The AK47 Trade Dilemma

September 24th, 2010 | by Jeff Lind

There are a lot of emotions shooting around the Jazzosphere today. Shock, horror, happiness, exasperation… you name it, somebody in Utah’s expansive fan base is feeling it.

Francois Durand/Getty/NBAE

If you’re wondering what’s going on then you’ve gotta get up to speed. Early this afternoon, Marc Stein reported the following on Twitter:

Stein followed up his tweet with this article that outlines the trade. Broken down, this four team blockbuster includes sending Carmelo to the Nets, Derrick Favors and Andre Kirilenko to the Nuggets (and multiple 1st round picks), Boris Diaw to the Jazz and Devin Harris to Charlotte.

Since Mr. Stein’s original tweet, there has been a whirlwind of discussion, news, and speculation on what this means for the Northwest Division, and (for we Jazz fans) what this means for the Utah Jazz. If you know Utah basketball, you know that ever since he signed his max money deal, AK has been a polarizing character. In one breath we complain about his lockeroom tears, but in the next we praise his ability to stuff the stat sheet with blocks, steals, rebounds, and points. When he’s playing well he’s the linchpin of the defense and a prime spark plug for the offense. When he’s injured we talk about his softness and inability to play up to his potential. The Utah fan is a fickle beast and the singular absolute of Jazz fanaticism is that we only love you until we don’t. The funny thing is we’ve never figured out how we collectively feel about AK.

At SCH, we asked a few of our contributors for some FOR/AGAINST thoughts regarding this potential trade. Here’s what they had to say:

FOR THE POTENTIAL TRADE

From Chris (@elkirkmo):

AK is one of my favorite players on the Utah Jazz. It’s partly because I speak Russian, and he is Russian… it’s as simple as that. Despite my personal bias, a three-way trade moving AK and his massive contract to Denver would be doing us a huge favor, especially since we’d be replacing AK with a guy with another Russian name. Boris. Diaw is younger (by a year) than Kirilenko and puts up similar numbers that we’ve come to expect from Kirilenko. He has playoff experience and stands out as a nightly triple-double threat. Some will point to Kirilenko’s ability to post a 5×5 (at least 5 of 5 categories), but he certainly hasn’t put up those numbers lately (although he has posted a lot of time in a shirt & tie on the bench). The main concern I have is moving AK to a division rival, the Nuggets (maybe it’s the because Nuggs are pretty gangster and AK seems pretty soft). Bottom line: The Nets would be doing the Jazz a massive favor. They’d allow us to dump our injury-prone money pit for a equally matched player and a smaller contract. Thanks, Carmelo.

From Mychal (@my_lo):

We know that being a small market is a tough job for most teams. Being a luxury payer in a small market is an even tougher one.  Being a luxury payer in a small market during a recession with just months to go before a potential lockout is a monumental task for ANY team.  Is this a cost cutting move?  Yes, but this cost cutting move has a good return.  The key here will be getting Boris Diaw back on track developmentally. He’s still 27 years old.  If he could get a good workout at P3 for an offseason (which by looking at his international play, it might be required by Jazz management) he could turn back into the fantasy monster he once was. Many Jazz fans are infuriated at the thought of losing AK for Diaw, but these are the same fans that booed Hayward because he wasn’t Monroe… and why did we want Monroe?  He’s a phenomenal passer for his size. I’d argue that Diaw has the same phenomenal passing skills Monroe did, and has the same workman’s ethic that that Sloan covets.  Additionally, don’t forget that a certain player named Odom gives the Jazz fits every year in the playoffs. Diaw is one guy who can match up against Odom (and Artest), so while at it’s core this is a cost cutting move, Diaw is a player that could thrive in the Jazz’s offense and provide match up headaches for opposing teams.  Imagine this lineup: D-Will, Miles, Diaw, Millsap, Jefferson.  That’s a BIG lineup.  There are a lot worse things the Jazz could do to clear cap space (see: E. Maynor).

AGAINST THE POTENTIAL TRADE:

From Jefferson (jeffersonboz AT gmail DOT com):

This deal would likely save the Jazz from the dreaded luxury tax (an estimated total savings of $13 mil), but Utah will be trading a dangerous player to a division rival.  Sure, the Thuggets will be in a process of rebuilding WHEN – not IF – Carmelo packs his bags, but adding a player like AK47 to their already athletic young team is just plain crazy.  If the motivation is to get AK’s exorbitant contract off the books, an equal or better deal can likely be had at the trade deadline.  In the meantime, the Jazz could have another run with a veteran defender that finally has added some bulk.  Boris Diaw is an undersized 6’8″ listed as a power forward (much less muscle than Millsap).  For Utah, he’d have to play on the wing.  While his three point shooting is a respectable .332, it seems a little redundant with C.J., Raja, and the Rookie.  If money is the only motivator, a better option will likely come along.  In any event, AK’s contract is set to come off the books next year – and he’s expressed a desire to stay in Utah for a lesser salary.  Why not give the Jazzmen a shot to get off to a good start with the new guys?

From Brian Henderson:

Spend the money! Keep Kirilenko. Don’t get too trigger happy, KOC. Kirilenko is one of the anchor’s of this team, notwithstanding his contract. This trade would be a bad deal for the Jazz. Diaw is not a better player than Kirilenko and at just a year younger, that argument is a wash. I maintained in a post this summer that AK is the linchpin for the team’s success this season and I stand by that argument. It takes time to learn Sloan’s system. Kirilenko has it down. We can’t cobble together a championship team by haphazardly plucking players from the garden of NBA delights, however much the team would like to get some of that bread back from AK’s contract. The money is not hurting the Jazz; it’s already been earmarked. I believe Kirilenko could produce the best season of his career, if he is healthy, and with the current cast of characters around him. If he does, and the other pieces work (Jefferson, Lil’ Gordy, and the Return of Raja), this will be the smartest non-move KOC has ever made, and AK will have earned his paycheck.
Let’s just look at pure career production between the two:

Boris Diaw (8 years)

MP-30.0/game, FG-49.6%, 3P-33.2%, FT-71.4%, RPG-4.8, APG-4.0, SPG-.7, BPG-.6, TO-2.04, PPG-9.6

Andrei Kirilenko (9 years)

MP-30.8/game, FG-47.1%, 3P-30.7%, FT-76.3%, RPG-5.7, APG-2.8, SPG-1.4, BPG-2.1, TO-1.99, PPG-12.4

You may see a wash, but I see that Kirilenko blocks more shots, steals more balls, and scores more points. Kirilenko is a fantastic passer in this system. The Jazz don’t need to give up his production and system smarts for an extra assist a game on paper. The $8.8 million plus luxury tax cost seems a fair price to pay for that. Sometimes it’s not about saving money. Especially for a small market team, if the Jazz want to go big or go home, they should spend that money on AK. Otherwise, in the words of SNL’s Sean Connery during Celebrity Jeopardy, “You’ll rue the day you crossed me, Trebek!”

From Jeff (@jefflind):

I personally hate this trade. HATE it. Deron Williams has specifically stated that the organization needs to show that they’re committed to getting better if they want him to consider sticking around after his three year deal, and I don’t see how losing Andre at ANY cost makes the team better. Consider 3 things: First, it’s AK’s contract year, so he’ll be playing his guts out. Second, this large contract will be a valuable trade piece throughout the season. If things don’t go well, blow up the team later. There will still be suitors… especially heading into a lockout year. Third, Diaw is a nice player, but he’s no Kirilenko. That’s the bottom line. I’ve hated AK’s contract since the day he signed it, but we’ve suffered through it’s maxness for this long. Let’s not get crazy and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What does it all boil down to? Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I know, is that we won’t have long to speculate on it:

Check out these other sites for fan reaction and news.

SLC Dunk

Marc Stein on Twitter

Brian Smith on Twitter

The Salt Lake Tribune Story

ESPN

Follow Jeff on Twitter!

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4 Comments

  1. Smith says:

    Let’s be honest. The Nuggets without Melo are a lottery team. They make the Melo trade, the Nuggets turn into a 20-win team, the Blazers are still always injured, and the Jazz win their division and have home court in the first round and they save money on tax. Oh, and they get a young(er) guy who can play different positions (ala Lamar Odom).

    What’s not to love?

  2. steve says:

    I don’t think this trade would cripple Denver the way you think it would. Sure, Denver would be losing Melo, but they’d be gaining to really good bigs in return. Billups would do well with these new additions. Add to that AK’s passing and playmaking skills, and I think the team would be better than last year. Derrick Favors will be a post force. AK fills so many needs and promotes teamwork. This is what Denver has been missing. I think this team would gel and become a much bigger threat to the Jazz.

  3. Joe says:

    So, Monday came and went. What’s the deal? If I were a real Jazz fan, and not just a curious fellow traveler, I would certainly be against the trade. Let’s face it, I’m against it anyway. Boris Diaw is BORING. Kirilenko is RUSSIAN. Nuff said.

  4. Clayton says:

    It doesn’t matter, the Jazz could make it to the WCF this year at best. With AK or Diaw they still have no shot at betting the Lakers. I don’t mind hanging on to AK for a few months, but we need to get something in return for the $80 million he has basically stole from us. Diaw can be an amazing player at times and I say under Sloan he could get much better. If we look back a year from now and don’t get anything i.e, a championship, value for trading AK, even a solid year for AK, Jazz fans will be ripping KOC for not pulling the trigger on the deal. I honestly don’t understand why most Jazz fans love AK, he maybe worth $10 mil a year and if he plays his heart out and has an unbelievable season… next year he’s gone. Gone to a team that will continue to pay $18 mil a year based on 1 prior good year. His contract has screwed the Jazz over since it was signed in ’05, it especially screwed us this off-season… Wes Matthews???????? Since the ’05 contract he has averaged 12 pts, 1.7 blks, 3.3 asts, 5 rbs per game and played in 81% of games. I don’t see $18 mil a year(honestly I don’t see more than $8 mil) and I don’t see why all these Jazz fans are having a damn hissy fit.

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