Which Players Could the Utah Jazz Most Afford to Trade?
With the trade deadline looming, while the Utah Jazz tend to be a quiet team in regards to blockbuster deals, there’s a few players on their roster that could potentially be moved if the right opportunity arose.
With the trade deadline just over a month away, it won’t be long until the rumor mill really starts heating up. Of course some speculation has already begun and a few players have already found new homes as evidenced by the trade that sent former Jazzman Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but what we’ve seen so far is without a doubt just the tip of the iceberg.
Every year, however, while there are certainly some surprising deadline deals, typically the hype is more prolific and outlandish than the actual deals that occur. So far, all has appeared rather quiet on the Utah Jazz front as little mention has been made of the team making any sort of move prior to the trade deadline.
With the solid start the Jazz have gotten off to this season, that hardly comes as a surprise, though. Solidly at fifth place in the West and closing in quickly on the fourth place Clippers, in many ways Utah has surpassed expectations this season and it wouldn’t be hard to argue that their best course of action would be to simply stay the course and not look to make a move.
That may very well be accurate and could likely end up being the case, but that doesn’t mean that the Jazz shouldn’t at least have their eyes and their minds open to a trade that could potentially make the team better.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) January 13, 2017
And while the Jazz have worked hard to put together a nice core while adding some solid veterans this offseason to boost that core group, that doesn’t mean that if the right player became available or if the right situation caused a team to make a desperate move, that the Jazz don’t have a handful of players who could become expendable.
The Jazz are undoubtedly clicking very well so far this season so another thing they’ll have to consider is being careful not to disrupt chemistry, then there’s a couple of guys who for all realistic intents and purposes are flat-out untouchable such as Rudy Gobert who is having a monster season and recently signed an extension with the team.
However, the number of “untouchables” is pretty small in my opinion. If Utah is truly in win-now mode and serious about becoming a contender, then the right offer could very well tempt them. With that being said, the following is my list of the guys Utah should be most willing to move if the right opportunity presents itself.
Any Back-Up Point Guard
I went on a bit of a rant last week about how beyond starter George Hill who has been phenomenal for the Jazz, the rest of their point guard situation has been pretty bleak. Dante Exum has been perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the 2016-17 season, though many are casting much of the blame on Coach Snyder’s short leash with him.
Shelvin Mack, who through the first half of the season had largely taken over Exum’s role, has recently found himself back on the bench as his inconsistency, poor shot selection and tendency to turn the ball over likely finally wore Snyder’s patience too thin. Finally, Raul Neto has put up some good minutes, but it’s been in an extremely small sample size.
Therefore, I’m rolling all three of these guys together, as any one of them could very likely be the weakest link and most expendable for Utah to move. Not only do the Jazz not have a need for four point guards anyway, but these back-ups have all largely been place holders rather than impact players and none has been vital to Utah’s success so far this season.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) January 18, 2017
There have been a few whispers of Raul Neto being a potentially good fit and target for the Charlotte Hornets but it’s unclear what Utah would get in return there. A solid reserve point guard is currently one of Charlotte’s biggest needs but I don’t think trading one mediocre point guard for another in return is really the way to go.
Plus, if Neto does end up being the new number two point guard moving forward based on Exum and Mack’s struggles, perhaps trading him isn’t quite the right move.
While Exum has certainly made himself expendable this season, I also would hesitate to trade him just yet also. While some have already written him off, I’d say it’s way too early to call Dante a bust just yet given his young age, high potential and truthfully solid rookie season. However, if the right team calls whose looking to give up some talent in order to rebuild and stock their roster with high-ceiling guys, I could see the Jazz rolling the dice on moving Exum.
But the one that has likely made himself the most expendable due to exhibiting neither consistency nor untapped potential is Shelvin Mack. Mack’s done his job as a placeholder as I mentioned before, but certainly hasn’t been consistently spectacular.
The problem with that is that Mack may not net much in return for those same reasons, but on the other hand, he’s played well enough at times that a team that’s desperate enough for point guard depth may be willing to part with something useful for the Jazz such as a veteran big in order to take Shelvin.
While something like that would definitely be the best situation out of these three reserve point guards, at the end of the day all three of them should be considered movable if the right opportunity presents itself.
In my mind, there’s no questioning that Trey Lyles has been a disappointment so far this season. In a recent Purple and Blues post grading each Jazzman so far this season, Ryan Aston perfectly captured my feelings on Lyles. It’s an excellent piece, so make sure to give it a read in it’s entirety, but for now, I just want to borrow one line from that piece that I felt particularly hit home:
“[Lyles] continues to have big games and big moments, but he’s also been inconsistent on both ends of the floor and even looked selfish at times.”
Lyles’ inconsistent shooting and those selfish moments Ryan alluded to have been quite frustrating this season as have his struggles defensively. With Boris Diaw now in the mix (despite the fact he’s had some struggles as well) Lyles’ role on this team has become a lot less vital.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) January 20, 2017
True, his potential is high and many thought that in a league that has quickly embraced small-ball and stretch-fours Lyles could soon be good enough to even serve as a replacement for Derrick Favors. Nevertheless, he hasn’t quite lived up to that so far this year.
However, while he hasn’t been spectacular and made himself vital to the Jazz yet this season, he has played well enough and has a high enough ceiling that if Utah has enough confidence in Derrick Favors and Boris Diaw carrying them for the next few years, they could potentially net a pretty nice prize by deciding to trade Lyles.
