams have to overhelp on Donovan and Rudy, Utah is on to something. More than that, they’ll be able to go out in free agency in the summer and point to this experiment and say, “If Kyle Korver at age 37 was able to get a stat bump by playing with these players, imagine what will happen to you.” That’s going to be their pitch to shooters like Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.
It would be an enchanting one as playing with players who have the type of paint gravity as those two players would open up the three point line in ways few other teams can provide.
But if Korver doesn’t see a bump. The open looks for all of Utah’s players stay the same while Korver doesn’t enjoy open looks himself ... then Utah knows it’s not the offensive system, it’s the personnel. Then there’s a bigger problem. The offensive system isn’t working and there’s a much more complex solution that has to be found. One that cannot be found in free agency.
So in the end, this trade with Cleveland is not about Utah fixing its season in December. It’s about Utah finding out if their season can either be fixed through another solution at the trade deadline or in free agency by adding a high impact 3 point shooter. Korver is just the guinea pig.