SC7: Trade Likelihood Rankings & Six Other Bits of Jazz Stuff

December 15th, 2017 | by Dan Clayton

Harry How via ESPN

Despite having just two games since our last installment of the Salt City Seven, this was an eventful week in Jazzland. The losing streak continued, players coming back from injury exacerbated the ongoing lineup discussions and jerseys leaked.

But before we go there, let’s discuss that big “open for business” sign hanging on the front door of NBA general managers’ offices.

A quick(ish) exploration of a prominent theme from the week or the current state of Utah Jazz basketball.

Welcome to trade season.

December 15 is the date that most recent signees become eligible for trade, which means that starting today, more than 90 percent of the NBA is up for discussion by their teams. That includes all 15 Jazz players.

(Having trade conversations while Utah is licking their wounds from a 4-game skid is bound to seem reactionary. That’s not what this is; we’re delving into the topic on December 15 because it’s the day that the trade season begins in earnest.)

As we do every year at this team, we’ve ranked the 15 Jazz players in terms of the likelihood they’re dealt before February’s trade deadline. This isn’t about who Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey wants to deal. Rather, it’s a ranking that takes several factors into consideration. How much market demand is there for each player in question? How palatable is the player’s remaining salary? What specific contract quirks make the Jazz more or less likely to work a particular guy into a deal? And yes, to what degree is the player redundant or indispensable to this current version of the Jazz?

The result of all that is the following ranking, split into five categories.

Off limits

Very few players are truly untouchable, but the Jazz wouldn’t trade these two young stars for anything less than a surefire superstar.

15. Donovan Mitchell: 2 years and $5.7 million remaining, followed by two team option years and then restricted free agency

How insane is it that Mitchell needed fewer than 30 NBA games to turn himself into arguably his team’s most untouchable asset? His scorer’s instinct has been indispensable to this year’s Jazz, and as of this writing he is leading both his team and the rookie class in scoring. More importantly, he has shown the potential to grow into a star and the likability to be a franchise face in the process.

14. Rudy Gobert: 4 yrs, $97M1

Among the silliest reactions to the Jazz’s recent funk is the suggestion that they should consider trading Gobert. Not happening. When an All-NBA talent lands in your lap via the 27th pick in the draft, you thank the basketball gods every day and hold on tight. Which is exactly what the Jazz will do. No, he hasn’t had his usual impact so far this season. That’s hardly a reason to overreact. Gobert will be a Jazz man for a long time.

Uniquely situated veterans

After those two comes a pair of older vets with eight-figure salaries. These guys aren’t untouchable, but they’re very unlikely to be dealt.

13. Joe Ingles: 4 yrs, $50M

12. Joe Johnson: 1 yr, $10.5M

It’s fair to say Jingles is probably more valuable to the Jazz than he is on the trade market. That and his remaining salary make it pretty tough to find deals that make sense. It’s not that he’s blatantly overpaid — he makes non-star starter money or high-end rotation player money, and that’s his tier.

Johnson’s expiring contract makes it slightly more likely that a playoff team would take him on as a rental. But most contenders don’t have a way of absorbing that much salary. Also, he’d first have to show that he can play basketball. He has missed 21 games, and teams will want to see how the 36-year-old looks before they they invest, even in a late season rental.

Small contracts

If any of these three players move, it will likely beas an attachment in a larger deal. For that reason, this group of bargain-priced youngsters automatically ranks less likely than the eight guys above them.

11. Tony Bradley: 2 yrs, $3M, followed by 2 yrs TO and RFA

The Jazz’s other first-round pick had some nice summer ball moments and has been showing well in the G-League. But he has yet to look like an NBA player when he’s around other NBA players. Utah knew he would have a more gradual learning curve, so they’re not giving up on him, but his value right now isn’t enough to move the needle as anything but a sweetener.

10. Royce O’Neale: 3 yrs, $3.8M (second and third year guarantee on 1/10), followed by RFA

This undrafted rookie has earned his way to the fringes of the Jazz’s rotation, getting called into duty whenever injuries or struggles send Quin Snyder looking for another guy who can defend on the wing and hit open threes.

9. Raul Neto: 1 yr, $1.5M, guarantees on 1/10/18

Neto only comes out as more likely than Bradley and O’Neale because of his contract situation. Technically, he’s still on a non-guaranteed deal until January 10, which makes him an option if the Jazz and a trade partner need to get creative about lining up salary.

Who knows?

Here is where things start to get interesting. The official prediction here is that it’s more likely than not that these three remain in Utah past the deadline.

8. Dante Exum: 1 yr, $5M, followed by RFA

7. Rodney Hood: 1 yr, $2.4M, followed by RFA

These two were the hardest guys to place, by far. Both are young, have looked really good in stretches, and are headed to restricted free agency. So for a team willing to match all reasonable offers next summer, trading for these guys now gives them some long-term control.

People whose read on the situation I trust are pretty split when it comes to reading the tea leaves on Exum. Some believe the Jazz — and Lindsey in particular — still believe in him enough to have him bordering on the “off limits” group with Gobert and Mitchell. Others see Exum as the consummate deal-sweetener because of his unique tools and matching rights after this season.

