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Opinion: How to fix the Utah Jazz or just anger half the fanbase

Buckle up, Jazz fans. It’s gonna get wild in here.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Next summer, the Utah Jazz will be one of 12 NBA teams that could have at least $24 million in cap space, according to spotrac. At least 7 of those teams will be really bad lottery teams (BRK, SAC, DAL, ATL, NYK, CHI, ORL). SLCdunk’s own Anthony Cheng has already talked about Utah’s expiring contracts and some of their options here.

Historically, Utah has struggled to sign premiere free agents who are in their prime. Competing as a small market team in the NBA is no easy task. Teams like the Jazz, Thunder, Bucks, etc will always struggle to match the non-basketball appeal offered by teams like the Lakers, Heat, and Warriors.

Rather than compete for free agents next summer against the Clippers ($49~ million in cap space), Lakers ($42~ million), 76ers ($40 million), and to a lesser extent, the small market Pacers ($49~ million), Dennis Lindsey has another option. He could trade some of the team’s assets to lock in a player NOW, rather than risk striking out in free agency yet again (a bird in the hands, after all).

As Anthony pointed out in his piece, Utah has a number of expiring contracts. The kinds of contracts that could be valuable assets as trade bait.

Buckle up, Jazz fans. I am about to propose something drastic. Something risky. Something many of my SLC dunk colleagues have ribbed me about since I started suggesting it (which was OFTEN, by the way - if you could see our group chats...)

There is an NBA player who is ready to break out. Who is being stifled and held back by the team he’s on, the players he shares the court with, and the offense that is run by his coach. A player who had an early career trajectory that was in line with guys like Gordon Hayward and Harrison Barnes. A player who just hasn’t quite reached that next level of production despite having the size, shooting, and skills to do so.

First 4 years of Harrison Barnes, Gordon Hayward, and Player A

Player A isn’t quite the scorer or passer Hayward was early in his career, but he’s the best rebounder of the the bunch, appears to be the best defender, and is easily the best shooter from distance. The first 4 years of Player A’s career look promising. Hayward blossomed into a #1 scorer for our own Utah Jazz, and Barnes has been scoring 19 points per game on 45/35/84 shooting splits since he went to Dallas.

Are you sitting down? You should probably sit down.

Player A, the player I’m proposing we trade for ... is Otto Porter Jr. of the Washington Wizards.

Otto Porter produces like a role player when he shares the court with John Wall, posting per 36 averages of 14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists on 15.5% usage and 51/44/81 shooting splits. Efficient, but definitely not max contract material. Otto Porter without John Wall looks an awful lot like a #2 scoring option, putting up per 36 averages of 17.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 20.7% usage and shooting splits of 49/43/80. Essentially Aaron Gordon’s production on much better efficiency - and a large portion of Jazz fans were on the “sign Aaron Gordon” train.

[Side note: when both Wall and Beal are off the court, Porter’s production jumps to 22 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per 36 minutes on 23% usage with a true shooting percentage of 66.5%. Basically the production of 2017-18 all star Paul George - though it is in a tiny sample size of just 358 possessions]

One of the best ways to win a trade in the NBA is to take advantage of a team that’s desperate for wins, desperate to sell tickets, or desperate to fix an awful cap situation. Washington has definite issues in that last area.

Zach Lowe posted an article exploring solutions to Washington’s cap problem.

It’s a really good article and well worth a read, but long story short he suggests a John Wall to Phoenix trade. I came up with what seems like a good three-team trade. Utah can take advantage of Washington’s desperation.

Here it is:

Utah gets Otto Porter to pair alongside Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. It’s a risky move, but if it pays off Utah would have their #2 scorer on the perimeter next to Donovan, the team’s shooting and spacing would improve, and their defense should hold steady.

Washington gets TONS of cap relief, two future 1st round picks, Rubio as a stop-gap point guard for the rest of this season, and a promising young player in Mikal Bridges to put next to Beal as part their new core, kick-starting their rebuild.

Phoenix gets a backcourt partner for Devin Booker, they get Ryan Anderson’s contract off the books, and they get a quality big to shore up their frontcourt rotation and fill in for Ayton if he’s injured.

It would suck to see Rubio and Favors go. Favors is loved by the fanbase and front office, and Rubio was a huge part of Utah’s incredible run to close out the season. Losing either would sting. Losing both would be excrutiating.

A move like this is risky as hell. It’s a gamble. But so is waiting for free agency and risking a complete whiff on guys like Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris. And this is the kind of home run swing that could put the Jazz in a really good position moving forward.

The Wizards have been such a mess the past couple years that Otto Porter’s effectiveness has largely been lost in the noise. Porter shoots at Gobert levels of efficiency inside 3 feet (both just over 70% for their careers). His mid range game and 3-point shooting efficiency are both on par with Khris Middleton’s. And his rebound rate is around the same as Paul George. There is a LOT to like about his game.

This move would drastically change the look and feel of this team. And that’s kind of the point. The new starting lineup would include at least three shooters, if Exum became the starting point guard - four if Mitchell slides to point guard with Ingles and Porter at the wing positions and Crowder at the 4. Otto Porter’s on/off splits have been positive since 15-16, and absurdly good since the start of last season. Even this year, with his shooting woes and offensive struggles, his on/off splits are a +16.1 (meaning the Wizards with Porter ON are 16.1 points per 100 possessions better than the Wizards with Porter OFF).

Porter is just a net positive for his team when he’s on the court. Period. His offensive gravity as a catch-and-shoot threat alone would open up the floor for Mitchell and Gobert.

If this trade did happen, Utah would have around $96 million on the books with 12 players on the roster, giving them approximately $13 million in cap space to work with next summer, and still leaving them with a handful of team-friendly, tradeable contracts that could be leveraged into another player or sold for picks to create more cap room.

It’s crazy. It’s “out there”. It’s drastic. I get it.

But it’s also bold. It has potential. And there is a chance that this would give Utah their 3rd cornerstone piece next to Donovan and Rudy.