Potential Trade Options For The Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a nine-game win streak, and are suddenly tied with the Denver Nuggets for the second-best record in the Western Conference. As a result, the Jazz have thrown their names into the conversation as potential contenders to come out of the west.
However, the Jazz, like all other 29 teams are not a perfect roster and could better solidify their place among the best in the west by strengthening their potential weak spots.
First, in today’s NBA it must be pointed out that every team can use more shooting and more defensive versatility and the Jazz are no exception. There is no overkill when it comes to scoring the ball from the perimeter or making it difficult for the other team to score. Hence, the value of players on the Jazz roster like Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang is at an all-time high, despite being on remarkably small contracts.
Secondly, it must be noted that as a result of the Jazz playing so well, radically shaking up the roster is a bad idea. The Jazz are in tweak mode, not overhaul mode and with the NBA trade deadline looming on February 6, it’s doubtful the team will have a large enough sample size to feel confident that the need to make a major move with one of the top players in their rotation to take the next step.
With that understanding, Jazz fans should realize that while no player is truly untouchable in trade talks (If the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to trade LeBron James the Jazz would part the seas to make it happen), the majority of the current roster is probably a better fit and a safer fit than any reasonable alternative available in trade talks.
Those players who should be considered nearly untradable are as follows: Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson.
Gobert and Mitchell are franchise cornerstones and are simply too young and too good to move now. Bogdanovic and Ingles are near perfect wing players for the Jazz alongside Mitchell and Gobert and provide great production for their cost, and should continue to do so over the life of their upcoming contracts. The Jazz are 9-0 since acquiring Clarkson and while he could technically be moved again before the deadline, the firepower he’s brought to the bench would be extremely difficult to replace.
Though O’Neale is likely is a player the Jazz see as a long-term 3-and-D option on the roster, the Jazz have surely done their research on what the market will be for the soon to be restricted free agent this summer. With the sudden emergence of Clarkson, and the Jazz having nearly $100 million committed to Conley, Gobert, Bogdanovic, Ingles, Mitchell, and Bradley, figuring out how to pay both O’Neale and Clarkson, while filling out the rest of the roster could present some issues. If the Jazz felt they could get longterm value at a discount price by throwing O’Neale into a trade, it would have to at least be considered.
Conley is another player that didn’t make the list of untradable, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Jazz could, or would want to move the veteran point guard. The biggest drawback in trading Conley is that he’s an extremely high-level NBA player, and the sample size for his fit with the Jazz is minuscule at best. Conley has appeared in just 22 of the team’s 37 games, and by most metrics, the team is better when he’s on the floor than off. The $66 million owed to him this season and next (assuming he activates his player option) may be a bit daunting, but he can earn that money with playoff success for the Jazz.
As well as the team is playing, adding another near All-Star level player to the rotation seems like a home run, assuming the chemistry issues that appeared to plague the team early in the year can get rectified. However, if a can’t miss star ended up on the trade market before February’s deadline, Conley’s contract may be the only one the Jazz could use to make a deal plausible understanding Gobert and Mitchell are untouchable. Still, a Conley move seems highly unlikely in the next three weeks.
With that said, there are a few obvious spots where the Jazz may be exploitable over a seven-game playoff series that they could look to shore-up before making a playoff push.
The most obvious question mark for the Jazz is the backup center position. Ed Davis was brought in to fill the void when Gobert was off the floor, and the experiment hasn’t worked. Davis is currently out of the rotation and while the minutes Tony Bradley has provided are promising, they are yet to be entirely consistent. Bradley fouls too often and the Jazz often struggle as soon as Gobert goes to the bench. Finding a more proven backup center could pay dividends for the Jazz, especially in a playoff series when an opposing team will needle any matchup they find advantageous.
Another potential area of weakness is the third-string point guard or fifth rotational guard for the team. Currently, Mitchell, Ingles, Clarkson, and Mudiay fill that role. When Conley returns, he’ll join the Jazz starting lineup, and likely push Royce O’Neale to the bench to play alongside Mudiay and Clarkson with the reserves. Make no mistake, that’s a strong group of five players, especially with the emergence of both Mudiay and Clarkson. However, behind those five, there’s a steep dropoff in proven play to the next player on the roster, be it Rayjon Tucker or Nigel Williams-Goss leaving the Jazz thin in case of an injury.
These are a few players that would make sense are targets for the Jazz ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline:
Alex Len – Atlanta Hawks
After question marks about his future as an NBA player after his stint with the Phoenix Suns, Len has carved out a role as a solid rotational piece for the Hawks over the last two seasons. However, with the Hawks rumored to be pursuing either the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Steven Adams or the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond, Len could see himself demoted in the rotation, and looking for a new team this summer.
On an expiring contract, making just $4.1 million, with two young promising players behind him in Damion Jones and Bruno Fernando, Len could likely be pried from the Hawks for a minor long term piece, either in the form of a young player or a second-round draft pick. Len would be an upgrade for the Jazz as a reserve center, instilling more confidence in the bench come playoff time.
Willy Hernangomez – Charlotte Hornets
Admittedly, Hernangomez may not be able to provide the Jazz with more minutes than Davis currently does in the rotation, as he’s been mostly out of the rotation for a bad Hornets team. However, he does add the potential for shooting from the perimeter that neither Bradley nor Davis offers the Jazz right now. Any hope of the Jazz having a true five-out option left when Jeff Green was waived, but as a career 36 percent three-point shooter, Hernangomez might be intriguing for spot situation.
The 25-year-old center is on the final year of his $1.6 million contract and is saddled on the bench behind Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. He’s more of a gamble than Len, but at his low cost and expiring contract, adding another shooter at a spot the Jazz currently have none might be a worthwhile gamble.
Tim Frazier – Detroit Pistons
Fraizer has been asked to assume minutes as the true backup point guard for long stretches in Detroit with Reggie Jackson sidelined by injury for most of the year. However, with Jackson nearing a return, and Frazier finding himself out of the rotation in each of the Pistons’ last three games, the 29-year-old guard may need a change of scenery over the final months of his one year contract.
Frazier couldn’t be counted on to be a consistent difference-maker but in his sixth year in the NBA, maybe a safer bet in spot for the Jazz than the alternative. With the Pistons quickly falling out of playoff contention and looking to blow up the roster, a few change-of-scenery type trades could make sense for their expiring contracts.
Kyle O’Quinn – Philadelphia 76ers
In the bizarre center filled rotation of the 76ers, O’Quinn has found himself as the odd man out. The veteran center has played just once in the last 10 games for Philadelphia, despite Joel Embiid’s hand injury. O’Quinn carries a similar reputation to Davis, though nowhere near the level of rebounder Davis was in his prime.
O’Quinn is a no-nonsense backup center whose best days are likely behind him but may fit better with the Jazz than Davis has. On a $2 million expiring contract, O’Quinn could likely be had for minimal return.