The version of Exum that has mostly existed up until now in people’s imaginations is a perfect fit next to Mitchell. If the Jazz still have faith in that vision of the 6’6″ Australian, it will be hard for them to move him.

Similarly, talk to different people about Hood and you’ll either hear that he’s undoubtedly part of the core and indispensable on a scoring-starved team — or that he’s one of Utah’s best trade chips. He was starting to really find a rhythm as a bench scorer before his latest injury setback took him out for close to three weeks. If he gets back to filling it up like he was, Utah could get some phone calls about him.

Utah won’t trade either unless it’s for a real impact player, and those trades are less common in general terms. But their names will come up in when Lindsey feels his peers out.

6. Ricky Rubio: 2 yrs, $29.2M

Rubio hasn’t quite fit in the way Utah they hoped — at least not yet. His value is also in a weird place right now. Some GM out there undoubtedly sees past his day-to-day struggles, but the reality is that most teams that are competing this season already have a starting PG roughly in Rubio’s tier (or better), so I’m not sure where the market demand would come from. He’s younger than Ingles or Johnson so he doesn’t quite belong in the expensive older veteran category, but his contract and place in the PG pecking order make it hard to envision a return that would make the Jazz pull the trigger.

Value vets

These three are cheap, have played well, and possess contracts that offer financial flexibility.

5. Thabo Sefolosha: 2 yrs, $10.5M (second year guarantees on 7/1/18) 

4. Ekpe Udoh: 2 yrs, $6.8M (second year guarantees on 7/9/18)

3. Jonas Jerebko: 2 yrs, $8.2M (second year guarantees on 7/9/18)

Of the three, Sefolosha is the most likely to stay in Jazz colors past the deadline, because frankly he’s been really good. His raw numbers may not show it, but he has had an underrated impact on the court, on the bench and in the locker room.

I slotted Udoh next since he’s a bit more of a specialist in an NBA setting, so teams will mostly show interest if they need someone with his niche skills. Jerebko could draw some interest after fighting his way back into a rotation role, and Johnson’s return from injury cuts into the Swede’s role, too.

Names to watch

2. Alec Burks: 2 yrs, $22.4M

For salary reasons alone, it has always seemed logical that the Jazz would ask around on Burks. Before his recent resurrection, it seemed as though Utah might have to spend an asset to get someone to take his $22M deal. But this 7-game stretch where Burks is averaging 20 points on 42 percent shooting from three may have stoked some interest.

Counterpoint: it also could change the Jazz’s own calculus that the player in whom they’ve invested for the past six seasons is finally producing. But Burks’ value hasn’t been this high for years. Utah has to see what’s out there.

1. Derrick Favors: 1 yr, $12M

It feels a bit wistful to put Utah’s longest-tenured player in this spot. Favors is a unique, two-way player and someone who has been part of the Jazz’s heart and soul for a long time, so it’s natural to hope that he and the Jazz figure out how to continue the relationship.

But let’s be honest here: it has been a struggle for the Jazz to carve out a consistent role for Favors when Gobert is healthy. Fav put up 17 & 8 (rounded) for three weeks while Rudy sat, and since then is averaging 8 & 6 with his shot attempts cut nearly in half. Snyder’s preferred style of play is tough to pull off with two traditional bigs, and Favors is just too good to be used exclusively as Gobert’s backup. He’s also heading into free agency, which means the Jazz have to make a calculation as to the likelihood he stays.

And if all that weren’t enough to land him in the “likeliest to be dealt” spot, there’s also significant market demand right now for starting-caliber centers. Teams have been sniffing around the likes of DeAndre Jordan for weeks, and some of those teams would have to consider the younger Favors a viable alternative.

Overall, I’d guess the likelihood of a Jazz trade is higher than most years. But it won’t be a deal designed to right the ship in the short term. The Jazz want to be good, but they know they’re not competing for titles right now. As such, a strictly “win-now” deal, while what many fans want, isn’t likely going to be the aim.

 

Words from a Jazz player or coach about a relevant or timely topic.

“We’re not a good enough team to overcome some of those moments where we lack urgency or focus. There’s a lot of little things that you just have to do, that we have to do a better job of.”

– Snyder, to KSL’s Andy Larsen after Utah suffered a fourth straight loss on Wednesday

What a great quote to sum up Utah’s current slide. It’s easy to get caught up in the big things — lineups, struggling starters, macro themes. But winning or losing more often comes down to plays like this one.

With 18.4 seconds left, the Jazz’s only hope here is a quick foul, but they miscommunicate on the switch and it takes them three full seconds to get to the ball. Justin Holiday even chuckles about it at the end of the clip.

Those three seconds could have come in handy. Let’s pretend the Jazz fouled quicker but everything else went the same way until the last play: then the Jazz would have had six seconds to find a good look on a tying three instead of having to settle for the one-handed fling that Mitchell could get off on a rushed final possession.

For that matter, on the ensuing Jazz possession, why did they go for a layup with so little time left and no timeouts remaining?

