The NBA shopping season is coming to a close for the campaign on Feb. 7, the league's annual trade deadline.
Once again, Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey will be trying to find ways to improve the team. Since Lindsey’s arrival, he hasn’t shied away from last-minute trade deadline deals. In the past he’s traded away Enes Kanter for a draft pick (which eventually became Ricky Rubio), and last season, Lindsey send Rodney Hood to Cleveland in a three-team deal for Jae Crowder, which was a straight-up robbery.
Lindsey has plenty of assets to use. Not only does he have all of his future first-round draft picks (one can never be frivolous with these), but the roster he has assembled has many players who would help other teams improve.
The most likely trade candidate is probably Derrick Favors. The reason for this isn’t that the Jazz or their fans don’t love him, but in the modern NBA, Favors’ best role is as the center. The Jazz love having him back up Rudy Gobert, but in the minutes when Favors is playing as power forward next to Gobert, the offense too often seems to be stuck in neutral.
As of Monday, when these two share the court, the Jazz offense has a decent 100.8 rating, but defensively it’s excellent, posting a 98.4 rating. Overall when the Wasatch Front shares the court, they sport a 2.4 net rating.
While the Favors-Gobert combo has been good, the Jazz have been excellent when Jae Crowder plays next to Gobert. As of Monday, the Crowder-Gobert combo had an offensive rating of 108.0 and a defensive rating of 100.2 for a net rating of 7.8.
If Lindsey and Co. decide to go all in on small ball and trade Favors, finding trade partners shouldn’t be difficult because there are teams out there that lack a solid starting center. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. The Wizards might have one of the worst center lineups in the league. They’re starting Thomas Bryant in the middle, who has proven to be a good backup but not a starting center on a playoff team.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the “The Jump” mentioned to “watch out for Utah and Sacramento in the potential Otto Porter sweepstakes.” Washington has been a dumpster fire for most of the season and has been looking to shake things up by moving one of its so called Big 3. John Wall seems to have an attitude issue and will start his albatross of a new contract next season (four year/$207 million), which no other team should want a part of. Bradley Beal is the keeper of the three, and that leaves Porter as the odd man out.
Porter is a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward who has been a favorite of the NBA analytics community. Per 100 team possessions, last season he averaged 23.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals. He is also a lockdown 3-point shooter, averaging 40 percent for his career. Kevin Bloom of SB Nation's Bullets Forever community wrote, “Put simply, Porter excels at the things that win basketball games while avoiding the stuff that loses them. He makes shots, plays good defense, rebounds the ball, while he avoids turnovers and fouls.”
After looking at his analytical numbers, why would the Wizards want to trade him? First thing, as mentioned earlier, the Wizards need some change. Secondly, he has two years left on a contract that will pay him an average of $27 million a season. Porter is being paid like a star but is just a high-level starting forward in the league.
If the Jazz trade for Porter, it would take them out of signing any big-time free agent (like Tobias Harris) this summer. It also wouldn’t ease the scoring burden that has been placed on Mitchell, a reason why Harris could be a better fit.
On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that Harris or another star will migrate to Salt Lake City this summer. Trading for Porter gets them a really good player now, even though the $54 million owed to him is a lot. Lindsey would have to decide if Porter’s $54 million is a better contract for what the Jazz want to do or if offering Harris a max deal (four years/$145 million) to get him here, even if he isn’t worth the max, would be a better play.
Porter’s contract would expire when the Jazz would need money to re-sign franchise cornerstones Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
Trading Favors (and probably Thabo Sefolosha to help the salaries work) for Porter makes a lot of sense for both teams. A combo of Porter and Crowder as power forwards would give the Jazz 48 solid minutes of a spread floor lineup. Washington would get Favors, who is an excellent pick and roll partner for Wall and Beal. Adding Sefolosha would give some depth to their already thin roster and most importantly give the Wizards two high-level character guys to help stabilize their locker room.
Porter is the top guy to trade for, but if it doesn’t work out, then who else is available to grab? Kevin Love has been a popular name among Jazz fans, but his injury history, his struggles to guard in open space and his new four-year $120 million contract leave a trade unlikely. Plus the Jazz gave Cleveland Hood and Alec Burks and got back Kyle Korver and Crowder in trades. The Cavs may be be, like the Denver Nuggets, a bit apprehensive in trading with Lindsey again.
A player who the Jazz were rumored to like at the draft a few years ago is Aaron Gordon. The Magic have a glut of big men, so they don’t need Favors, but a point guard is a huge need. Would the Jazz give up Rubio to secure Gordon? If not, then getting a third team would be necessary.
Gordon looks the part of a modern power forward, but shoots worse from 3-point land (31 percent) than Rubio. He is super athletic, can guard multiple positions and has a good handle but seems to leave fans wanting more. Gordon is still young, and maybe the top-notch developmental staff Lindsey has put together could help him reach his potential.
Elsewhere, the Memphis Grizzlies are finally open to trading Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The Jazz's interest would lie in Conley. He has been a borderline All-Star for years and would be an upgrade at point guard. Age and injury history are concerns, as the 31-year-old has missed signifcant time throughout his career.
A few other names to keep an eye on are players like Miami's James Johnson, New York's Tim Hardaway Jr. and maybe even Chicago's Jabari Parker. The Heat are stuck in no man’s land and would like to get off a few contracts, but Johnson might not have Jazz DNA. Hardaway has been rumored as someone the Jazz should target, as he would help ease the burden placed on Mitchell even though he isn’t the greatest 3-pointer shooter (34 percent). Like most players on this list, Hardaway is overpaid with the two years left on his $17 million a year contract. The only way the Jazz pick up Parker is if the Bulls buy him out, and even then it might not happen.
The Jazz have a good solid playoff team, and Lindsey will have to decide whether at the trade deadline or this coming summer is the best way to help the Jazz go from good to great.