With the NBA steeped in rumors leading up to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, a lot of names have popped up in connection with the Utah Jazz. Among the most prominent are Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley.
Reports from Shams Charania and Tony Jones have connected both players to the Jazz as potential trade targets. Just yesterday, Jones added another nugget saying the Wizards have “significant interest” in Derrick Favors and that he would have to be included in any trade for Porter.
One major wrinkle in the prospect of trading for either of these players is their respective contracts. Both players would be expensive, though it’s not a matter of affording them. It’s whether or not the cost is worth the benefit of having one or the other on the roster.
Porter Jr.’s contract isn’t pretty. He’s currently the 17th-most paid player in the league at $26 million ahead of guys like Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo (all of whom are in the $24-25 million range).
Were the Jazz to acquire Porter Jr., he would become the highest paid player on the Jazz roster —even more than Rudy Gobert — and that’s not even including his 15 percent trade kicker which would add about $8.4 million over the next two seasons.
Still, that price tag is reasonable to some because Porter is just 25 and shows a lot of promise (just ask our very own Jordan Cummings). He’s a great 3-point shooter along with being long and athletic with good handles for a guy who plays 40 percent of his minutes at power forward (per Basketball Reference).
Also consider that, last season, Porter had eight games with 25-plus points (playing next to John Wall and Bradley Beal), showing his capability of scoring in bunches. So while he’d be overpaid, it would be worthwhile for the enormous value he could bring on offense and even defense, where he has also shown potential.
Things change, however, when you substitute Conley in for Porter. The former is actually cheaper when factoring in the latter’s trade kicker, but there isn’t quite as much to be excited about.
To be clear, Conley would be an immediate upgrade at point guard over Ricky Rubio. Compared side by side in a vacuum, only someone lacking all of their mental capacities would choose Rubio over Conley.
But trades and rosters aren’t built in vacuums. All factors have to be considered.
A trade for Conley isn’t just another addition. It would be billed by the front office as “adding a third star” (as it would in a trade for Porter). That third star is the thing every Jazz fan has been hoping for since it because obvious Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert couldn’t beat the Houston Rockets on their own. But Conley likely won’t be able to fit that bill for very long.
Conley turned 31 in October and is at the end of his physical prime if he hasn’t already left it. And while it’s true he’s operating at a career-high level even when he’s on the wrong side of 30, it’s far from a guarantee things will stay that way even until next season.
If we rewound the clock just three years or so to a 27 or 28-year old Conley, things might be different. Utah would still get two or three years of prime Conley with a few declining seasons where he still produces well (like he is right now). But that’s not the Conley the Millers would be paying for.
With Gobert just barely entering his own prime at 26 years old and Mitchell years away from recognizing his true potential, Dennis Lindsey has to consider age and longevity in his search for the third and final piece in Utah’s star trifecta.