The NBA trade deadline is a remarkable combination of drama, excitement and intrigue. You have disgruntled players who feel the proverbial grass is greener elsewhere. You have young players for whom a trade can open things up for their careers. And you have veterans in losing situations hoping for a chance to contend. There are general managers and owners looking to fine tune their team’s mix, or in some cases, to blow things up. You also have moves purely with financial forecasts in mind. And there are, of course, agents smack in the middle of things–for better or for worse. Lastly, you have media members constantly reporting different things from hour to hour. It’s a glorious time of the year.
Well, for the most part.
Thursday, February 23 is finally upon us. After weeks (months?) of speculation, everything comes to a head. On the heels of a somewhat exciting All-Star Weekend, everyone’s attention has been focused on what potential moves are out there.
The Utah Jazz are not an exception. The team’s success has instilled a greater excitement for the next two months and the return to the Playoffs. It surely has the team’s followers more attentive than usual, which is saying a lot.
Questions abound. Should the Jazz stay pat, as there is a great cohesiveness about the team? Or should they make some moves to shore up depth? And are there moves that allow them to progress long-term, while keeping their aspirations of a good postseason run still intact?
For many years, the Jazz were typically not regulars when it came to brokering deadline deals. That has changed a bit under the Dennis Lindsey regime.
As we enter the final stretch, here is a review the deadline deals from the recent past:
February 19, 2004: the Utah Jazz trade forwards Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten to the Phoenix Suns for forward Tom Gugliotta, two first-round picks, a 2005 second-round pick and cash.
This trade came in that illustrious post-Stockton and Malone season where Jerry Sloan coaxed out a marvelous performance from a team some predicted to be the worst team in NBA history1. It was a roster full of overachievers, including the hard-working Handlogten.2 The Jazz also possessed a lot of financial flexibility and they used it in a deal to acquire some long-term assets. Gugliotta was at the end of a nice career and was making $11.7 million–money the Suns wanted to shed. The Jazz absorbed his deal and picked up some picks along the way. His modest contributions on the court were icing on the cake.
The Jazz used one of the picks for Kirk Snyder–an unmitigated disaster. But five years later, the other pick–acquired by Phoenix through the ineptitude of the New York Knicks–eventually became Gordon Hayward. Hayward has worked extremely hard, improving each season of his seven-year career. His recent All-Star nod is potentially the first of many for the talented swingman, who has become — along with Rudy Gobert — the face of the franchise. His pending free agency is undoubtedly a factor with any moves Utah makes this week or in the summer.
February 19, 2004: the Utah Jazz trade guard DeShawn Stevenson and a second-round pick to the Orlando Magic for guard Gordan Giricek
Stevenson had an up-and-down tenure with the Jazz. Drafted straight out of high school, he encountered some off-court troubles that marred his early career. The athletic guard played a reserve role his first three seasons and was eventually given the chance to start. Stevenson was solid, but was definitely not spectacular: 11.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2.0 APG as a starter (although he did have this redeeming interaction with Ricky Davis). His perimeter shooting was poor, which caused spacing issues3. Thus the move for Giricek, which was consummated on the same day as the Gugliotta transaction.
Giricek is best known for his rough relationship with Sloan. He seemed to have frequent stays in Jerry’s doghouse. But for four seasons, he was a decent perimeter threat. His first season, he was quite good (13.5 PPG and 36% 3s)–enough for Larry H. Miller to approve a four-year, $16 million deal. He never reached those marks again, but had moments. Eventually he was traded in a December deal for sharpshooter and fan favorite Kyle Korver4.
February 18, 2010: the Utah Jazz trade guard Ronnie Brewer to the Memphis Grizzlies for a 2011 first-round draft pick.
This was a move that disappointed a lot of Jazz fans, as well as a franchise point guard in Deron Williams. Brewer had become a fan favorite thanks to his tireless energy, his defensive effort and his athletic dunks. Few players in Jazz history have functioned better without the ball. While his shooting was a weakness, Brewer shot a high percentage and looked to be a mainstay in the back court. Well, the Jazz were in the midst of some financial bedlam, thanks to several large contracts ($59 million combined for Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams and Paul Millsap5). With C.J. Miles showing some modest improvement and undrafted free agent Wesley Matthews crashing the party, Brewer was shipped out for a draft pick which was used that off-season to bring in Al Jefferson.
Brewer was reportedly on the team plane to fly out for a road trip when word came out. He bid his farewells to his coaches and teammates and went to Memphis. He unfortunately was hurt his first game with the Grizzlies and never played for them after that. His career took a precipitous fall and was much shorter than anyone could have predicted.
February 23, 2011: the Utah Jazz trade guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets for big man Derrick Favors, guard Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks.
This will always be a major date in franchise history, coming just 12 days after the infamous Jazz/Bulls game that ended up being Sloan’s final one at the helm. The discord between Sloan and Williams was evident and whatever transpired that fateful evening proved to be the final straw for the venerable coach. Tyrone Corbin was installed and Utah tried to get back into a groove, but things were still not right. There were whispers that Williams had his eyes on different teams, many in bigger markets.
Then came the shocking news that D-Will had been shipped across the country to the Nets, in exchange for a package of promising players and valuable draft picks. The Nets had been in talks with the Denver Nuggets for the then-pouting star Carmelo Anthony. After their offer was usurped by the New York Knicks, the Jazz and Nets moved quickly to make this happen. Williams had been the heart and soul for Utah. His talent was remarkable, while his attitude was sometimes sour.
Who won the trade? It is pretty clear, six years later. Williams battled constant injuries throughout his time in a Nets uniform and fell far short of expectations. This was especially the case after they acquired veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Williams’ leadership and desire to win was questioned publicly by Pierce. He has since settled into a nice role with the Dallas Mavericks, and could prove to be a solid third guard for the next few years. Even so, I don’t think this is what D-Will was envisioning when he moved across the country6.
Utah picked up recent No. 3 pick Favors and then selected Enes Kanter with that June’s third overall pick. Favors has been terrific for most of his time in Utah, current struggles notwithstanding. He, too, improved each season. He developed a good midrange jumper, became more adept in his ability to finish and has been a formidable defensive presence for the Jazz. Harris was serviceable before being traded for Marvin Williams, who also was a nice veteran for the Jazz in his two seasons.
Kanter was a different story. He grew each season in Utah, displaying flashes of being an elite offensive player. His litany of moves was enticing, as was his uncanny ability on the offensive boards. Conversely, Kanter’s defensive struggles, unfortunately, were well chronicled. Ultimately, his immaturity took over and he demanded a trade. More on that deal shortly.
The final draft pick in the Nets trade was part of the package that enabled Dennis Lindsey to move up for Trey Burke. That transaction did not bear as much fruit as many hoped. Burke regressed each season, thanks to his poor shooting and below average decision-making. As a result, he found himself behind Dante Exum, Raul Neto and Shelvin Mack his final two seasons. Last summer, Utah had to cut its losses, shipping Burke to the Washington Wizards.
When it is all said and done, the Jazz sent Deron Williams for Favors, Kanter (for three years), Harris/Williams (two seasons apiece) and part of Burke. Kanter and Burke have since become a few draft picks. While not a complete home run, it was a good haul for a player most felt was going to bolt Utah when he became a free agent.
February 19, 2015: as part of three-team transaction, the Utah Jazz trade center Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder for center Kendrick Perkins, forward Grant Jerrett, the draft rights to center Tibor Pleiss, a 2017 second-round pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick (the Detroit Pistons were the third team)
During the course of the 2014-15 season, Gobert made an incredible leap. His progress was way ahead of anyone’s schedule, except perhaps his own. As he filled in as a starter, Gobert showed the reIt was viewed as a good predicament for a young up-and-coming Utah squad who was starting to put some things together. Some thought Favors, Kanter and Gobert could co-exist as a dynamic three-man lineup. Having three quality young bigs was the envy of many.
Kanter felt the opposite. He wanted to be the man and was not content splitting those minutes with Favors and Gobert. A week prior to the deadline, he publicly demanded a trade. It was the first in a series of poor PR moves by the once-beloved Kanter. While it was not entirely surprising that he was not enamored with Gobert’s ascent, going to the press was unprofessional and lessened his trade value. Utah was forced into a corner, and did what it could to salvage. The return was not great. Perkins was bought out. Jerrett proved to not be NBA talent. Ditto with Pleiss, who the Jazz had to jettison out in a cost-saving move. The first-round pick, coming from the Thunder, could be the only return for the former #3 pick.
That said, there is a clear addition-by-subtraction factor here. Gobert has continued his climb, becoming perhaps the most formidable defensive presence in the game. He is making his case for a bevy of honors (Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved, All-Defense, All-NBA). That may not have come as quickly if Kanter was still in the fold. Moreover, the Jazz saved themselves financially, avoiding paying the max contract he received from Oklahoma City.
Kanter has since become public enemy number one for Jazz fans, given his comments post-trade and some of his in-game antics since then. While he is being compensated handsomely, ironically, his playing time has decreased each season since the move. This, even after Kevin Durant fled to Golden State.
February 18, 2016: the Utah Jazz trade a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for Atlanta Hawks point guard Shelvin Mack (part of a three-way trade, also involving the Chicago Bulls)
With Exum out the entire season and Burke struggling, Neto was the de facto starter. Not ideal. Much of the talk leading into the trade deadline centered on acquiring a top-flight point guard. Names bandied about were Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday and not-so-coincidentally, George Hill. While nothing materialized, the Jazz completed a sneaky good move, picking up Shelvin Mack. Mack had had some nice seasons as Atlanta’s back-up point guard, but found himself third on the depth chart. Quin Snyder had spent a season with Mack, so was familiar with his game. He immediately made an impact and assumed the starting spot his second game. Mack surprised everyone, putting up 12.7 PPG, 5.3 APG and 3.8 RPG in 28 games. While he has struggled this year — sometimes trying to do too much– Mack has been a nice acquisition for the cost.
While we’ve covered the past decade-plus of trade deadlines, it should be noted that Jeff Hornacek was acquired on a last-minute deal. The addition of #14 was the most influential trade in franchise history and deserves a post of its own.
What will happen the next few days for the Jazz? The rumors are starting to fly. Perhaps Utah will add another trade or two to this list by 3:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon.