Q&A on Latest Jazz Trade Rumors: Pursuing Mirotic, Teams Targeting Burks & More

January 8th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Mirotic had 29 when the Bulls upset the Jazz last month. (Jonathan Daniel via espn.com)

Just when the Jazz had a break in the on-court action, ESPN’s “Woj” filled the awkward silence by ushering in the rumors of trade season.

Adrian Wojnarowski detailed the latest NBA trade scuttlebutt on Monday, and his column included more than one juicy bit of Jazz gossip. Perhaps most notably, the veteran reporter and purveyor of WojBombs divulged that teams have been interested in reserve Jazz guard Alec Burks, and that Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is “intrigued” about the opportunity of playing for Utah coach Quin Snyder. Mirotic has the right to veto any trades this season, so his interest is a prerequisite for any talks to get serious.

Then Utah radio personality Spence Checketts corroborated, saying, “They’re talking.”

So how much would Mirotic change the Jazz? What could Utah get for Burks? What other deals or rumors are out there that people should be thinking about? With the help of some tweeps and readers, we put together some common questions around the latest Jazz rumors, along with the best-guess answers of your humble columnist.

Q: Cost of Niko (Mirotic) and value of Burks? –Dallas

Mirotic is a high-minute rotation player, with averages just north of 24 minutes per game for the past three seasons. He has started just about a quarter of his NBA games, so his value will probably hover somewhere around that of a fringe starter. That means a first round pick would probably be too much1 and a second rounder wouldn’t quite get it done. Luckily, the Jazz have several guys who also fit into that “fringe starter / high-minute rotation player” value range. So they’d need to find out which of those players interest the Chicago brain trust.

As for Burks, his value is hard to peg right now. Before the season, most assumed that his trade value was negative — that is, that it would take an asset to offload his contract. A December scoring streak might have reminded some teams why they liked him, though, since Woj reports that Burks is one of the NBA wings who teams are “targeting.”

What are your thoughts on Burks for Mirotic, straight up? –K Squared

I get why people are connecting those dots, but I don’t think the rumor is necessarily Burks for Mirotic. Neither Woj’s nor Checketts’ report clarified what the Jazz would give up, and the Burks rumor was separate there.

That said, if that specific deal were on the table, the Jazz should take it. Burks is already a little superfluous to the Jazz’s roster. But it’s not entirely clear at this stage what Chicago would want. Utah has a few different players in Mirotic’s salary-matching range, and Burks is the youngest and still has some contract left.

If the Jazz made that deal, though, it would almost surely indicate that another shoe was to drop. That would give Utah a deep stable of big men, and might indicate that someone else was about to move. Which brings us to Paige’s question…

If we get Mirotic for Burks who do we deal Favors to? What’s the likeliest scenario you see? –Paige

In general, keep an eye on any rumor involving the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. He’s been used as the poster child of the trade market for centers, so any time you hear about a team pursuing DJ, that’s a team that might be interested in Favors, too.

Milwaukee and Washington keep coming up as DJ destinations. I’m sure Utah would love to get into talks with the Bucks, but coveted wings like Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton are probably off limits. Even if they were available, it would take much more than a half season of Favors to pry either away from Milwaukee. The same goes for Washington’s young studs like Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and, to a lesser extent, Kelly Oubre Jr.

But there will be a market for Favors, and you can find it by following the scent on those DJ rumors.

Ultra deep Niko deep dive! –Laird

Not sure I can go “ultra” deep in a Q&A format, but here’s the quick scouting report on Mirotic.

For his first three seasons, he could be described as abstractly valuable if also a bit mercurial. It’s tough to make it in the NBA as a shooting specialist who can’t shoot, and Niko’s long-range shot has come and gone. He still commands attention and impacts the defense with his gravity, but he just wasn’t making shots at the rate everybody in Chicago expected.

All of a sudden, though, he looks like a new man. In 17 games so far this season, he has averaged more than 17 points per contest, with 46.5 percent from three. He’s been one of the most impactful off-the-bench scorers in the NBA this year — it’s just hard to know how sustainable this is given the small sample. He’s also having a career year in rebound rate, assist percentage, turnover ratio, usage and most all-in stats.