These are very granular examples meant to illustrate a very broad point, but you get the idea. The Jazz are simply making mental mistakes that winning teams don’t make. They’ll sort it out, but this isn’t a team that can afford to miss what Snyder calls the little things.

 

Stats and figures that help tell prominent stories from the week.

1-11

The Jazz’s record when they shoot under 37 percent from 3. By contrast, they’re 12-4 when they reach that figure. “Make or miss league” is a cliché and too often lets teams and players off the hook for not executing to generate the right types of shots. But that’s a pretty stark difference and tells the story of the Jazz’s season so far.

 

A quick dissection of an awesome bit of Jazz offense from the week.

The week featured just two games, and they happened to be two of Utah’s worst nine offensive performances of the year. But the Jazz briefly found something that worked in Milwaukee, turning the Bucks’ trapping defense against them.

The Jazz got Gobert dunks on consecutive plays by having him to set pindown screens on the weak side of the court. (A pindown is a screen set toward the baseline for a cutter to pop out toward the perimeter.)

After Gobert fakes a backpick for Sefolosha so he can come to the ball, Thabo’s side of the court becomes the strong side. The weak side is empty except for Ingles and eventually Gobert, who goes to set the pindown for him. Ingles catches off the pindown, and the Jazz execute it like a pick-and-roll from that point. Since Milwaukee likes to trap, both defenders jump out on Ingles, and there’s nobody behind the play in a position to help.

The weakside isn’t as empty on the second play, but other than that, it’s the same exact situation. Gobert sets the pindown and it flows right into P&R action on the catch. Both Bucks defenders trap, and Rudy finds the alley where he can cut behind the strong-side help and before the weak corner guy comes over.

And, it worked well enough that later when Gobert cuts in looking like he was preparing to set another weakside pindown, the defenders kind of freaked out and don’t really know who’s screening for whom, and Gobert got another dunk — think time via the alley-oop pass from the strong wing.

 

Doling out credit for Jazz wins, one imaginary Spalding at a time.

Alas, an empty game ball section. And there’s no guarantee we’ll have leather to dole out next week, either. Friday is the start of a 5-in-7-nights stretch, and Utah will be the underdog, per FiveThirtyEight, in the first four. The fifth is a home game, but it’s a back-to-back with travel, and it’s against a Spurs team that now has their 2017 MVP candidate back in Kawhi Leonard.

 

A look at the Jazz’s postseason probabilities

Utah’s now looking up at eight teams, but predictive models still like the Jazz’s chances at wrestling somebody out. They’ve got a 68 percent chance or better in the three models I pay the most attention to2. But those percentages will continue to drop if the losing streak gets stretched out.

Plenty of other teams fighting for West playoff spots are experiencing their own bad stretches and fundamental problems, so it’s not time for doom and gloom yet. But Utah needs to defy the oddsmakers during this tough stretch of games.

 

Because, at the end of the day, this should be fun.

Well, we finally know what the top half of the Jazz’s new “city series” kit will look like. I believe it was Twitter’s Kung Fu Kenny who first shared an accidentally leaked screen shot from NBA 2K.

One humble columnist’s verdict: this is a much better execution on the idea than the earlier guess. That version had entirely too much yellow, not even hitting Southern Utah orange until you got to the shorts. If anything, this one actually looks redder, so much so that when the Fanzz website accidentally posted premature pictures of a new hat, some thought it might be University of Utah-related.

Which leads to my biggest criticism of this jersey. There’s nothing about it that says Jazz, literally or figuratively. No note. No wordmark. If it weren’t for the NBA logo, someone could think this was the Runnin’ Utes’ new alternate.

They also didn’t really make the Southern Utah connection very evident. An arch or hoodoo silhouette would have helped explain the concept to outsiders. Some have pointed out that the accompanying court design may do that, but if the jerseys only make sense to casual observers with Larry Miller Court as the backdrop, then they don’t really function as desired outside of Salt Lake City.

So my review is mixed. It could have been a lot worse, but this design doesn’t really directly link to the Jazz or the part of the state they were reportedly trying to recognize.

Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive

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. Spencer says:

    My three hopes for a Favors deal:

    Favors and Burks to Orlando for Gordon and bring back a bad contract too. Gordon next to Favors is the ideal fit. He would love the Jazz system as well. Orlando is still bad, let them draft their next stretch four while we get rid of the Biyombo albatross so they can slot Favors there.

    Favors to Milwaukee for Jabari. Same sort of thing here only difference is Jabari is less of a sure thing due to injuries. It may make more sense for the Bucks though, because they have the same positional logjam at 4 that we do at 5. Let’s both help a brother out eh?

    Favors to Cleveland for their Nets pick and a contract they are trying to dump. Only way to Keep LeBron is to win now. I think the addition of Favors and a healthy Isaiah Thomas gives Cleveland the versatility, scoring and defense to have a real shot this year and convince LeBron to stay in clevelend. #5 pick won’t do that.

  2. Pingback: Q&A on Latest Jazz Trade Rumors: Pursuing Mirotic, Teams Targeting Burks & More | Salt City Hoops

  3. Pingback: Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive | Salt City Hoops

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *