The Utah Jazz are a very good team. One of the best in the league in fact. They’ll likely maintain a top-two seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t improve.
Utah’s disappointingly early exits from the last few playoffs have shown the chinks in the team’s armor. The way to strengthen the team could be with a trade. If a trade is on the horizon, who might the Jazz target?
Marcus Smart has made headlines recently with his comments about his teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. “I would just like to play basketball,” Smart said. “Every team knows we are trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen and every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys try to pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball and that’s something that they’re going to learn.”
Now, this isn’t the first time that Smart has called out teammates, and it likely won’t be the last. This doesn’t mean his time in Boston is definitively over or he wants out. All it means is that there is some level of disagreement and unhappiness there. Good teams and good players will figure it out, and the Boston Celtics may do just that.
Even with that said, Smart could still be a viable trade target. Boston has taken a major step back from where they were a few years ago, and they’re likely looking to build a team more perfectly around Tatum and Brown. If that’s the case, Smart may make sense as an asset to trade. Boston may want to replace him with more of a shooter and scorer now that they’ve lost Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, and Evan Fournier. If that’s the case, Utah would be the perfect trade partner.
How would he fit with Utah?
The Jazz need perimeter defenders. They also need players who can create for others. Hand, meet glove. Marcus Smart is a two-time All-Defensive First Team player. He’s known as a lockdown defender on the perimeter and brings fire to every game he plays. He’s a vocal leader, a hustle guy, and someone who provides the intangible things that winning teams need.
"An incredible block by Marcus Smart!"— NBA (@NBA) September 12, 2020
@smart_MS3's best HUSTLE PLAYS from this season before his @celtics face MIA in the East Finals, starting Tuesday (9/15) on ESPN! pic.twitter.com/WirnZILCIr
Smart isn’t a great shooter and can be known for inconsistency, but he’s undoubtedly been a positive winning player his entire career. Utah could really use his edge and his ability on defense.
How could the Jazz get him?
Smart is under contract for this year and four more after that. He’s currently making only $14.3M this season, so there are a few ways Utah could trade for him. The easiest would be a straight-up swap of Jordan Clarkson for Marcus Smart. Both are sixth men who could probably be starters. Both are fan-favorites for their respective teams. Both may have skillsets that would fit the other team better. Boston is looking for someone to fill the scoring and creating hole left by Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier in the offseason. Dennis Schroder isn’t fully cutting it. Jordan Clarkson could jump in and fill that same sixth-man scorer role he’s so good at, and the Celtics young stars would have some relief.
Trade rumors have swirled around Barnes over the last couple of seasons. As a productive veteran stuck on a rebuilding team, it just made a lot of sense to use him as a trade chip to gain young talent. Thus far, Sacramento has held off on any trades, and it looks to be paying off. Harrison Barnes is currently averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting over 43% from three. He’ll certainly draw plenty of interest from contending teams, but will the Kings be willing to part with him?
How would he fit with Utah?
Barnes would essentially take over Bojan Bogdanovic’s role as the tertiary scorer of the team. He’d get a ton of spot-up opportunities, which he knocks down at an elite rate, and he’d be expected to defender forwards. Barnes provides a lot of the same value that Bogdanovic does, while also contributing to other facets of the game. Barnes is a solid rebounder, a decent passer, and a reliable ball-handler.
Harrison Barnes wins it at the buzzer for the Kings pic.twitter.com/Ma0hmFnRNV— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 28, 2021
How could the Jazz get him?
Harrison Barnes is making $20.2M this season and $18.3M next season before his contract expires. Money-wise, Bogdanovic for Barnes works out, but that likely doesn’t work value-wise. Barnes is having a career year, and Bogdanovic has struggled with consistency. Utah would have to spice up the deal by including either a pick or a young player like Jared Butler or Udoka Azubuike.
- Eric Gordon is one of the most likely players to be traded this year. He’s still a very useful player (53% from three this season!), but the Houston Rockets are fully in rebuilding mode. The only thing making him difficult to trade for is his salary. Gordon still has this season and two more on his contract, averaging about $19M per year. That’s a lot for a 33-year-old role player who’s had frequent injury issues. So, while he’d be a great fit on the court, I doubt Utah pursues him.
- Brandon Clarke is only getting 13 minutes per game for the Grizzlies. He’s 25 years old, and he can do a whole lot on the basketball court. Seeing him lose minutes has been a surprise, but it does make sense, as Memphis has a lot of contributing players. One has to wonder if they feel like he’s no longer in their long-term plans, and would like to cash in on him now.
- The Indiana Pacers have a lot of wings. With the incredible early showings from rookie Chris Duarte and the return from injury by Caris LeVert, minutes may be hard to come by for some of Indiana’s bench wings. Jeremy Lamb or Torrey Craig may come to be available near the trade deadline, especially if T.J. Warren returns before then. Lamb would be more of an offensive boost for Utah, while Craig would be used as a defensive specialist. Either one could have value if the price is right.