The NBA trade deadline for the 2021-22 season is February 10th but a sneaky important date is upon us, December 15th. Why? A large amount of players that signed with teams this latest offseason will be eligible for trade. It’s quietly one of the most important dates of the year. Teams that have buyer’s remorse, or are looking at someone they missed on in free agency, have a second chance to retool their roster.
It’s no coincidence that as we are approaching the 15th, we’re starting to see multiple trade rumors like renewed Ben Simmons rumors like this one today.
Even though the Jazz are already very good, and the addition of Rudy Gay has looked like a game-changer for them, the Jazz can’t sit tight at trade deadline. A move for the Jazz that improves either their starting unit, or gets them an impact player to come off the bench, could make them frontrunners for the championship this season. Here are three players that seem reasonably gettable that could be the difference for the Jazz.
Larry Nance Jr - Portland Trail Blazers
Nance was acquired by the Portland for a protected 1st round pick (1-14) and Derrick Jones Jr. Portland traded for Nance but has given him a reduced role off the bench and, not surprisingly, his numbers have suffered because of it. Nance’s minutes have gone down from 31 MPG last year to 20 MPG this year. His percentages have also gone down. Last year Nance shot 36% from three and is now at just 28%.
So why would the Jazz want Nance?
Well, it wasn’t long ago that Nance was averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The numbers get more interesting with Nance as a starter. 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals. All of this while spacing the floor and shooting 37% from three. Nance is a player that does all the little things that help a team to win.
My favorite stat for Nance is deflections. It’s a stat that has gone down a lot for him this year as well because of his reduced role. But last season Nance was #5 in the league for deflections at 3.4 per game. Currently the Jazz are 29th out of 30 teams in deflections per game at 12. Are you seeing what I am seeing here?
Nance is also a super unselfish player that moves the ball when he’s on offense but will take the open spot-up three. On defense he’s athletic and creates multiple transition opportunities every game. Those are things the Jazz are in dire need of. Utah also is in need of more athleticism and defense without sacrificing spacing.
The fit also makes a lot of sense if the Jazz are looking to consolidate their possessions with their two best offensive players, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. With the Blazers looking to improve their roster around Damian Lillard, they’d probably be happy to trade Nance for Bogdanovic. In a vacuum, Bogdanovic is likely considered the better player.
Now, lower those pitchforks, Jazz fans, and hear me out.
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley are playing the best basketball of their careers and you want to put the ball in their hands as much as possible. As good as Bogdanovic is as a shooter, and he does provide an element of shot creation that’s nice, he has deficiencies in rebounding and defense that can be exploited. The Jazz’s offensive rating is #1 in the league by a large margin. They’re 5 points better per 100 possessions than the second-best team. It’s actually pretty bonkers at this point. It makes you think that at some point does Bogdanovic’s skillset become superfluous? Utah’s strategy of out-offensing other teams has fallen short in the playoffs multiple times now and at some point, the Jazz have to find a way to improve their rebounding, defense, and athleticism.
The other consideration is the versatility Nance would bring. The Jazz have recently started using lineups with Rudy Gay at the 5. And even though it’s looked pretty good offensively with Bogdanovic a the 4, Having Nance means the Jazz could play him at center and keep Gay at the 4. It would allow them some serious versatility on defense and offense in the playoffs that they’ve only started to unlock. For these reasons, it’s a trade the Jazz have to consider.
Eric Gordon - Houston Rockets
This one probably makes too much sense. Jazz fans will tell you that the major reason they lost last season was the injuries in the playoffs to Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. But the biggest reason was probably Utah’s inability to guard on the perimeter. Don’t forget, if the Jazz had literally anyone that could slow down Jamal Murray the year before, the bubble might have been a lot different.
Gordon fills a serious need for Utah by giving them a point of attack defender that they could play in spot minutes that could slow down an opposing team’s lead guard. Royce O’Neale is a very good, sometimes great, perimeter defender, but sometimes struggles against the quicker scoring guards in the league. Eric Gordon could be that guy in specific matchups in the playoffs for Utah.
Gordon is also shooting the ball well this year. For the season he’s shooting 47% from the field and 43% from three. As a bench player for Utah, he could provide even more efficiency to the Jazz offense making them more potent, and versatile, on both sides of the floor.
For the Rockets, why would they make the trade? Gordon’s contract is the first reason. Gordon has three years left on his contract and is making $18 million this year. In two years it rises to $20 million. It’s the second-biggest contract on the team behind John Wall. That’s a big contract for a player in his thirties that is likely a bench player for the rest of his career. The Jazz have a couple of options to make this one worth it for the Rockets. They can either send the Rockets a 1st round pick plus Jordan Clarkson or they could send them an expiring Joe Ingles contract plus a pick that would help them clear their books. One of the best things for a rebuilding team is having the cap space to take on contracts to collect more picks, just ask Sam Presti.
This might be my favorite option for the Jazz because it really helps one of their biggest deficiencies and could be the thing that takes them over the top.
Harrison Barnes - Sacramento Kings
This is probably the least likely of these three trades but it’s one that most likely takes the Jazz over the top. Harrison Barnes is probably the best player on the Kings at this point and for the Kings to want to do this they have to be big fans of Bojan Bogdanovic. It’s not to say they wouldn’t probably think about it, but Barnes is a better overall player than Bogdanovic. He basically does everything better than Bodanovic except Bogdanovic has the edge in shooting. To make it happen Utah likely has to add things to make this worth it for the Kings. The problem is that Utah doesn’t really have the most enticing draft pieces or young players that could make this more possible. The carrousel of trades for centers the last few years has really crippled Utah’s ability to make a trade like this. **Sighs in Desmond Bane**
The other reason this is tricky is the delusion of the Kings. One of the downsides to having a play-in tournament is it gives teams like the Kings the false belief that they are some sort of contender. The Kangz are the Kangz and that means they’re gonna Kangz. Instead of making moves to either bottom out to start a proper rebuild, they’ll likely make a push for the play-in and miss it by a game or two which means they’ll end up with something like the 8th or 9th pick in the draft and repeat the cycle next season.
But hey, I really want Harrison Barnes on the Jazz because he does all of the things we talked about with Nance, just better. He’d make the Jazz a serious powerhouse and easily give them the best chance at a title they’ve ever had. If the Kings are remotely interested in some sort of move like this, the Jazz should leap at it.