In the weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline, the Utah Jazz were expected to make a move that would strengthen their defense in a way that would make them a more viable title contender.

The most obvious and most rumored pieces on the trade block for the Jazz were Joe Ingles and a future first round draft pick. There were other options to create a package to send out to another team (Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, end-of-bench players), but those were the biggest pieces. 

When Ingles suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Jan. 31, expectations had to be adjusted. 

The Jazz were going to need to move off of Ingles’ contract to create a spot for a player that would actually be able to play, and his contract no longer had the same kind of value it did before he was hurt. The prospect of giving up a future first lost a bit of its appeal because the return it would net wouldn’t be the same as it would have with Ingles healthy.

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On Wednesday the Jazz traded away Ingles, two second round picks and Elijah Hughes in exchange for Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Portland Trail Blazers (who picked up Alexander-Walker in a trade earlier in the week from the New Orleans Pelicans) and Juancho Hernangomez from the San Antonio Spurs.

Alexander-Walker and Hernangomez were not the flashy, defense-changing pieces that Jazz fans had originally hoped the Jazz would pick up at the trade deadline, but the Jazz lost a bit of their capital and of their leverage so the fact that they got back pieces at all, without giving up a first round pick was a good thing.

Many expected that the Jazz would continue to make moves on Thursday before the midday deadline, and though the Jazz were active in seeing what was out there, they didn’t make any other deal. So now that the trade deadline has passed, we take stock of what the Jazz have, what they gave up and what comes next.

What the Jazz gained

New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) is fouled by New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in New York. The Pelicans won 102-91. | Adam Hunger, AP

Hernangomez is not expected to be a part of the Jazz’s rotation, but he also gives the Jazz depth. He’s a strong power forward that can shoot from outside and could help the Jazz in situations where they are injured or in foul trouble in the frontcourt. Other than that, he’s an expiring contract that the Jazz don’t really have to worry about maneuvering around once the season concludes.

Alexander-Walker is the more intriguing piece that the Jazz got back at the trade deadline. A quick 6-foot-6 third-year guard out of Virginia Tech, Walker came out of college as a really impressive two-way prospect. He is quick defensively and provides length on that side of the ball at his position and on offense he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and can create for himself and others.

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Who is new Jazzman Juancho Hernangomez?

But his time in the NBA has been a bit of a letdown compared to what his overall potential was believed to be. What we know is that Alexander-Walker has the tools and the ability to be a really good defender and that his shot selection and efficiency has not been great.

With the Jazz the hope is that a better situation, with better spacing and more intensive and intentional coaching will allow Alexander-Walker to improve and be impactful.

What the Jazz lost

Utah Jazz forward Elijah Hughes (33) dribbles past Milwaukee Bucks forward Sandro Mamukelashvili during an NBA preseason game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. | Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Hughes, while a good developing young player with a lot of raw potential, was not going to get legitimate playing time with the Jazz.

The Jazz gave up two future second round picks, but what’s important to remember is that they did not give up any firsts.

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More importantly, the Jazz traded Ingles and in the long term not having the locker room presence of Ingles is definitely something that the Jazz are going to miss. On the court, Ingles was valuable, but he was also in decline and hadn’t been playing well this season in particular.

But Ingles was a voice that was respected by all Jazz players and was often important in peacekeeping situations. On Wednesday night, Donovan Mitchell explained that while the Jazz traded Ingles’ contract it didn’t really feel like they’d traded the person, because Ingles intends to go through his ACL recovery in Utah. So the Jazz haven’t completely lost out on Ingles’ presence just yet.

What to expect in the days to come

Utah Jazz forward Danuel House Jr. puts his hands on his head during game against the Houston Rockets in Salt Lake City.
Utah Jazz forward Danuel House Jr. (25) puts his hands on his head after a foul call as the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Houston won 116-111. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Jazz still have two open roster spots and it is expected that the Jazz will use one of those to sign Danuel House, who was with the Jazz on multiple 10-day deals recently, for the rest of the season.

House joining the team for the rest of the season and the playoffs is probably the biggest and most impactful move that the Jazz will end up making, and its expected that House will be a part of the Jazz’s rotation moving forward.

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In the not so immediate future the Jazz will need to decide if they want two-way guard Trent Forrest to be eligible to play in the postseason. If they do, they’ll need to convert his contract to a standard deal and use the final roster spot on him. 

Meanwhile the Jazz also have an open two-way spot and would open up the second if they sign Forrest to a standard deal.

Now that the trade deadline has passed and the Jazz know what they’ll have moving forward, the next step is to get Alexander-Walker up to speed, get him integrated with the team so that he can learn the system and the Jazz can evaluate if he can be an effective player.

The Jazz definitely gained more depth over the last two days, but whether they got better remains to be seen.

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