What to make of the Jazz’s trade that sends Joe Ingles to Portland and brings back Nickeil Alexander-Walker?
Utah agreed to acquire Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Juancho Hernangomez in exchange for Joe Ingles and Elijah Hughes, but might not be done making moves
The Utah Jazz are set to acquire Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Portland Trail Blazers and Juancho Hernangomez from the San Antonio Spurs in a deal that will send Joe Ingles, Elijah Hughes and a future second-round draft pick to Portland and another future second-round pick to the Spurs, according to league sources.
Whether this is a good deal for the Jazz is up for some discussion and it also depends on what else, if anything, the Jazz do before Thursday’s trade deadline. So let’s look at this from all angles.
First, we have to look at what the Jazz were going to be able to net for Ingles. Many were hoping that the Jazz were going to make a deal that would bring in a wing defender that could shore up the Jazz’s defense as they make a run at an NBA title. But, hopes had to be brought down to earth a little bit when Ingles suffered a season-ending left ACL tear on Jan. 31.
Before the injury, Ingles was a useful veteran piece that could still be traded to a team that wanted him to play. After the injury, the Jazz were going to have to pay to get rid of Ingles’ contract. There was a general belief that the Jazz would have to package a future first-round pick with Ingles in order to get off his contract, but they avoided that on Wednesday.
Had Ingles remained on the Jazz’s roster, not only would he not be playing and taking up a roster spot, but it would have cost the Jazz nearly $30 million in luxury tax.
Hughes, while a promising young talent with some raw potential, was not going to be a part of the Jazz’s immediate rotation. By packaging these two contracts the Jazz stand to save roughly $11 million. But money is not the only reason the Jazz did this deal. If it was purely about money, they could have just found a way to get rid of Ingles for players they could waive or any other number of solutions.
Alexander-Walker, 23, who was traded earlier this week to the Blazers from the New Orleans Pelicans, is someone that the Jazz feel like they could utilize at a higher level than the Pelicans did. He has both defensive and offensive tools that he showed off in college but he’s been inconsistent to say the least since he was drafted in 2019.
Sometimes inconsistent situations breed inconsistent performances, and the Pelicans have been all over the place the last couple of years. So it’s fair to think that Alexander-Walker could have more success in a more stable and successful environment, but it’s all pure speculation at this point.
It’s still unclear what the Jazz plan to do with Hernangomez, a 26-year-old power forward. He doesn’t seem like a player who would jump in front of Rudy Gay or Eric Paschall for minutes in a regular rotation so could just end up being an end-of-bench insurance player.
The Jazz could also not be done making moves. There are still players on the Jazz roster that have been rumored to be on the trade block (Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gay) and the Jazz could trade Hernangomez or Alexander-Walker straight up for other players (their salaries can’t be combined with other Jazz players to make the numbers work).
League sources expect the Jazz to sign Danuel House once the trade deadline passes on Thursday at 1 p.m. MST, and the Jazz could also have their eye on another player or players in the buyout market after the deadline passes.
If the Jazz end up doing nothing else before the deadline, they will have at least been able to move Ingles’ contract without having to give up a future first-rounder and brought back players who can actually play. Then they’ll sign House.
If the Jazz aren’t able to get any other moves made then there will certainly be room to be critical of them not really pushing all their chips in this season. But we’ll hold off on any criticism until we know what is what. The truth is that we just don’t know if the Jazz are done wheeling and dealing.