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Utah Jazz in trouble or merely mired in adversity?

Amar and MyLo talk about whether Utah is in trouble and if the Jazz should make a move this trade deadline.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Amar and MyLo talk about the Utah Jazz’ recent struggles and whether Utah is in trouble or just dealing with other adversities.

MyLo: Good Valentine’s Day to you, good Amar. May you focus on your wife tonight and not on the Jazz’s 3 game losing streak.

Amar: Happy Saint Valentine’s day to you too, Mychal -- and your first full Valentine’s day for your growing family.

MyLo: Yeah, sleep is a premium with a new baby. But more sleep is being lost to the Jazz’s struggles over the past 3 games. 5 games ago we were ready to crown Utah the inevitable champion of the Northwest Division and eventual #4 seed in the Western Conference. Now? They look terrible getting beaten up by the Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Clippers.

So the question bears asking: Which Utah team are they? The one that wins bigly against the Atlanta Hawks or the one that allows layup drills at home against the Clippers?

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Amar: Perhaps the sad truth, in an easily observable test (the 2016-2017 NBA Season), is that it’s not an issue of ‘which Jazz team is going to show up tonight;’ but rather, that this team IS our team. The Jazz, this transition Jazz, have many faces and sides to it. The game-to-game inconsistency seems to be a prevailing character trait. It’s the same offense. It’s the same shots. It’s just not the same results. And that’s not something we should value as ‘bad’. It’s just ‘is’. This Jazz team is one that has the potential to blow out a playoff team, and the potential to blow away what should be an easy win on paper.

Finding out who you are, and finding a way to love yourself for it is really the first, true, Love. Isn’t that Agape in Greek or something, Mychal?

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MyLo: Agape is how my jaw has been watching these Jazz losses. Utah’s ability to be consistent is like my six pack. Some days I’m really good about eating right and working out and other days I self-sabotage through heavy doses of Mac & Cheese. As with any other skill, consistency can be learned through experience or the Utah Jazz can go out onto the free market and “purchase” that consistency at the market value.

We just saw the Toronto Raptors make a trade for Serge Ibaka in exchange for Terrence Ross and a 1st rounder (late 20s like the Jazz pick will be). As Utah fans look at the PF position in Utah being a weak spot (sorry, Favors, lmao), Jazz fans will be quick to point out that Ibaka could have been in a Jazz uniform. So my question is ... do you think Utah should make a deal at the deadline?

Amar: I love this team. I love the players on this team. But I’m not a few fan of the short-term, on-court performance of this team. Does that mean we should make a change? This isn’t the same thing as a wife getting a new hair style to bring something ‘new’ to a relationship.

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In fact, the one thing this team hasn’t had ANY problems with seems to be inter-personal relationships. Chemistry can derail the greatest of talents — just check out what’s happening to the Chicago Bulls, to a lesser extent the New York Knicks (of pretty much any era after Pat Riley), or to an even more insignificant level, the career of Sacramento Kings center, perpetual All-Star headache DeMarcus Cousins. Making a change to make a change has never been in the Jazz’ playbook. Making a change that could shake up the locker-room is going to be something Dennis Lindsey and company really have to weigh.

Every possible move could be a domino. The team has a number of guys effectively fighting for their next contract - some want a pay out, some want stability and security. Most of them play the same position (George Hill, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto) — while others are deeply rooted to either what this team has done or what they may be about (Joe Ingles is in a contract year and is very close with Gordon Hayward and Dante Exum; Alec Burks and Derrick Favors are part of the older regime, but have been Jazzmen since their rookie years).

Do I think the Jazz should make a deal at the deadline? No. We have to trust that this team is just going through an early season slump — but because of injuries it was delayed to February. That means the team will be on the normative upswing on the way to the playoffs. Making a move now, even if it helps in the short term, doesn’t get the Jazz over the top of the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. So don’t make one.

But I’m very conservative in those matters. I would have kept Devin Harris instead of trading him away and replacing him with Mo Williams. (Two different trades, btw.) But maybe being conservative about this is useless in today’s changing NBA with a crazy new salary cap, and shorter turn around times for expected returns on front office moves?

Blah. It’s frustrating. But that’s why I don’t play GM mode in NBA2K or visit the trade machine. YOU DO BOTH. So fix this problem!

MyLo: I agree with the chemistry aspect of Utah’s decision. This team likes each other. They get along. All the players match what we like to see in a Jazz player. High character, work in the community, say the right things to the media, low key in public for the most part, and work hard in the offseason to stay in shape. It seems almost hyperbolic to say THEY MUST TRADE FOR SOMEONE after a few losses, but a few losses is the difference between the 4th seed and the 7th seed in the West right now. That’s the difference between having homecourt in the 1st round vs getting swept by the Spurs.

So where do they go from here? The Utah Jazz have less than one half of a season’s left of cap space before the possible cap space hell of a Hayward max deal, Rudy extension, and George Hill extension hit the books for next year severely limiting the Utah Jazz’s flexibility for the next 4-5 years. Dennis Lindsey is in a terrible position of having to figure out how he’s going to keep this team together while providing himself enough wiggle room to have consistent improvement in the hopes of the Jazz creating a contender.

NBA: Preseason-Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Five games ago we would have said, “Wow he’s done it!” But after 3 brutal (not close) losses, we’re left wondering if it was all snake oil.

Amar: Well a core that is built around Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, hopefully George Hill, and a few untouchables (Rodney Hood and Dante Exum still under rookie contracts) should be a Western Conference Playoff team. And we’ve seen that when this team is clicking they can really put the hurt on other teams. I guess the issue now becomes (knocking on wood here) that if the Jazz — this Jazz — are a playoff team: How are they going to remain one? And how can they take the next step?

Spending cap space on your foundation is the sane thing to do, and you hope that they get you from a 4th to 8th seed to a Top 3 seed in the next 2-3 seasons. There are going to be some additions and subtractions along the way. I don’t know how much more Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw have in the tank. And I honestly don’t know how much we can expect from Trey Lyles and Joel Bolomboy to ‘evolve’ into the PF that Quin Snyder needs. But it’s about baby steps for me. Make the playoffs this year. Do what you have to in the off-season to retain Hayward. Repeat the process the year after that, and keep building up a winning program.

I’m not fully worried about the cap. And I don’t think the Jazz are going to dip their toes into the Luxury Tax anytime soon — unless this is a Western Conference Finals team. And right now it’s not. So there’s no reason to be in a rush. We suffered through some bad times. We want immediate success now. But it’s a slow road back up the mountain.

MyLo: So what do you do about a guy Derrick Favors or Alec Burks? Favors hasn’t looked great all season and it nigh approaching the time when his contract will be hard to unload while receiving something of value back. Alec Burks, while he has had some flashes of his old Burks ways, is still recovering from year after year after year injuries.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

I agree that Utah’s core of Hill, Hayward, and Gobert is a core to build around. But beyond that is Favors the PF that works great for the system? Can a PF that fits Utah’s new mold be had at the deadline? I’m not so sure ... but I think Dennis Lindsey is going to try. It feels as though Dennis Lindsey has approached this season’s roster as a complete opposite of last year. Last year he was conservative. This year he’s wheeling and dealing starting with the draft and ending with free agency. Does that trend continue into the trade deadline?

Amar: I think, and this is just my own feeling here with no evidence to back up this statement, I think that Lindsey will be willing to fire off a little more freely NEXT season. I think this season he has to be able to talk to Hayward’s people and show him on good-faith that the team is moving in the right direction (make the playoffs), show him that Hayward can be a star in a good system (G-Time in the All-Star game), and show him that Utah is in win-now mode (brought in George Hill for a lotto pick, signed 7x All-Star Johnson, etc).

If the Jazz make the playoffs he has achieved all of those tasks - and brings the most possible money to the table to retain Gordon.

Shaking things up NOW could pay off in the short term. But making moves (letting Kyle Korver walk, trading away Ronnie Brewer at the deadline, etc) to make moves was what got Deron Williams so pissy.

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets, Game 1 Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

What is NOT opinion (bringing “NOT” Jokes back like Borat) is that it is easier to make trades after the season. And evidence has shown that the Jazz are active then. Heck, the Jazz have a bushel of draft picks to get rid of, packing them with Favors and/or Burks seems like the next step. Get that done in June (after a playoff round or two with them on the team) to make the cap space necessary to get all the Free Agency stuff done in July.

Of course, nothing is sexier than making a deadline trade. And Utah has the capability to pull it off. If you’re the GM, do you pull off that move to add sexiness to this Jazz team?

MyLo: As soon as I type, I don’t think the type of Power Forward that matches Utah’s identity is available this comes across the wire.

What do you think, Amar? Could you live with Danilo Gallinari or Taj Gibson at the 4?

Amar: Gallinari (a 6’10 SF/PF with range) is precisely the right guy for the Jazz on offense. I have no trouble with that, save for that he’s 28. Trading away youth (Favors and Burks are both 25 for example) for age is a home-run if you are getting back the best player. Danilo is the best fit. I wish he was a little younger though.

What trade works? Derrick Favors / Shelvin Mack and junk for him? (Trading Mack here not just because he’s Mack — but also because Gallinari wears #8, which is currently occupied by Mack.)

Mylo: The trade would work. One of the rare Trade Machine trades that makes things “worse” for both teams. What’s hard about any trade with Denver is we have to see our old flames in Nuggets’ uniforms. Stab me with a spork.

Amar: And we’ll also see them not make the playoffs. It’s hard to see your ex flourish, worse still to see them suffer. (I heart: Gordan Giricek, Dee Brown, Morris Almond, Trey Burke, et al.) As for any potential Denver trade, I think they’d want something more than just Favors back -- even if they plan on playing him at PF (or back-up center). Kenneth Faried is still on the books for THREE YEARS at a price tag larger than Favors’. They may wish to off-load some other dead weight like Mike Miller ($3.5 million for two). It sucks. We can’t succumb to that “Big Market Fan” mentality of taking away a team’s best player while giving them back our leavings.

I can’t see Shelvin being called anything else at this stage. Even if you replace him with Burks it’s still not great because Denver is still heavy inside with big contracts to forwards (Wilson Chandler for $11 million, Darrell Arthur for $8 million).

MyLo: So lets use the Orlando deal as a framework. They had to give up a young promising asset to obtain Ibaka. I’d say Ibaka was worth more on the trade market than Gallo or Gibson. He’s a PF that can block shots, defend, and hit the long ball. Gallo and Gibson are more specialized. But I’d imagine Utah would be giving up their 1st rounder. One odd trade that might be interesting would be a straight swap with Faried coming to Utah and Favors going to Denver. Faried might fit Utah’s defensive scheme better which allows them to switch at every position while knowing that Gobert is there to cover their back. Favors fits Denver’s better which allows them to have someone who can go low post while Nikola Jokic dictates the offense from the top of the key.

Amar: I don’t know if Faried has “Jazz DNA” though, which is a problem for any potential courtship of Faried. He was raised by a monogamous pair of lesbians.

Is that going to go over well with Gail Miller? I do agree with your Xs and Os assessment though.

MyLo: I think if Karl Malone was able to possess Jazz DNA, anyone can possess Karl’s Jazz DNA. Also, it’s sad that we have to mention that as a possible knock against a trade bringing Faried to Utah. But should be noted that Salt Lake City has an openly gay mayor so this would be a step in the right direction in un-backwardsing Utah.

Amar: I think “Jazz DNA” needs an influx of non-Jazz DNA if Jazz DNA leads to lots of home losses and a lack of toughness on a game to game basis. (Haemophilia?) Faried has shown an ability to hustle like crazy. He’s just not a floor spacer, though. I don’t know what this means for Boris Diaw, or the development of rookie Bolomboy, or the youngest player on the roster, Lyles.

MyLo: Kenneth Faried would be a Trevor Booker on steroids. Right now the Utah Jazz starting lineup possesses the skills to be a great team, but we can see times when Boris Diaw, though he lacks the skills now, can lift the starting lineup because he just believes he’s better than everyone else. He makes those crazy passes because he believes he can. Sometimes it pays off, more often than not it doesn’t anymore. Faried’s best skill is he plays like he’s about to run through a concrete wall. Right now the only Jazz players who play like that—Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw—don’t possess the physical abilities Faried does. His hustle would endear him to every fan in Utah.

Amar: So it is done. The Jazz trade for Faried -- not the forward we wanted from Denver. But the one we deserve. Or something like that.

Mylo: I believe our work is done here. You’re welcome, Utah.

Amar: Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you are single know that you can buy a lot of cheap chocolate tomorrow!

Mylo: If you are married know that you will be going to Wal-Mart at midnight for your spouse to buy a lot of cheap chocolate.

Amar: And if you are Dennis Lindsey, know that you don’t have to make a trade this deadline.

Mylo: But if you do, remember not to leave your house with a fallen tree on it which would require your wife to embarrass you on social media.