Dennis Lindsey: “Nothing Sacred” in Jazz’s Search for Star

May 22nd, 2014 | by Dan Clayton
If the Jazz want a top prospect like Andrew Wiggins, they'll have to get creative. (Getty Images)

If the Jazz want a top prospect like Andrew Wiggins, they’ll have to get creative. (Getty Images)

The fifth pick in an NBA draft is normally a huge asset, but if was ever OK to feel a little dejected about occupying that spot, it’s this year.

It’s supposedly a 4-man draft at the top, with potential franchise stars Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum likely to be off the board right when Utah’s draft clock starts.

This is particularly disconcerting to the Jazz, who, as GM Dennis Lindsey discussed with us on Tuesday, came into this off-season hoping to land a franchise-type player. As Lindsey told SCH the other night, “There’s nothing sacred.” Translation: everything’s negotiable relative to finding that type of guy.

Which has many fans wondering if there’s opportunity to move up. Consider this your guide to the trade-up landscape. Let’s take a look at what might be involved and render a verdict on whether or not there’s actual hope to do so.

The market

The trade-up discussion doesn’t go anywhere unless someone sitting above the Jazz is willing to talk. Since that’s a pretty finite list, let’s start there.

Reports out of Cleveland suggest the Cavs would be willing to discuss trading the #1 overall pick, but only for a “bona fide All-Star.” Even if we take the rumor at face value, the Jazz clearly don’t have an All-Star to offer. The closest thing that they have that is actually tradable leading up to the draft is Derrick Favors.1 Not sure if Favors + 5 + whatever else gets it done if there are teams on the line with All-Star offers.

There’s absolutely no noise about the Bucks willingness to trade #2, and it’s hard to imagine them coming to terms with moving all the way back to #5 when they were initially in line for the top pick. They do have needs all over the board, and they have a bad contract or two, but so far it sounds like they’re zeroing in on the talent at #2, with Parker and Exum in their sights.

The Sixers tanked so exquisitely and deliberately to get inside the top 3 that I can’t imagine they’d trade #3. They don’t really have bad salary, they don’t need cap help, and they already have multiple picks in the top 10.

Orlando is marginally interesting, only because a fair amount of noise suggests they’re seriously considering Marcus Smart, who they could certainly grab with the #5 pick if they wanted to score an extra asset and get their guy all at the same time. However, they also already own a second lottery pick and they possess a fairly clean salary sheet.

Remember, not everybody’s draft board looks like the Jazz’s, and not every team has the same priorities. But with these four teams in particular, it will be tough to get them to sit down at the negotiating table.

The history

History only matters as much as the parties decide to let it influence negotiations. To wit, there was no historical precedent that would suggest swapping 14 & 21 for the ninth pick (Trey Burke) should have been possible, but that happened.

Still, past trades will be many front offices’ point of reference for how to start a conversation about what a particular move is worth. Here are 10 years’ worth of trades involving first round picks. These are only the trades that were carried out immediately around the draft (as trades involving picks at other times of the year have their own separate economics and uncertainties), and in this table the team that moved up or in is listed first.

Draft trades 2004-2013

There are a few outliers there that might encourage you, but don’t buy that snake oil. Teams generally aren’t able to get #7 for cash and a 2nd like Chicago did with Deng, so that’s the exception, not the rule.

The general trend here is that teams get picks in the 20s fairly often, but a top 10 pick usually requires at least two of the following three pieces: 1) multiple picks, 2) starter-caliber players (and in some cases All-stars), and 3) the ability to bury bad salary in your backyard. The Jazz are in a position to offer all three of those things, and it sounds like they’re willing.

The other trend to point out is that there have only been four occasions in 10 years when a pick better than the Jazz’s current 5th was moved. So just be aware of what you’re asking. It’s possible, and the Jazz certainly have the assets and motivation. But you can’t sit back and say, “The Jazz are good at trading up, I’m sure they’ll find a way to get ___.” This is a tough area to get something done.

Who/what can’t be traded

The ping pong balls were still settling when Jazz fans started putting Gordon Hayward into trade packages to get back into the top 42 Let me save you the time: stop building Hayward trade scenarios.

Hayward, like all pending free agents, cannot be included in draft-day trades. And contrary to what people are piecing together on Twitter, he also can’t be involve in any Sign & Trade discussions that take place on Draft Day because it’s illegal for the Jazz or any other team to negotiate with Hayward until July 1, long after the draft has fully congealed.

What the Jazz could do, in theory, is start new S&T discussions involving Hayward on July 1, and if teams want to bring their unsigned3 picks into the negotiation, they can. But no team is going to make even a tentative agreement on June 26 involving a top 4 pick when they have no idea if Hayward is going to want to play there, much less for the right amount of money. So this is a non-starter.