In all, I’m a bit more muted about Mirotic than some. That shooting would certainly help the Jazz’s spacing-challenged units, but it’s not really clear right now whether he’s a starting caliber NBA player.

Is he (Enes) Kanter / (Carlos) Boozer bad on D? –Aaron

He’s no Rudy Gobert, but Mirotic isn’t a bad team defender. He’s not a lockdown 1-on-1 guy and he’s not someone you want to see switching out onto guards commonly, but he’s generally aware and adherent within team schemes. He certainly wouldn’t give the Jazz the same defensive versatility they have enjoyed with Favors at the PF spot.

How much better is Mirotic than (Jonas) Jerebko? –Kurt

See, that’s exactly what I meant about his macro value — the fact that we’re asking how good he is relative to Jerebko (and not, say, Favors) is a pretty good indication of his overall tier. That said, he’s a better version of Jerebko, as least on the offensive end, where few role players add as much as Niko. His offensive box plus-minus is +3.5, an absurd number for a reserve.

So consider him a Jerebko-plus type of offensive contributor with a TON of gravitational pull. If Utah’s plan were to eventually have him replace Favors as a starter, I think they’d feel that downgrade, although Mirotic is ostensibly a better philosophical fit.

How does Niko’s no-trade clause work? -K Squared

Well you could be referring to two things. For starters, because he signed a contract with a big enough raise last off-season, he can’t be traded at all — even with consent — until January 15.

But you probably meant…

Players on a one-year2 contract who have Bird rights at the end of the deal also have what’s called an implicit no-trade clause in their contracts, meaning they can veto any deal during that season. And if they do choose to allow a trade to go through, it affects their “Bird” rights, as our next questioner brought up.

Because of the nature of Mirotic’s contract, the team trading for him won’t have Bird rights. Is this just a reset on the Bird clock or do they not start accruing until even after a (potential) exercise of the team option on his contract? – @alaric1224

When a player with an implicit no-trade consents to the trade, the team that acquires them doesn’t get their Bird rights right away. The league treats their Bird rights as though they had switched teams as a free agent — meaning the Bird clock would reset at the time of the trade.

For Mirotic, this means that by the end of the current season, he would have accrued one year of service with his new team, so if they opted out of his 2018-19 salary, they would only be able to sign him using Non-Bird rights. Non-Bird free agents can only sign for 120% of their previous salary, unless their team has the cap space to go to his full max.

But assuming they — the Jazz or whatever other team acquired him — opted into next season’s $12.5 million contract, then Mirotic would reach free agency in 2019 with Early Bird rights. Those allow teams to re-sign a player to up to 175% of their previous salary, nearly $22 million in Niko’s case. That would likely be enough.

So yes, it would technically start his Bird clock over, but in the practical application, Early Bird rights would most likely be plenty to keep the door open to retain Mirotic past this contract.

Plus…

Could Bulls pick up the option now and eliminate the no trade clause in season? –Grant

…there’s this. Mirotic has veto power only because he’s playing on a one-year deal. But if Chicago exercises the option for 2018-19, he’s no longer on a one year deal and no longer has an implicit no-trade clause. The Bulls could then trade him with or without his approval — but still only after January 15.

There’s also a provision that allows for a team an a player to amend a contract “providing for the exercise or non-exercise of an option” for trade (Section 7(D)(4) of the CBA’s Article VII), but that wouldn’t even be necessary in this case, since Chicago can simply opt into his $12.5M for 2018-19 and remove the implicit no trade clause in the process.

Mirotic might have more trade value with the option year (as that way an acquiring team has options), but if Chicago gets a good offer from a team that wants to acquire him with next season’s option exercised, they can opt in and trade him unilaterally, without his approval.

If he’s traded after a Bulls opt-in for next season, then he would move with his Bird rights, but it just depends on what teams bidding for him want. The Jazz may ultimately decide that having flexibility to opt out this summer is worth more than having the option of going above $22M to re-sign him next year.