Frankly, I’d say it’s too early to give up on him, but again if the right situation comes up, there’s no reason why the Jazz couldn’t at least consider parting ways with Lyles to bring in reinforcements elsewhere in the form of a proven veteran or a trusty back-up point guard.
Honestly, when Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles are playing well, and upon considering the tough financial decisions the Jazz will have to make in the near future regarding their young core, it makes a lot of sense to look at options for moving Alec Burks.
There’s no denying he’s a good player who’s capable of electrifying the offense, but he’s also been so injury-prone that he’s literally had no impact on Utah’s success this season. That isn’t a knock against him as a player, but it’s just become quite evident that while perhaps it would be nice insurance to have a healthy Alec Burks, the Jazz don’t need him in order to be a threat in the West.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) November 4, 2016
Maybe that will change in the upcoming month or so if Burks is able to get healthy and become an integral part of the bench, but to this point he’s definitely not a crucial piece to Utah’s solid play, particularly with several capable wings on the Jazz roster playing well.
However, the tricky thing is that while Burks certainly had the potential to be a coveted trade prize when he signed his four-year extension with the Jazz in 2014, his inability to stay healthy has dropped that value immensely. Unless Burks can show some promising glimmer of his former self in coming weeks, it’s not likely at all that the Jazz will be able to get much value for him.
Nevertheless, hypothetically speaking, if some team was willing to bite on Burks, the Jazz would do well to move him for someone who could make an instant impact (even if it was just short-term) all the while alleviating their pay roll significantly so they can focus on extending the likes of Derrick Favors and George Hill.
Unpopular opinion alert: Despite how good Rodney Hood can be at times and regardless of the fact that when he’s firing on all cylinders, the Jazz offense is notably better, I’m of the opinion that he is somewhat expendable for the Jazz. Part of that is because of the key words I mentioned earlier – “when” and “at times”.
Sure, every player goes through slumps and inconsistency is to be expected, but Hood is extremely inconsistent. When the average Jazz fan thinks of Rodney, they think of a knock-down shooter, but his mediocre shooting numbers of 41.8 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from deep would say otherwise.
Hood has had some incredible moments, is definitely a starting shooting guard talent in the league and still has room to grow before he’s hit his ceiling, so unlike some of the other players I’ve mentioned on this list, he really does have the potential to bring in some value if the Jazz decided to get bold and move him.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) January 14, 2017
That move could be to strengthen an area of weakness such as perhaps the power forward spot or back-up point guard spot or perhaps just to bring in a straight-up replacement at the starting shooting guard position. I don’t know quite who that would be at the moment with trade rumors relatively quiet at the moment, but if anyone could find a sneaky-good swap to improve the Jazz, there’s no one I’d trust more than Dennis Lindsey.
In fact, Dennis Lindsey could tell me that the sky was purple and the world was flat and I’d probably trust him, but that’s besides the point.
All I’m saying is that while Hood has been good for this Jazz team, if there’s an opportunity to make them great by bringing in someone who’s a bit more reliable, perhaps more experienced and a bit more disciplined in terms of shot selection all without disrupting chemistry, then Utah can’t be afraid to move a piece of this Jazz team that is often mistakenly perceived as vital.
Chances are, the Utah Jazz won’t make that big of a move before the trade deadline with any of their key guys. Given that they’re enjoying high success for the first time in several seasons, they’ll likely want to see how the year plays out including in the playoffs before making any team-altering decisions.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz make a smaller move, such as with one of the back-up point guards, to subtly make this team better and I suspect they’ll at least be very willing to listen to any offers coming in for the guys I mentioned previously.
I toyed with the idea of including Favors in the list due to his struggles this season, but due to the fact that he was nearing “untouchable” status just last season, I don’t think Utah would really consider moving him just yet. Although given that they’ve had great success without him, just as they have without Burks, perhaps it would make sense to consider him somewhat expendable.
Nevertheless, to reiterate, given the vital role he’s played previously with the Jazz, I’m not ready to throw him in that loop just yet.
— Purple & Blues (@PurpleandBlues1) January 5, 2017
The other guy that crossed my mind with a huge, and I mean HUGE caveat is Gordon Hayward. If he’s planning to stay with the Jazz long-term, then given the way he’s played this season the Jazz should hold onto him with everything they’ve got. He’s truly turning into a leader for this squad and having an All-Star caliber season.
However, if Hayward expresses his intent to head for greener pastures in free agency, then the Jazz would be wise to try to move him to secure some high value for him rather than lose him for nothing. But fortunately for the Jazz, there’s just no way I see that happening before season’s end, let alone by the trade deadline.
Hayward has constantly expressed a desire to play on a winning squad and the Jazz have done everything in their power to put that kind of talent around him. He fits in great on this team and is being hailed as a hero in Jazzland. There’s no doubt in my in that he’s going to ride this team out through the playoffs before seriously considering other options.
If he then decides to bolt from the Jazz, the hope would be that Utah could work out a sign-and-trade, but of course the best case scenario would be to simply hold onto Gordon long term. In all honesty, my gut is telling me that Hayward is going to stay put. There’s just been too many positive signs this season that seem to indicate that he’s not ready to leave this Jazz team just yet.
If he does, I’ve already prepared a list of top replacements for him, but I’d honestly prefer to just not dwell on that.
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However, beyond Hayward, Favors, Hill, Gobert and a few of the reserves, as you can tell from my list, the Jazz certainly have a number of guys they could afford to trade if the return was just right.
And while I don’t expect anything too drastic, with a roster genius like Lindsey calling the shots, the best bet at all times is to expect the unexpected.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com