A few have challenged that assessment based on the 2013 Tyreke Evans trade. That was a completely different scenario. While that trade technically involved a 2013 pick (the unsigned Jeff Withey), that did not begin as anything remotely resembling a draft day trade. Those S&T negotiations were born out of the Pellies’ attempt to court Evans in free agency and the Kings’ desire to get something in return for letting him go. Withey hadn’t been signed yet (the Pellies wanted to keep their options open for just this kind of scenario), so as the talks matured, the former Jayhawk was eventually added in. Again, no team is going to make a handshake agreement on June 26 that’s still subject to all the variables associated with free agency negotiations.

By the way, same goes for Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush, who can’t be part of any deal associated with the draft.

The other thing the Jazz technically can’t trade on draft night is their cap flexibility — because it doesn’t exist yet. The Jazz’s cap opens up in July, but there’s an easy way around this. Teams make verbal agreements all the time and then consummate once the new cap year has begun, because unlike the S&T scenario, there’s no third party that can mess up the deal-in-principle. This happens fairly often, like in 2007 when Portland needed to wait for their cap to clear before they could absorb James Jones in exchange for the 24th pick from Phoenix.

It’s unclear whether John Lucas III and Diante Garrett are on team option years or if they have contracts with no guarantee dates. If it’s the former, they can’t be traded until July 1, either. It sound, though, like Erik Murphy, Malcolm Thomas and Ian Clark don’t have option years, but rather contracts that can be terminated at some specific later date, so they are in play.

The assets

Having said that, here’s what the Jazz DO have available to trade on June 26:

  • #5
  • #23
  • #35
  • Any of Utah’s own future picks
  • 2017 unprotected 1st from GSW
  • 2016 & 2017 2nd rounders from GSW
  • 2018 2nd rounder from Den
  • Draft rights to Raul Neto and Ante Tomic
  • Favors
  • Enes Kanter
  • Alec Burks
  • Trey Burke
  • Rudy Gobert
  • Jeremy Evans
  • Murphy, Thomas and Clark, unless the rumored details of their 2014-15 contracts are wrong
  • Cap space that can be used in verbal agreements to be officially consummated after the July mortatorium

Competition for pick sales

Also remember that there are 28 other teams to compete with for each of those four spots. Even if the Jazz find a team willing to deal, understand the historical price and are willing to cough up the right assets to get a deal done, they still have to outbid any other potential suitors.

With that in mind, keep an eye on Boston, who owns #6 and #17, although they don’t have quite the stockpile of young talent the Jazz have. The Suns’ picks don’t have as much juice (14, 18, 27 and 50), but they have some intriguing pieces. The Timberwolves have Kevin Love and the 13th pick.

So, just remember: it’s not enough to be able to assemble a good trade package. You have to assemble one that’s better than what anybody else is offering.

The verdict

Trading into the top four is doable, but this particular time around it will be tough. That said, the Jazz made trades in 2005 and 2013 that history says they shouldn’t be able to pull off.

Like I said, watch Orlando, who may be operating with a draft board that looks different from other teams. Also, keep an eye on injuries and the workout performance. If Embiid’s back continues to worry people, or if someone like Smart, Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon starts to shine relative to the big four, then suddenly teams may be more open to picking up an asset in exchange for “settling” for one of those next-tier guys.

The Jazz could also make a two-step move to try to move up. Maybe 23 + a player + a cap dump could get that pick up into the teens, and then 5 + teens + another player might be sweet enough to compete with what other multiple-pick teams could offer.

Basically, explore everything. Every rumor about every team’s willingness to talk, negotiate, ideate, coax or cajole could matter to the overall market and to the Jazz’s asset position.

And if none of it works, then Utah will pick fifth in a supposed four-stud draft, and make the best of it.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
Dan Clayton

25 Comments

  1. Tyler Barton says:

    This is MUCH more than a 4 stud draft; this is a 7-9 stud draft, all of these guys would have gone top 3 last year. #5 is a great pick, i dont think they should trade assets to move up when they can get Vonleh, Gordon or Smart

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Vonleh, Gordon and Smart can be very good players, you’re right.

      Those other 4 can be #1 guys on title teams, if they reach their full potential. That’s a different story. If you can get a guy like that, you have to try.

      I actually loved the way DL described a “franchise player” after the lotto the other night. He said, “That’s a big mission and charge: to find someone that can define how we play.” Vonleh, Gordon and Smart will likely be very good pros. Not sure they’ll define a team.

    • Spencer says:

      I agree, I think Vonleh actually has as much potential as anyone but Wiggins and Embiid and Embiid’s back drops his stock. I think when it is all said and done it will be called a 5 stud draft. Vonlehh’s combination of size, length, hands and shooting touch are virtually unprecedented for a stretch 4. The ability to rebound and finish with one hand, catch anything in the area, finish above the rim and shoot the three with ease is very, very unique. He actually reminds me of Kawaii Leonard at the 4 position that would be great.

      Read Chad Ford’s analysis about the workout in NY, he seems to agree at some level.

    • Mewko says:

      I agree. We still have a chance to get a star at number 5. If Aaron Gordon gets a reliable jumper then he can be like Andre Igudala with more scoring and athleticism.
      Aaron Gordon can be a multidimensional star with elite defense, getting steals and blocks. He can get rebounds because he is athletic.
      His game of offense would be attacking the hoop. Have Hayward or Trey Burke get him a clear runway to the hoop.
      I predict that of Dante Exum, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, or Joel Embiid, one of them won’t be franchise players, but be good. Like Marvin Williams. History has it written all over that there will be disappointing guys for all their hype. History also says that we can get a star at number 5.

  2. Mike Johnson says:

    It may be that one of the top 4 projected now slip… One or two of the project 5-8 players may jump higher based off of need… I think that any of our young players are too valuable to add to the 5th pick to go to 3rd or 4th… I just think you have to give up too much for the 1st or 2nd pick.

  3. Mike Johnson says:

    It may be that one of the top 4 projected now, slip… One or two of the project 5-8 players may jump higher based off of need… I think that any of our young players are too valuable to add to the 5th pick to go to 3rd or 4th… I just think you have to give up too much for the 1st or 2nd pick.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Yeah that’s the hope. As much as Orlando reportedly likes Smart and as much as Vonleh’s stock is rising in general, it could happen. But I wouldn’t bank too much on it.

  4. John Hedman says:

    This will most likely be the last chance the Jazz will ever have for many years to get a franchise player, and you can’t win a champtionship without one. The Jazz should do whatever they have to, to acquire the #1 pick, including giving up Favors and Trey Burke, even though that will hurts severely and fans will scream, it is still the right move.

    • Spencer says:

      Favors is a #1 pick without back problems. No thank you. I say pick Vonleh if available then trade Kanter for the best lottery pick possible (Boston, LA and Sacramento will all listen) and pick up a better roster fit like Smart.

  5. John says:

    Excellent article, loved the realism. It’s a tough spot the Jazz are in with 5 no matter how you slice it. It’s going to take assets to move up that will hurt. I think the best chance with the Cavs is Favors and the 5 and whatever else they want. This is a chance for a team anchor for years to come, Favors and Hayward and Burks are all nice, young pieces but none of them are an anchor. Would I like to have Favors sure, but if my choice is Favors and say Vonleh versus Parker or Wiggins, I take my chances with the franchise player.

    Favors/Vonleh/Hayward is a team hunting the 6-8 seed for the next 5 years, and frankly I’m sick of that.

    • Spencer says:

      This is what Chad Ford had to say about Vonleh.

      I think there is a good chance Orlando takes him and picks up Ennis with their second first-round pick. I feel really good about Exum or Vonleh to be honest. I also see a scenario where Embiid falls due to back or Parker falls if it is between Parker and Vonleh with the magic. Parker not likely, but possible.

      The biggest thing that jumps out at you about Vonleh is his ability to shoot the basketball with range. Vonleh shot 48.5 percent from beyond the arc at Indiana this season and it wasn’t a fluke. He was a shooter in high school and in workouts the same fluid shooting stroke shined. Vonleh has really unlimited range on his jumper. He had no problem stepping back behind the NBA 3-point line and letting it fly. Usually players with large hands struggle with their jumpers (see Rajon Rondo), but it doesn’t appear to be an issue for Vonleh.

      The only other big man in the draft that can really shoot like Vonleh is Michigan State’s Adreian Payne. In a league that is hungry for stretch 4s who can provide critical spacing (it was the first thing on Steve Kerr’s wish list in Golden State), Vonleh is a unique prospect.

      But he’s more than a shooter. He’s put on a lot of muscle this season at Indiana and can thank head coach Tom Crean for helping him develop a more polished low-post game. The knock on Vonleh coming out of high school was that he was a bit of a tweener who relied too heavily on his jump shot. This season Vonleh proved to be a valuable low-post player. He has the size, strength, length and leaping ability to finish around the basket. His low-post moves still need a lot of refinement. But his footwork is solid and he has a strong base to create space in the paint.

      And then there are those hands. If you watched a lot of game film on Vonleh, you’d see that he could catch just about anything Yogi Ferrell threw his direction. But watching him in drills, you see how remarkable he really is. Vonleh went through a drill where there were two balls placed on each block of the lane. His goal is to grab a ball and dunk it and then move to the other block, bend down, grab the next ball and dunk it, over and over for 10 dunks. Vonleh is the first player I’ve ever seen do the drill one-handed. He raced from spot to spot, picking up the ball like it was a tennis ball and dunking it. Those hands will be critical to his success in the pros.

      Vonleh also has a reputation as a hard worker both on and off the court and drew praise from scouts in his interviews. He’s humble and hungry, two great attributes in a lottery pick.

      • Spencer says:

        Sorry-I wrote the first paragraph, Ford wrote the rest.

      • Spencer says:

        Ford finished his analysis with this:

        I think his range starts with the Magic at No. 4, the Jazz and Celtics will give him a hard look at No. 5 and No. 6 and I don’t think he gets past the Lakers at No. 7.

  6. Cade says:

    Not sure why we would give up anything to move up to #4. If Orlando is that in love with Smart, let them take him at #4 and we’ll take Exum. If they like Exum more, they won’t be willing to swap picks. If they’re willing to even consider trading, then that should just indicate to us that we should stand pat.

    • JT McKenna says:

      Orlando might do it if they’re close between Exum and Smart, or Vonleh, because the Jazz would be giving them another player or asset.

  7. cw says:

    “I’m not eager to deal ANY of the young talent, but Hayward? He is, as of this moment, the Jazz’s best player in overall terms.”

    This is the problem, see. If he is the Jazz’s best player then they are in big trouble. That’s why people want to see him go. When your best player is a born third option you need to clear the decks and start over.

  8. Derek Walton says:

    Please explain to me why so many experts are saying that Marcus Smart is who the Jazz should take if the big 4 are gone. I don’t see Smart fitting with the Jazz at all. They need a guard who can shoot!!!

    • Paul Johnson says:

      I agree that the Jazz need better shooting, and that Marcus Smart is currently not a “knock down” shooter.

      However, Smart’s other positive attributes far outweigh his faults. He is an elite defensive player–not just on point guards, but on other bigger players, as well, because of his strength and aggressive style. He gets to the rim and gets a lot of layups, through traffic, and is a very good post-up player, even on bigger, longer players. He is an “alpha dog” type of player with great court sense and leadership abilities. He has the ability to take over and win games almost by himself. He also has the ability to get his teammates to buy in and play very hard–just like he does. Furthermore, his basic jumpshooting form is not bad, but he needs to learn how to shoot with a more consistent motion, and to have better shot selection. For example, he will shoot a perfect three point shot on one play, and completely miss the rim on the next shot. Part of his bad shooting seemed to be a result of his alpha dog personality, and the team he was on–with less talented players. Because of that situation, he tended to play “hero ball” and took many off-balance, ill-advised, contested, jump shots, which he usually missed.

      If the Jazz were to draft Marcus Smart, they could seek to attempt to get a good shooter in free agency–there are several good shooters available.

      Also, it is apparent that the Jazz could use a “shot doctor” type of coach, to help the whole team improve its jump shooting and foul shooting.

  9. Paul Johnson says:

    I think Marcus Smart fits DL’s definition of a franchise player–someone who would define how the Jazz play. I watched many of his college games this past season, and noticed that he was able to impose his aggressive style of play upon his whole team through his leadership and alpha dog mentality. The Jazz team needs more toughness and aggressively, and I think Smart would bring that to the Jazz–just like Russell Westbrook brings that style of play to the Thunder.

    I also think that Milwaukee may be the team to target for a trade to move up. Milwaukee badly needs a point guard. They could get either Smart or Exum at the #5 spot, if they traded with the Jazz, and could get additional draft picks and perhaps a salary dump that would benefit the team.

    • Derek Walton says:

      So what about Burke? Smart and Burke just don’t fit together. You can’t have 2 undersized guards with their shot percentages on the court together for too long.

  10. Dave says:

    Deng was traded for the 31st and a future first that became Nate Robinson with the 21st pick in 2005 per http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/denglu01.html

  11. LKA says:

    I think Smart is 6-4.. How about Thompson, #8 pick for Kanter GSW 2017 unprotected pick #23 2014 pick?? Then Jazz pick Vonleh, Smart or Lavine ..

  12. gave romero says:

    I really like Randall or smart I don’t want the jazz to trade favors so just stand pat but if they have a chance to move to 7 or 6 then they should do it and try to double the chance of getting a star

  13. Pingback: Derrick Favors Season Review | Salt City Hoops

  14. JT McKenna says:

    I like the idea of trading up to #4 for #5 and #23. If it’s true that Orlando likes Vonleh and Smart about as much as Exum, they would absolutely do it. #23 this year is worth a late lottery pick most years.

    You could say we’d be overpaying, but do we really want 10 or more players at 26 or younger on our roster next year? It’s time to cash it in and shoot for the star.

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