For the Jazz to get a PF on a rookie contract with his current team (like Dario Saric, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr, etc.), is there a way without surrendering a 1st round pick? Ammar

The thing with trades, as with most things in life, is that you get what you pay for.

It would be hard to acquire a starting-caliber player without surrendering a pick or another starting-caliber player. That said, Nance and Randle are probably considered non starting-caliber commodities at this point. I can’t imagine it would take a 1st to get either of them, although part of that is because neither has been setting the world afire in Hollywood.

What players are the Jazz most likely to offer in trades? -Aaron

A few weeks ago I christened the trade season with my annual trade likelihood ranking. But since that was more a ranking of overall trade likelihood than who the Jazz would be most willing to offer up, here are three names I’ll say are probably starting a lot of Dennis Lindsey phone calls.

  • Favors is the longest-tenured Jazz man at this point, and it will be a nostalgic and sad moment when his Jazz career wraps. But all indications are that he isn’t likely to return next season, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jazz try to parlay his value into something now if there’s a deal that makes sense.
  • It sounds like they’re trying to move Joe Johnson, perhaps just as a favor to the vet so he can go make a difference for a contender somewhere. The thing is, Joe Jesus hasn’t played very well this season, so I’m not sure there are tons of contenders lining up to pay the remainder of his eight-figure salary.
  • As I mentioned above, Burks has felt superfluous for a  while, and his contract for next season makes him a real candidate to be moved.

It’s a safe bet that at least one of those three will move this trade season.

Beyond that, nothing would shock me outside of a Gobert, Donovan Mitchell or perhaps a Joe Ingles3 move. I think they’re more willing to package Rodney Hood in a trade for the right type of player than most people realize. They’d prefer to give Dante Exum another swing at the proverbial piñata, but if packaging him with Favors or Hood got the Jazz into a conversation for a real difference-maker, I don’t think he’s necessarily off-limits.

And any of last summer’s vet signees — Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh — could find themselves in a deal if the package required it, but it’s hard to imagine any of them headlining a trade.

Any chance we can squeeze Evan Fournier out of Orlando? Who might they want from us besides Gobert and Mitchell? Adam

Woj mentioned Fournier in his column, with Detroit listed as a team in pursuit. The Pistons’ package to swoop in and grab Don’t Google, per Woj, would have to include someone like starting guard Reggie Jackson or recent lottery pick Luke Kennard. That should give you an indication of where Fournier’s value is.

Since the Jazz are not considering trading Gobert or Mitchell, it would probably require something involving Hood as a starting point. Hood and Fournier are pretty statistically similar, so it’s at least a reference point.

(Jazz radio voice David) Locke mentioned the Jazz being interested in someone he couldn’t mentio who has 3-4 years left on their contract at around 17-20 million a year. Any ideas? –Jordan

I’m taking your word for it here because I didn’t hear Locke say this, but here is literally ever player who has at least three years remaining on a contract in that price range.

  • Danilo Gallinari (3/$65M): a little higher than the supposed 17-20M range, but I know Locke has liked him in the past.
  • Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving are in this range, but their third years are POs and they’re not gettable anyway.
  • Ryan Anderson (3/$61M): Certainly someone who has generated chatter in the past.
  • Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green – not gettable.
  • Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson, George Hill, Jonas Valanciunas Biscmack Biyombo – don’t seem to fit the Jazz’s plan.
  • Kent Bazemore (3/$54M w/ a PO): a shooting wing, although I like Fournier better.
  • Tyler Johnson ($5.9M followed by a jump to 2/$38.5M w/ a PO): small wing, but Jazz just got a close-up view.
  • Goran Dragic (3/$54M w/ a PO): not sure he’s gettable either, although I understand the appeal.
  • Jeff Teague (3/$57M w/ a PO): Jazz have had chances to express interest in Teague and I’m not sure they ever have.
  • Evan Turner (3/$54M): Not sure the Jazz are interested
  • Allen Crabbe (3/$56M w/ a PO): Interesting.
  • Tim Hardaway (4/$71M w/ a PO): Overpaid, but has some believers.
  • Reggie Jackson (3/$51M): Jazz could have had him if they wanted him in the Kanter trade.
  • Fournier (3/$51M): Wouldn’t shock me at all. Close friends with Gobert and fits the Hood mold pretty dang well.

I don’t know who Locke was talking about, but Fournier and Crabbe stand out on that list.

Do any of the 16 playoff teams have expiring contracts that can match Johnson and/or Favors’ salaries? If so, would those teams be willing to part with a late first round pick to rent Johnson or Favors for a playoff run? –Ryan

I don’t think the Jazz will get a first for either of Johnson or Favors, no.

With Johnson, I really think the list of contenders who could use him is just pretty short to begin with. He has just slowed down SO much, sadly. He can’t really stay in front of anybody anymore, and his scoring mostly comes when the Jazz press “pause” on their offensive system to hand over some laborious possessions to him. I’m sure he’d love to go help a contender, but how many contenders have an eight-figure salary slot, let alone a desire to field a guy with one of the worst net ratings of anybody who plays Joe’s minutes.

Favors has value, though. He won’t fetch a first because he’s a rental, but if a team believes it can re-sign him, they might give a useful player, particularly if it’s someone who also has a payday coming. Keep an eye on Milwaukee, Washington even Cleveland. We might have to wait and see where Jordan lands first, and then the runners-up may go hard after Fav.

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, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

3 Comments

  1. Michael C. says:

    Niko Mirotic’s PER is 24.95. That’s borderline MVP play according to Hollinger himself. Niko is 26 yrs old entering the prime of his career, so asking for a 1st rd’r is not too much for the Bulls to ask for. Utah is getting a 26 yr old in the prime of his playing career on a cap friendly contract. The Bulls are getting in return expired contracts, and a 1st rd draft pick which is their objective to rebuild through the draft this yr.

  2. nikiban says:

    I’d prefer Bobby Portis, he has much more potential.

  3. Spencer says:

    I get the fit with Mirotic. The thing is, there is always a deal or two each year where things look lopsided. I think the Jazz should be careful to not jump too fast for Mirotic when there is a chance that one of the following may happen:

    Milwaukee decides that Favors is the long agile defender who can also consistently score outside the paint enough to free Giannis. At the same time they look at Salary they will be committing to Giannis, Middleton, Bledsoe, Snell, Brogden, Deli (oops), Teletovic, Henson and realize they cannot pay to keep Parker with his injuries and overlapping position with Giannis, Trading Favors and Burks(or Johnson if you just want an expiring contract) for Parker and whichever of Deli, Teletovic, or Henson you want to dump.

    Favors, Giannis, Snell, Middleton, Bledsoe with Brogden, Henson, Teletovic, Burks off the bench is a team that feels aweful solid. Giannis is the clear Alpha, but Favors, Middleton and Bledsoe are all-star level complements. It looks like a great offense-defense balance.

    We get Parker (and his injury history and upside) who fits perfectly (on paper) next to Gobert. Gobert, Parker, Ingles, Exum, Mitchell would be an excellent starting five with Hood etc off the bench.

    Scenario two: Aaron Gordon somehow becomes available and we can put a package of picks, salary relief and players not named Gobert or Mitchell to get him. (My favorite match next to those two.). I know it seems unlikely, but Orlando has got to be tired of losing their best player for nothing.

    Scenario three: Cleveland is all-in this year and realizes they have to have a five that can rebound, defend, pass, hit free throws, finish at the rim and hit the midrange to compete with GS. Favors has always played well vs GS. the #9 (Nets)pick and dumping one of their crappy salaries for Favors feels like a good gamble to me.

    Favors, Love, LeBron, IT, JR/Wade/Korver/Crowther feels a lot more legit than T thompson. Who seems to be Udhoh with only slightly better hands.

    The most logical for both teams is probably Milwaukee. Most likely to actually happen feels like Cleveland.

    Mirotic I think will be one of those near give-aways when it comes down to it if the Jazz are patient. He is not playing in Chicago past the trade deadline, so it may be that we can still get him for Johnson’s expiring, and a highly protected first that translates into a second or something like that.

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