Chaos has ensued in the NBA — and the draft is still a day away.
After a relatively underwhelming season, including the trade deadline and playoffs, the offseason has been worthy of buttered popcorn. Teams are making major moves, but the Utah Jazz, at least as of right now, have sat back and watched it all happen.
But that doesn’t mean the recent moves won’t have an indirect impact on the Jazz.
Lakers trade D’Angelo Russell to the Nets in salary dump
The NBA salary cap boomed after the league signed its massive television deal, causing borderline rotation players to get mind-numbing contracts. Center Timofey Mozgov was the first head-rattling signing of last year’s free agency period.
Even though he was a backup center for most of his career, the Lakers threw $64 million at Mozgov. That was his market value at the time.
As it turns out, the Lakers regretted that deal.
In an effort to correct the former front office’s mistake, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka traded Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets, who were willing to take back the albatross deal. But there’s a caveat: The Nets were only willing to take Mozgov if they also got D’Angelo Russell, who the Lakers selected second overall two years ago.
Russell, once considered a franchise cornerstone for the Lakers, was in a weird position since the team is expected to take UCLA’s Lonzo Ball with its second pick on Thursday. There’s only room for one starting point guard, and it seems the Lakers consider Ball to be the better long-term prospect.
Los Angeles also received Brook Lopez in the deal. Normally, Lopez would’ve been considered a difference-making piece, but he was merely added to the trade because his contract is expiring.
The Lakers shed $54 million of Mozgov’s contract and will now have the ability to sign two max-level players next summer. LeBron James has been linked to both teams in Los Angeles, as a reminder. Paul George appears to be a strong candidate to join the Lakers, too.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Nets no longer need a point guard. Russell, if things go according to plan, will lead Brooklyn for years to come.
Serbian guard Milos Teodosic was linked to Brooklyn before the trade, but now that Sean Marks got Russell, Teodosic isn’t needed there.
The Jazz were reportedly also one of the many teams interested in signing Teodosic this summer. The trade could clear the way for the Jazz to increase their pursuit of Teodosic once free agency begins on July 1.
And as KSL’s Andy Larsen noted, the other free agent point guards linked to Brooklyn, including George Hill, will likely no longer be options for the Nets.
Dwight Howard officially becomes a journeyman
Remember when Dwight Howard led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals and was often compared to four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal? That seems like an eternity ago.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Atlanta Hawks traded Howard to the Charlotte Hornets for the equivalent of leftover frozen pizza. Atlanta also traded its 31st overall pick to Charlotte and only got back Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick.
The trade is a realization of another mistake. The Hawks likely regretted signing Howard and probably wish they had offered Al Horford the money he wanted last summer. This was their way out of the $70.5 million contract.
This deal won’t change the Jazz’s free agency efforts, but it could have somewhat of an effect on the players on their current roster.
Rudy Gobert was fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game last season, snagging 12.8 a night. Howard was fifth at 12.7 rebounds. With all of his faults, Howard remains one of the league’s elite rebounders. There aren’t a lot of bigs who can compete with Gobert on the glass, but Howard is one of the few who can.
Since he’ll remain in the Eastern Conference, Howard won’t be seeing Gobert as often as he did during his time with the Houston Rockets in 2016, and their chances of meeting in the playoffs will be nonexistent, unless the Jazz and Hornets make the Finals.
In their eight career matchups, the two have split victories, winning four games apiece. Individually, Howard has gotten the best of Gobert, averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds. Gobert averaged 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, albeit with fewer minutes played. They essentially canceled each other out.
Howard won't be spending much time inside Vivint Arena, making life easier for Gobert and the fans in attendance with no interest in watching him clank free throws in the fourth quarter.