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NBA Free Agency 2016 Rumors: Utah Jazz interested in Luol Deng, Solomon Hill, and Jared Dudley?

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Trey Burke on the move? Gordon Hayward is not. Luol Deng, Jared Dudley, and Solomon Hill? Worth it? Really? And the passing of Pat Summitt.

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NBA FREE AGENCY BY CRAZY! Also, dispelling stupid rumors, investigating obvious news, and looking back at two people all Utah Jazz fans should know more about. The historical relevance of Jeff Malone, and the coaching legend Pat Summitt. Oh yes, all this and Utah Jazz stories too!

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It is a sad day for basketball fans everywhere. Why? Because former NCAA basketball head coach Patricia Sue Summitt passed away. I've been addicted to basketball since 1984 and even I must admit that I did not know enough about Pat Summitt during her lifetime. But what little I knew (mostly from old Sports Illustrated print magazines) led me to believe that she was nothing short of a titan made of excellence. The 64 year old passed away yesterday, and it's a shame to see yet another giant in sports move on from this world to the next.

I'm not going to pretend that I have some specific insight or memory of her that makes me more relatable in the passing of a great person. But lots of people actually do, and I want to share some of them here.

For the record, limiting her to being just a coach who won a lot with female athletes is demeaning, and similarly calling her just an NCAA basketball coach invalidates her domination of the sport on all levels. But at the NCAA level she has a 1098-208 (.841) coaching record, won the NCAA Division I championships 8 times, was an SEC Champion 16 times, and won the SEC Tournament 16 times. The Basketball Hall of Famer helped bring home two silver medals and one gold to the US of A, and as a coach steered her team to four more golds and two silvers.

The honors she achieved in life (so many trophies, awards, records, and commendations), legendary as they were, will all be forgotten in time but her veritable orchard that is her coaching tree will live on for generations to come. (Seriously.)

So she wasn't an NBA Player and had nothing to do with the Utah Jazz. So why is she the first beat in this Downbeat? While she empowered so many women, let's not forget that she also coached men as well -- either to be better players, better coaches, or just in general better people. She was hard-nosed and old-school. She was a vastly more successful version of Jerry Sloan, with maybe like 7 fewer technical fouls.

The game of basketball bounces a little less high today without Pat Summitt in this world.

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We missed it yesterday, but former Utah Jazz shooting guard Jeff Malone just had his 55th birthday. Who is Jeff Malone and why was he important? I think that older Jazz fans like myself (and by no means am I the only Jazz historian out there, or even in the oldest of Jazz fan age groups) have an obligation to provide the younger Jazz fans a frame of reference for why we may think the way we think. At the very least the oral history (or blogger online published history) of our small tribe must be passed down to the next generation so that future generations will not have to re-learn everything we already went through. So again, who is Jeff Malone, and why is he important?

Malone was a Top 10 lotto pick in 1983 by the, then, Washington Bullets. (Now known as the Washington Wizards). He played for the Bullets for seven seasons, was the starter, and averaged 32.8 mpg for their franchise. He was a shooting guard in a time when that did not necessarily mean being someone who had three point range. (After all, the three point line was introduced to the NBA in the 1979-1980 NBA season, guards back then did not grow up specifically trying to hit shots from there.) As a result of the time he played in and the skills he developed, Malone wasn't a three point threat. He finished his entire 13 year career having gone just 86 for 321, a 26.8% mark. Attempting only 0.4 threes a game. But while he was not a three point threat he was a legitimate scoring threat.

If you eliminate his rookie year in the NBA and his last season in the NBA his yearly scoring average is as follows: 18.9, 22.4, 22.0, 20.5, 21.7, 24.3,18.6, 20.2, 18.1, 16.4, and 18.4 ppg. With the Bullets he was routinely the defensive focus for the other team, and when he finally did join the Jazz he was locked and loaded to be one of the most dangerous and reliable 2nd options Karl Malone has ever played with.

So how did he get to the Jazz? He got to Utah in a three team trade between Washington, Utah, and the Sacramento Kings.

Washington Utah Sacramento
Pervis Ellison (SAC) Jeff Malone (WAS) Bob Hansen (UTA)
Eric Leckner (UTA)
1990 1st rounder (Anthony Bonner) (UTA)
1990 2nd rounder (Walter Palmer) (UTA)
1990 2nd rounder (Phil Henderson) (UTA)
1991 2nd rounder (Mike Iuzzolino) (WAS)

Hansen was the starting shooting guard that had filled in for the increasingly injured and rapidly aging former Rookie of the Year, Darrell Griffith. Bobby Hansen was passable at times, and he really had the unenviable task in the 1988 NBA Playoffs to cross-guard Magic Johnson (Showtime era Los Angeles Lakers), but it's clear that if the Jazz were going to build off of John Stockton and Karl Malone (and Mark Eaton) that they needed some more firepower.

This trade bridges that surprising 80s Jazz team to the possible future of the NBA, and this trade was completed in the 1990 off-season.

