Set your Twitter alerts. Start the Woj Watch. Get your Insider login credentials ready. We’re inside the final two weeks before the NBA’s trade deadline.
By February 19 at 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time, we’ll know if the Utah Jazz have a major roster change coming. Below you’ll find a wealth of information about Utah’s situation, assets and trade likelihood in this trade deadline primer Q&A.
Is everybody on the Jazz roster available to be traded?
Not quite. Elijah Millsap and Chris Johnson1 are not eligible to be traded. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) prohibits trading recent signees, and neither of those two has reached the requisite three months.
Gordon Hayward cannot be dealt without his consent until July2 and Alec Burks has some funky trade math because of his pending extension. For salary matching purposes, a trade partner would have to treat him as a $9 million player — the average of this year’s salary and the four years of his extension. But Utah has to figure the trade on their end at Burks’ actual $3M. That gap makes it impossible to work a deal involving Burks without adding salary to the trade, likely on both sides.
Everybody else is tradable, at least from a CBA standpoint.
Can the Jazz take on salary in a trade?
Yes, just not a huge amount. No matter how they work a trade, the Jazz can take back about $4.3M to 5M more salary than they give up.
The Jazz’s exact cap math is hard to figure because of guys coming in and out and different guaranteed amounts for some of the guys who have cycled through the back of the roster. Let’s assume Basketball Insiders has it right: they have Utah at $58.58M. Adding in Patrick Christopher’s injury cap hit to be applied later this season, the Jazz could take back an extra $4.3M via trade3.
They can also complete a trade using an trade salary matching exception, but that only helps them if they were to send $9M or more away in salary4.
What do they have asset-wise?
Most obviously, they have players that other teams might find attractive to varying degrees.
They have a little bit of salary wiggle room to offer, as explained above, if somebody’s looking to shed a few bucks from their team payroll.
And they have a slew of picks. The Jazz own all of their own first and second round picks for the foreseeable future, plus they have a number of picks coming to them from past deals that can be flipped if it helps get something done.
That’s 15 picks in the next four drafts, at a time when picks (especially firsts and early seconds) are pretty highly valued. They also hold the draft rights to Ante Tomic and Raul Neto.
At what point do the Jazz start to cash in assets5?
I keep thinking the Jazz are about to turn the corner from asset accumulation into putting some pieces in place. Given how young they are, they’re certainly not keeping all those players and drafting 15 times in the next four drafts. But more to the point, the Jazz are 11-13 since December 17. They’ve clearly hit the bottom of the rebuild curve and started their way up the other side, and that’s when you have to start thinking about cashing your chips in on smart moves.
So what are they targeting via trade?
That’s the big question. Here’s what I know for sure: at 17-32, they won’t make a trade based on this season. If improve this year’s roster via trade, it will be an added bonus. Not because they’re not trying to be good, but because they’re still not in a place where they’re going to be giving things up for instant gratification.
I don’t see them caching more picks just for picks’ sake, but they still have a talent deficit in terms of star players. If there’s a trade that increases their likelihood of coming away from June with a stud in the draft, they’ll consider. Because of their recently improved play, projection models now have Utah picking in the 10-12 range, not the 6-8 range. The Jazz may need to start thinking about what it would take to inch upward.
What else do they still need? Shooting. So much shooting. The right type of glue guy who has tasted success. And probably, to my point above about star depth, at least one more stud.
Quick note on salary flexibility: if they can’t land that stud at the deadline or the draft, they’re going to need to chase one in the offseason. If that’s the case, they need to watch their cap sheet; if they take too much long-term salary back, they can no longer make a push for a Paul Millsap or Draymond Green6 type player in the summer. That’s a reason to be careful about taking salary back: you better be sure you like who you’re getting, because that might be your last spending spree until the cap jumps in 2017.
So who’s likely to be shopped?
I took a guess in my second annual Trade Likelihood ranking in November, purely for entertainment purposes. Some things have changed since then (Rudy Gobert may be closer to the “near-untouchable” group after his massive improvement), but it’s still a good overview of the macro tradability of each guy.
I’m not sure I’d classify anyone as particularly likely to be traded. But if I think about where “guys teams might be somewhat interested in” and “guys the Jazz could part with for the right price” intersect, three names come to mind, for different reasons.
The first one is obviously Enes Kanter, everybody’s favorite Trade Machine sacrificial lamb. As I wrote earlier this week, his performance this year (and especially recently) has been intriguing and hard to succinctly assess. His value is impacted by his pending restricted free agency. A team would probably only give up a lot of value for Kanter if they were reasonably sure they wanted to and could leverage his RFA rights to keep a hold of him for longer than the next two months. In other words, if a team isn’t sure they’re going to match all reasonable offers for Kanter in July, why would they give up assets to get him for the last 8 weeks of the regular season?
The thing that makes Utah somewhat likely to at least float his name is the contract situation, because all of the possible scenarios for what happens in July have some risks.
If it weren’t for those risks, I think the Jazz would actually prefer to keep seeing what Enes can develop into; but given where the contractual reality is, they might at least entertain ideas.
Who else would I consider mildly likely to come up in a trade conversation?
That’s probably about it. I still think they’d have to be bowled over by an offer to seriously consider moving Hayward, Exum, Derrick Favors and now Gobert. Joe Ingles, Ian Clark, Jeremy Evans and Steve Novak all probably have too modest value to be a key piece in a major trade. And Burks, Johnson and Millsap are all difficult or impossible to trade. That just leaves Rodney Hood, who Utah probably wants to see more of before moving on.
So sum it all up for us… will we see deadline action involving the Utah Jazz?
Let me put it this way: I’m sure Dennis Lindsey will be on the phone a lot, but fans should be mentally prepared for the possibility of a quiet trade deadline.
For the reasons outlined above, I think Utah is past the point of asset-hoarding through cap dump trades. If Utah makes a move, it will be to parlay pieces into something that makes the 2016, 2017, 2018 Jazz better. Those deals are harder to find than the other kind, so expect less and be pleasantly (or otherwise) surprised if the Jazz stumble across something too good to pass up.