From Blockbusters to Rotation Pickups, Reviewing a Decade of Deadline Deals in Utah

February 6th, 2018 | by David J Smith

The biggest trade in recent Jazz history centered around Deron Williams, who was once the team’s franchise player. (Ron Chenoy/US Presswire)

The NBA’s trade deadline is fast approaching. For some, it is one of the most exciting times of the long season. For others, this cannot pass quickly enough. More than in recent years, the Utah Jazz are one of the teams generating significant mentions in the rumor mill1.

The Jazz do not come readily to mind as a team that has recently been active as a regular trade deadline player. True, they have not been the most prolific participant, but that’s not to say that they have not swung some deadline-beating deals. Here is a quick review of Utah’s February trades of the past decade. 

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 Millsap2. 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 had to bid his farewells quickly to his coaches and teammates and move on 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 predicted3.

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 Jerry 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 already started to plan his exit for a big-market team.

Then came the shocking news: 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 their own 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, seven 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. Pierce publicly wondered about Williams’ leadership and desire to win. Williams later had a solid run with the Dallas Mavericks and joined the Cleveland Cavs ahead of last year’s Finals trip. Even so, I don’t think this is what D-Will was envisioning when he moved across the country. After a poor performance for Cleveland, Williams surprisingly did not land on an NBA roster this season4.

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 trade rumors notwithstanding. Prior to last year’s injuries, he showed improvement from year to year and was a borderline All-Star. He developed a good midrange jumper, became more adept in his ability to finish and has been a formidable defensive presence for the Jazz. Moreover, he has been a good soldier and has seen a lot during his Utah career.

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. That trade yielded assets that allowed Utah to acquire Ricky Rubio, who has started to really come alive for the Jazz. 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. In 2016, Utah had to cut its losses, shipping Burke to the Washington Wizards. He is currently having a nice comeback with the New York Knicks. 

When it is all said and done, the Jazz sent Williams in exchange for Favors, Rubio, Kanter (for three years), Harris/Williams (two seasons apiece), and part of Burke. 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 gave a glimpse of the future. Suddenly, the Jazz had a frontcourt log jam, a positive 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 situation. The return was modest. The Jazz absorbed Perkins’ salary and later bought him out. Jerrett proved to be fringe NBA talent. Ditto with Pleiss, who the Jazz had to jettison out in a cost-saving move, costing them a second rounder. The first-round pick, coming from the Thunder, was shipped for Rubio last summer, the one real positive asset to come from the Kanter deal. 

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. Last year, he was an All-NBA and All-Defensive center and a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. He is now viewed as the foundation for what the Jazz hope to be their next contending squad. 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 became public enemy number one for Jazz fans for quite some time, given his comments post-trade and some of his in-game antics since then. He has since matured, expressing some regret for how things played out. He is doing well for the Knicks, reuniting with Burke. 

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 had become Utah’s 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 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. He sometimes became the target of Jazz fans’ criticism for his limitations, mostly unfairly. He was sometimes thrust into situations that were not ideal. All in all, Mack was a good pick-up for Utah. 

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 two days? The rumors have been flying. Perhaps Utah will add another trade or two to this list by 3:00 p.m. EST Thursday afternoon. 

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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