In a Jazz jersey Malone flourished. Jerry Sloan had a playbook that worked to his strengths, Karl Malone took a lot of the defensive pressure off of him, and John Stockton got him the rock exactly where he wanted it. "J.Malone" (as the back of his jersey said) played in nearly 300 games for the team and knocked down a lot of mid-range jumpers. He average 18.5 ppg off of 15.4 shots a game, shooting .502 / .242 / .881 for his time in Utah. In his 34.4 mpg he also managed to average 2.6 rpg and 1.9 apg.

Clearly his All-Around game wasn't that of a legit mini-star player. His scoring was there. But then again, once Thurl Bailey averaged over 18 a game for the Jazz. A lot of that is finding a gap in the defense and allowing John to get you the ball.

With two Malones, an Eaton, and Stock what were the on-court results like?

  • In the first year they won 54 games, were 2nd in the division, and lost in five in the second round to the Portland Trail Blazers.
  • The next year they won 55 games, were 1st in the division, and lost in the West Finals in six games to the Portland Trail Blazers.
  • The year after that they won only 47 games, finished 3rd in the division, and lost in the first round of the playoffs in five games to the Seattle Supersonics.

John and Karl were peak John and Karl. But the high scoring, but limited everywhere else Jeff was a problem. He didn't handle the ball well or distribute effectively. He wasn't a two-way player. And he was a shooting guard in the NBA during a time of transition where more and more teams were taking -- and making -- the three point shot.

The Utah Jazz brass had to move him in order to move up.

Utah Philadelphia
Jeff Hornacek (PHI) Jeff Malone (UTA)
Sean Green (PHI) 1994 1st Rounder (B.J. Tyler) (UTA)
1995 2nd Rounder (Junior Burrough) (PHI)

In both trades the Utah Jazz received the best player. While Malone helped the Jazz go from a surprise team in the playoffs to a consistent team that can win a round, Hornacek helped the Jazz go from a team at their ceiling to an actual Championship contender. (Hornacek was an All-Star with the Phoenix Suns and his Philly stats were: 19.1 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.2 threes per game, while shooting .470 / .390 / .865 -- arguably way better than Malone's Bullets stats, or even more arguably, Gordon Hayward's Jazz stats as the 1st option today.)

With Malone the Jazz won a lot of regular season games, but when the playoffs started it was clear Utah needed to move one of their best players in order to move up. I'm happy that they did, Horny was one of my favorite non-Jazz players for a long time before this Trade Deadline Deal went down.

So what is Jeff Malone's legacy? It's not easy to score between 18-20 ppg off of just jumpers, without the long-ball, and doing it while shooting around 50 FG%. What he was capable of doing hasn't been replicated by any Utah Jazz guard since. On the other hand, the team took the next step after dropping him. He exists within the continuum, but overall his accomplishments are overshadowed.

The Bobby Hansen trade brought in Jeff Malone, who was then traded for Jeff Hornacek -- a better shooter and better overall fit who helped the team become great. There are some significant parallels here to the DeShawn Stevenson trade (impressive for a year, like Hansen) that brought in Gordan Giricek, who was then later on traded for Kyle Korver -- a better shooter and better overall fit. I'm not equating Jeff Malone to Gordan Giricek here. Malone was a great fit for Jerry Sloan, while Giricek was not. As a result, a lot more was put into the system because of Malone vs. the near endless frustration of Giricek.

But within the bigger picture they were both traded players who immediately upgraded the team, who were traded themselves later on to help the team take the next step. But even if you do the apples to oranges comparison, you see two players (Malone playing about 10.0 mpg more over his career) who averaged about the same about of RPG, APG, SPG, and BPG, but one guy shot twice a much and averaged less than twice more. The big difference is Giricek shooting 2.0 threes a game and making .368 of them vs. Malone shooting 0.4 threes a game and making .268 of them. They both shot in the 80s from the FT line and Giricek's .442 isn't that much worse than Malone's .484 overall. Of course, there is no equalizer needed, as Malone played over 20,000 more career NBA minutes. Sample size matters here.

The apples to apples comparison against Jeff Hornacek shows that in this case being great at one thing isn't better than being good to great at many things.

I remember watching Jeff Malone on TV, and he was a helluva ball player. Jeff was a better ball player than many of the guards who have followed him onto the Delta Center court. My memories of him cherish both his immediate impact on the team that sorely needed more reliable scoring, and the exponential improvement of the team overall after adding Horny. In the big picture I find it unfair to diminish him to that of a Giricek-ian overall impact, but I guess he was precisely that if you look beyond the stats.

History does seem to repeat itself over time, I wonder who is the Jeff Malone of this era of Jazz basketball? An impact veteran who was traded for, and then after some time traded away for someone better who helps the team take the next step? Is it Shelvin Mack, or does it have to be a shooting guard, specifically?

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Lots of nostalgia so far today, huh? I can't help it. Things, people events, they have meaning to me. I think it would be a great waste of my life if I failed to use whatever platform this blog is in ways that helped share some of the basketball lore I accumulated in my life with others. But there's also Utah Jazz news as well. The "news" we have today is that the Utah Jazz are shopping point guard Trey Burke. Trey, a guy who has a really ridiculous resume that includes countless NCAA awards and honors all the way up to a few NBA game winners and three Rookie of the Month awards, is on the last year of his contract. It's a contract year. It's a high motivation year for a guy who has become a better player every year in the league.

