Today Yahoo! Sports guru / telepath Adrian Wojnarowski announced that the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors were making a trade. Former newspaper reporter Diana got the scoop on the rest of the world and gave us all the facts here (check it out, vote in the poll!). But basics are that the Raptors, seeking some manner of cap relief, traded away Steve Novak to the Jazz, along with a future second rounder. (Through the powers of internet research, I found out it's either going to be a 2015 2nd rounder, or a 2017 2nd rounder -- details here.) The Jazz sent back Diante Garrett , and his non-guaranteed, sub-$1 million dollar deal.
Because the "Burgers are ready", and already in my stomach (Happy 4th to y'all), and we have some hours before fireworks, let's break down this trade into exhaustive detail.
Why this makes sense:
First of all, for the Raptors, they are in win now mode. They were the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference and while there is chaos right now in their part of the world, they see a ladder. They don't know what the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, or any other team is doing -- but they are trying to build a contender right now. Steve Novak doesn't make you a real contender, especially when your team needs to shed salary. Novak isn't making a lot, but his $7 million could be used better elsewhere. He only played 10.0 mpg last season (that's Richard Jefferson in a Golden State Warriors jersey territory), and wasn't a part of their plans. While Novak can space the floor, he was more than just a gimmick player -- and averaged 3.3 ppg, got to the free throw line 0.1 times a game, and beasted on the glass for 1.1 rpg. His 11.1 PER helps solidify the theory that he's not just a stretch four, but a stretch as a useful NBA player.
If you do the math (and I did, keep reading) this is a financial win for the Raptors who take back Diante Garrett and his non-guaranteed contract. They are likely to waive him and his hulking $915,243 price tag. If they don't they will be getting a consummate professional who can be a solid back up at the point guard and shooting guard spots. He's a good defender and makes his threes. If anything, he's insurance for Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams , and Greivis Vasquez . Or an assurance that Vasquez is out. Either way it's a solid trade for the Raptors who were on the verge of being tapped out of flexibility and stuck as middle playoff team. Now they can make moves again or signings to keep improving.
For the Jazz this is less about getting better than it is about maintaining their commanding lead in flexibility over the rest of the league. Novak appears to be allosteric competition against the ideas of Marvin Williams (who has a bunch of teams after him right now), Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy on their Summer League team (Diante too, but oh well...) and the theory that they are face up, stretch bigs is still just a theory. Novak is the proof of concept. Novak is cheaper than Marvin will be, but $1.681 million more than keeping both Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.
If you look at their stats from last season there are no winners.
Floor production aside, Novak is an excellent free throw shooter (career 89.2 ft%) and has shot .565, .472, .425, and .426 from downtown the last four seasons. He is exceptional when open. The real prize here is paying $3 million and change for two years for another 2nd round draft pick. I just wrote about all the picks the Jazz have in the immediate future here, but here's the main point.
Utah is stockpiling picks and have the materials needed to make further moves -- for players or up in the draft. If it's a 2017 pick then the Jazz will have five picks in that draft, and have plenty of firepower to get the guy they want in that draft. If it's a 2015 then Utah will have three picks in that draft, and be able to continue finding the best young talent to add to the team right now. For a lotto team that has no intention of being a contender right now this move really helps the front office out.
The unsaid issue here is that this resolves the point guard question. Diante is out, and that means John Lucas III wins the 3rd string spot by default.
Why this does not:
Well, John Lucas III wins his spot with the team by default over the popular, and ever-improving younger player. Jazz fans love both Lucas and Garrett. But one was great off the court, while the other one was a sensible option on it. In a basketball move the team is losing out right now, and will move to pay the older guy, who is the more expensive guy, and also the worse player. Lucas' is slotted to earn (after we pick up his non-guaranteed contract) $1,600,000. That's more than 1.5x the cost of Garrett.
Furthermore, why this move was good for the Raptors in a basketball sense also applies to why this is bad for the Jazz in a basketball sense. Yes, he can hit threes and is better at it than two guys who rarely played for our team (Malcolm and Erik) -- but that doesn't really mean he's good. Novak is really a one trick pony who is an awful rebounder and awful defender. It's not like he's a three and D bigman. Or even a three and average bigman, like Rashard Lewis. He's a "Three and cringe" guy. We weren't crazy about Marvin Williams being our starting power forward and averaging 5.1 rpg this past season. Steve Novak has never averaged 5.1 rpg, he hasn't ever even averaged 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Furthermore, a $7 million player rental for a future 2nd round draft pick doesn't seem like a smart business move. I think you can get a 2nd round draft pick for something like $2 million on draft night.
For Toronto this may not actually help them continue stockpiling good players. Novak's cap hit was less than $3.5 million. They must have plans to really spend elsewhere if they felt the need to remove his paltry sum in order to stay under the luxury tax line.
This is the interesting part. The Raptors will be avoiding paying the $7,195,948 they owe Novak. Instead they'll be paying only $915,243 to Garrett or $0 if they don't guarantee his contract for this upcoming year. The Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is recognized as being amazing, and this could be evidence of this. It's likely that Garrett isn't going to be on the Raptors at all because they do have Kyle Lowry, Louis Williams, Greivis Vasquez, and possibly Nando De Colo on their squad as well. They also have All-Amar Team member Myck Kabongo on their summer league squad. So, yeah, likely saving $7 million for free.
The Jazz have money to spend, so picking up $3.4 million in 2014-15 and 3.8 million in 2015-16 shouldn't be a back breaker. It's just funny that this year he'll be making more money than possible starting shooting guard Alec Burks. For the record, if you add up all the players under contract and the two picks (Dante Exum and Rodney Hood ) the Jazz roster salary stands at $34,683,608 -- which is well below the slated salary cap of $63,200,000.
It is likely that John Lucas III now gets the call, so it would be prudent to add his $1,600,000 to the books sooner or later, though I still wish we'd go after Earl Watson instead. He's not so much into getting rookie's nails 'did', and more about playing with intensity on the court and teaching guys not to back down. Even with Jello shots near $2 million, the Jazz still have more than enough money to pay Gordon Hayward whatever he wants.
For the players involved, well, Garrett goes from being loved by a fanbase to probably auditioning for a job. He was slated to be on our Vegas summer league team, and I have no clue if he'll be asked to be on the Raptors summer league team or not. They have a bunch of point guards ready to take their team to the playoffs on the roster already, and not much space for him. Also, yeah, Myck Kabongo is probably a better pure point guard at this stage. I hope he does get on a summer league roster -- even ours -- and gets a chance to prove his stuff.
Steve Novak is going to get paid no matter what, and I don't think he's anything but a professional. As a vet who has played in big markets all of his career (Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors) this will be a change. He did play in 23 games for the San Antonio Spurs before -- so maybe this is another Dennis Lindsey thing. Who knows? He brings to the table a very limited set of skills, but is completely complimentary on offense to that of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter . If all he does is camp out behind the line, space the floor, and hit threes for 12-16 minutes a game I'm not going to be mad at him. If he plays more than 16 I will though.
I still believe the main prize here is the Raptors pick -- which by itself may not mean much or have much value (again, Toronto is going to be a playoff team for the next four years baring something crazy). But if used in conjunction with the other picks (especially in 2017) very great things can happen.
Trade Grade: A -
An "A minus" isn't the end of the world. It's what I have the Jazz for their Draft Grade as well. The Jazz use some cap space, clear up the point guard log jam, get a guy who can hit threes -- and a future pick. And they do it on the cheap. Toronto wins here as well, as they get cap relief and give up a guy that wasn't even in their rotation to do it.
Well done all around. I just feel bad for Diante.