Here we go again.
The Jazz are about to kick their basketball machine back into action, but first we have some business to resolve in this trade deadline edition of the Salt City Seven.
Along with our usual items, this week’s SC7 will give you some thoughts around the trade deadline and the acquisition of Shelvin Mack. And we’ll start with a player that, sadly, we’ve discussed very little this season.
It has been impossible to discuss the deadline rumors or even broad Jazz trade goals without stumbling sideways into a discussion of just what Dante Exum’s potential is.
Even outside the context of trade discussions, one of the most frequent questions I get from Jazz tweeps is, “How good can this guy be?”
It’s a totally valid question, and the reality is that we don’t know yet. His defense alone has set a baseline where, at the very least, he’s going to enjoy a long NBA career as a long, active pest shutting down perimeter routes and getting in passing lanes. But there’s a chance he’s much better than that, and the Jazz are real believers.
When questioned on this privately, I tend to point to three reasons that I’ve heard make the Jazz excited about where Exum is potentially headed.
So when you hear the talk that Utah is committed to Exum as the club’s starter, that’s completely true.
It still makes sense that they wanted to add depth to the position, especially with Trey Burke’s future in question. Maybe the Jazz could have made a bigger splash, but in isolation, getting Mack for a second-rounder is a good deal. The Jazz have more seconds than they could possibly use anyway1, and only a fraction of guys selected in the second-round hang around to play the 247 games Mack has appeared in.
The Jazz were broadly expected to upgrade the position in more dramatic ways, such as when ESPN is reported that “the Jazz have looked at potential deals for other veteran point guards” beyond the Ty Lawson rumor. It’s hard to judge their decision to turn down other options without knowing precisely a) what other options were available to them and b) at what cost.
For example, USA Today reports that the Hawks’ asking price for Jeff Teague was a starter and a first round pick. Setting aside the question of whether or not the Jazz would surrender a pick for 14 months of Teague2, there’s no way Utah was including Exum, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert. Maybe — maybe — they could have convinced the Hawks that while Burks is not a starter, he plays starter minutes and is a 14-point scorer. But even giving up Burks and a first is a steep price.
Who knows what teams were asking for the similar tier of guards with time remaining: George Hill, Jrue Holiday3, Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison, Goran Dragic, Brandon Jennings, Avery Bradly, etc., or if they were even on the table at all.
It seems like someone like Jose Calderon should have been available as more of a salary mitigation move that wouldn’t require a Burks-level player at the other end of the deal. But maybe not. JJ Barea and Devin Harris both have multiple years left and are positionally redundant. Could one of them have been available? What about Greivis Vasquez, who is reportedly approaching a return and could help cheaply for two months? CJ Watson has a year left and Brian Roberts was dealt twice today essentially for free, but did the Jazz consider them upgrades over Raul Neto and Burke?
The Mack deal could mean the Jazz simply were impressed enough with any of those options to give what was necessary. It could mean they’ll try again to find a serious rotation PG this summer, when the market behaves differently.
But whatever it means, the Jazz are uber-committed to and strongly believe in Dante Exum.
“The market spoke about what we had in a lot of different levels… (We) agreed that we wanted to err toward continuity and chemistry,.”
Dennis Lindsey, to KSL and SCH’s Andy Larsen
“The market spoke” is an interesting way to put it. He’s definitely making a commentary on the Jazz’s trade assets — or at least the ones they were willing to include in conversations. He made a similar comment on team radio that leads me to believe that what happened today is that the only players teams wanted to discuss were the ones Lindsey wasn’t letting go of.
Honestly, this might be an explanation on why Burke wasn’t dealt despite rumors that the Jazz had told his representation they’d look into it. It seems as though the Jazz were determined not to give Burke away, and that sentiment combined with Lindsey’s cryptic “market spoke” comments lead me to believe that Burke is just still not drawing serious offers from other teams.
So, the Jazz are left with the awkwardness of finishing the season with a player who had expressed a desire to go elsewhere. It might be good asset management, but hopefully it doesn’t backfire in terms of the locker room.
Since there’s no new Jazz action to break down since we last convened, we’ll use this space to take a quick glimpse at some of what the new guy brings with him. Make sure to check out David Smith’s fuller introduction to Shelvin.
His action has been limited thus far, but Mack’s real strength is his ability to create and attack within the pick & roll. Here are a few of his assists that came out of P&R out front.
The first two are great because he makes pretty bold passes. On the Horford three, he actually starts to deliver that bounce pass before Horford has even spotted up, and the bounce pass buys Al an extra beat to get in position. That’s smart stuff.
For the most part, he just simply makes the right read. The third one – the rolling layup – is mostly because Dwight botches a weakside help assignment, but props to Mack for noticing that and delivering the ball on time and on target. The final two are pretty straightforward plays, too. See what the help does, see if anybody else adjusts to help cover, and then pass accordingly.
Mack’s assist-to-turnover ratio. As mentioned above, the guys makes mostly smart decisions.
The percentage of Mack’s shots that come from 0 to 9 feet, where he makes 63% of his attempts. That’s a good thing, especially since he’s not a very good three point shooter — 15% this year.
And finally…Just a reminder that Burke and Neto are probably still better than Mack on a macro level. It’s nice to have another option when somebody is struggling or in foul trouble or has the flu, but I think the Jazz just acquired an upgrade at 3rd PG, at least for now.
Hopefully this will be the last Salt City Seven for a while that doesn’t feature new game balls. But hey, just so everybody’s caught up, here’s the tally coming out of the All-Star break:
The Jazz’s stretch run starts with a tough run right out of the gate. All four opponents are in the roughly-.500-or-better range, so stretches like this will determine if Utah’s able to finish something like 15-15, or actually outperform and chase the 6th or even 5th seed. For more facts & figures resetting the West playoff race, make sure you revisit last week’s SC7 breaking down the schedules of Utah and the five teams right around them.
It wouldn’t really be a weekly recap if we didn’t acknowledge the Jazz’s role in All-Star weekend.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 13, 2016
Neto dished nine assists to his World Team brethren in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge last Friday, and he made his only FG attempt. Trey Lyles, a native of All-Star host Canada, struggled a bit more, scoring a bucket in six attempts and grabbing two rebounds. Hood played a major role for the winning US team: four dunks and a triple for 11 points, to go with three assists and three boards.
It was also cool to see Rudy Gobert there to take in the festivities and support his teammates.