In locker clear out last year Trey revealed that Quin Snyder was up-front and told him that he wasn't in the rotation just because Quin liked Shelvin Mack better for his system -- it wasn't because of anything Trey did or did not do on the court. It's just personnel and fit. There could be better fits out there on the eve of this Utah Jazz point-guard-palooza (George Hill, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and the draft rights to three point guards Olivier Hanlan, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace -- and Mack), or so says ESPN's Marc Stein:

I guess first of all, duh. The Jazz were shopping him LAST season around the trade deadline, and probably even before then. Having Stein get this info now and release this info now may be to drum up some interest. And honestly, you really devalue your asset if you drop him out of the rotation and get him DNP-CDs. Utah did not up the market price for their talented but poor-fit guard. And in doing so hurt themselves.

It's going to be interesting to see what Trey actually goes for, or do the Jazz just swallow up his very manageable $3 million dollar contract that's on the books and let him go to where he needs to go? I think that there are guards like Trey who do make it in the NBA, NCAA guys who had a bigger name who had to be humbled and learn how to be a role player. Guys his size and his skill set like Jameer Nelson, D.J. Augustin, and Jerryd Bayless come to mind -- they take a while to get effective in the NBA. And some of them are free agents this year. I think Trey, who is still younger than Rodney Hood, actually is more valuable to a team going forward than those guys.

But the market and GMs will decide that.

I'm a Burke supporter. I'm not going to stop being one just because he's not a good fit with the current system my favorite team runs. I'd love to see him repatriated to the Eastern conference, hopefully with the Detroit Pistons. (In the SB Nation blogger mock draft we did just that in a three team trade, by the way.) He could be Stan Van Gundy's back-up PG version of Jameer, getting open shots after open shots because Andre Drummond is posting up all day long. Meh, we'll see what happens.

If the Jazz are able to move Trey, even with his tanked market value during the #playoffpush, then we will all move in a progressive way. But I don't think that it's news that he's available. ESPN is just doing what they do when agents or front offices tell them stuff. But it's not a surprise at all, most of us are more than just expecting Burke to move on, but are already planning for that day.

A chance of pace, a new team, a fixed role, and a change of scenery may help Trey Burke in this critical year of his professional basketball career. I think he could be a solid NBA player, even a starter in the right spot, down the line. With the current skill set of this team, and their style, it's just not here. And that's a shame to those of us Jazz fans who were Trey Burke fans even before he joined the team -- and will remain so even after he is moved.

Play your game Trey. It's what got you here and it's what helped you lead your teams to victory so many times.

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Oh, speaking of obvious-isms . . . remember that rumor about Gordon Hayward being unhappy with the Jazz and that the team was trying to accommodate his trade demands? Well, those rumors were quickly and sufficiently dispelled. Superstar DJ, and sportswriter, Jody Genessy breaks it all down here at the DN. Here's an excerpt:

Brian Geltzeiler, founder of Hoopscritic.com and an insider for Sirius XM NBA Radio and 120 Sports, tweeted out the following:

"League sources tell hoopscritic.com that the Utah Jazz are actively trying to trade Gordon Hayward.

"Hayward has expressed his unhappiness in Utah and the Jazz are attempting to accommodate him per league sources. ...

"League sources tell hoopscritic.com that the Boston Celtics are pushing hard for Hayward and the Jazz are not biting right now. The Jazz are putting a steep price tag on Hayward. It remains to be seen if Boston will pay it, but Brad Stevens wants Hayward."

There's one major flaw in those tweets.

The premise — that Hayward is unhappy and has demanded a trade — simply isn't true, multiple sources in the Jazz organization and close to Hayward told the Deseret News.

- Jody Genessy, Deseret News, 2016

My comment: Duh.

Of course, it's worth the click over to read the details, which involve everything from actual logic to Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey actually saying stuff. READ IT!

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Free Agency rumors be crazy right now? Remember all those people hoping on the Jared Dudley train? Now people are getting hyped about Luol Deng and Solomon Hill? Well, full posts on them coming up later on today, but man. These don't have that same Jeff Hornacek-ian type of impact. Or even a Giricek-ian impact. I'm compiling a free agency big board and ranking system. Right now the data doesn't make me jump for joy when these players are the names we're hearing:

  • Deng: 25th overall, 11th at Small Forward
  • Dudley: 59th overall, 20th at Small Forward
  • Hill: 89th overall, 26th at Small Forward

While it's fair to say that a Top 30 SF in a free agency class *should* be better than Chris Johnson . . . you could actually go out there and get someone who is a little better than just a Top 30 SF. Sure, I'd rather have Kevin Durant (1st overall, 1st at SF) . . . but there are other names out there that aren't just Durant: Nicolas Batum, Marvin WIlliams, Ryan Anderson, Evan Fournier, Kent Bazemore, Evan TUrner, Allen Crabbe, heck, Gerald Henderson? There are a lot of guys I'd rather throw money at than Deng-Dud Hill.

But that's just me. I'm a fan. I'm not a GM or an Agent. And I'm happy I am where I am.