Without looking, take a wild guess at how many of the 18 Jazz players who have contracts for 2015-16 were acquired using Utah’s own picks.
Go ahead, guess. I’ll wait…
For a program that has ostensibly been built through the draft, you’d think the number is pretty high, right?
Not so. Only Alec Burks, Dante Exum and Trey Lyles were selected at the team’s assigned draft positions1. Trevor Booker was the big free agent get from this group, and a few others landed in Utah via D-League call-ups, waiver claims and camp contract Hail Marys. But the rest of the roster — eight guys in all — landed in the Beehive at least partially as the result of trades.
Gordon Hayward was a 2010 Jazz draft pick, but only after Utah scored that pick in a trade six years earlier. If it feels like he, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and others were gifts straight from David Stern’s podium, it’s only because sometimes trades have a way of stringing themselves out.
I love a good trade trail. It’s fascinating to trace a single thread of transactions through multiple seasons or even eras. Like when a 1976 pick swap survives 35 years. Or when you decide to skip the draft for a year and then wind up with a decade’s worth of shooting guards.
We’ll get to those examples in a minute. First, let’s cover the trade trails that are still alive and have helped put the current Jazz roster together.
Meech, Rice and DWill
Chances are you remember John Amaechi for his post-career revelations. Or you may remember how Larry Miller decided to pursue him after he “kicked our ass,” but then he mostly disappointed in his 104 games despite being a genuinely nice guy. What you may or may not remember is that he and Glen Rice started a series of transactions that indirectly put four current Jazz men on the roster and yielded two other still-active assets.
OK, in fairness, this trail of deals is really about Deron Williams. But the assets needed to get up to #3 and select Williams in the first place started to come together when the Jazz made deals to absorb Rice and later Detroit’s Elden Campbell.
The Williams deal is the ultimately example of a gift that keeps on giving. The original haul – Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and picks — was always solid, but the Jazz have continued to parlay assets forward and eke more basketball value out of the deal.
Sure, they surrendered Enes Kanter for ostensibly less than his full value. But his $70 million price tag and his apparent attitude indicate that the Jazz were smart to roll that into more opportunities while they could. And even Trey Burke landed in Utah only after the Jazz used an asset from the DW deal to move up for him in the 2013 draft.
What’s interesting about this chain of deals is that it might not be over. Depending on what the Jazz do with those future picks (and even players), the assets that stemmed from using Amaechi and Carlos Arroyo to take on Rice’s and Campbell’s salaries could keep producing for the Jazz.
Googs to Gordon
What’s impressive about this train is that the players they surrendered as initial assets in this equation were all entirely done being NBA players. Seriously: none of them played a single NBA minute after being dealt out of Utah.
When you look at it that way, the Jazz gave up a little bit of cap room and four guys who were done anyway in exchange for a Tom Gugliotta rental, a Greg Ostertag swan song, the rights to be used as leverage by Ante Tomic’s agent2… and Gordon Hayward.
This deal should be in GM textbooks. What magical dust do you have to sprinkle on some cap space and four guys with injury3 problems to turn that mess into a 19-5-4 team-leading stud who will be making All-Star teams soon?
The only blight here is giving up on a former #16 pick in Kirk Snyder, but since Snyder never made it past his rookie contract, I think it’s safe to say that the Jazz weren’t wrong to move on.
The rest of Utah’s active trade trails
Another three deals landed Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto and Rodney Hood in Salt Lake City, along with a bunch of picks.
There’s not much else we need to say about the Green-for-Gobert deal. It already looks like an all-time fleecing, and will only look more criminal every time the Stifle Tower finishes a season All-Defense or as the universe’s best rim protector.
It’s easy to forget that Neto was actually a byproduct of the Memo Okur salary dump. I hated that deal at the time. Okur was one of my guys in that locker room, and hugely important to the Jazz. What I didn’t realize then was that his body only had 17 NBA games left in it, so getting something of value was actually a good move. Then, when a guy they liked was available at #47 after they had just used #46 to move up for Gobert, the Jazz had an asset to use to get Atlanta to select Neto for them and move his rights across.
And then, of course, we have the Golden State deal. This was another one many didn’t love at the time4, largely because door number two involved re-signing fan fave Paul Millsap and taking a swing at some free agents that probably would have fit.
But guess what: two years later, those assets are all still active, and one has turned into a pretty impressive-looking wing in Hood. Randy Foye’s inclusion was a zero-cost bonus since they were letting him go anyway, and rolling him in as a sign-and-trade piece to the larger deal netted the Jazz an extra Denver 2nd.
That’s eight of Utah’s guys that were acquired at least partially via trade, including some longer payoffs that required patience and/or more asset maneuvering.
Historical trade trails
Like I said, I love stringing these chains through different generations to see how teams keep an asset alive over time.
For example, take the 1996 Jazz. Utah was coming off 55 wins and a 7-game loss in the Conference Finals, and probably didn’t feel like the #25 pick would get them over the hump. So they deferred the pick, drafting Martin Muursepp for the Heat in exchange for their 2000 1st rounder.
Turns out the Jazz were right about not needing Muursepp5. They went on to make two Finals, and the trade later produced an entire decade of wing production for the Jazz as it turned into guards DeShawn Stevenson, Gordan Giricek and (when combined with another late 1st rounder) Kyle Korver. So in exchange for two late picks6, the Jazz wound up with a trio of guards who appeared in a total of 628 Jazz games, playing 12,288 collective minutes between 2000 and 2010.
Yet no string of trades compares to the one that landed Andrei Kirilenko in Utah. That one starts back in 1976 and includes names like AD and Magic.
When the Jazz signed Laker free agent and eventual Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich to a contract in July 1976, league rules mandated compensation to L.A. Utah was required to swap several upcoming picks, including surrendering the 1979 pick that became #1 overall and was used to put Magic Johnson in Hollywood. As part of that deal, Utah also wound up with a 1978 first rounder that they traded for Joe Meriweather. But the fun was just beginning. Meriweather turned into Spencer Haywood, Haywood turned into Adrian Dantley, and the story continued on, all the way to 2011.
There’s a lot that’s fascinating about this particular grouping of deals, starting with the fact that the Jazz gave up what turned into a chance to draft Magic Johnson. And let’s be clear: the Jazz got absolutely jobbed in that Dantley deal, even if it eventually produced Kirilenko. Tripucka was a 21.6 ppg career scorer when they got him, but he never fit in his two Utah seasons, and Kent Benson was low-value filler.
But it’s also amazing to think that assets generated by a transaction clear back in July 1976 were still in play until Kirilenko left the Jazz in the summer of 2011. That’s 35 years spanned by these interconnected transactions, and the players involved in those deals played a total of 2,076 games for the franchise.
The string also included multiple HOFers and All-Stars7. Dantley brought the Jazz to prominence in the 80s, and Kirilenko is in the franchise’s top 10 in just about every imaginable category. Or the Jazz could have held onto Jack Givens, who averaged 6.7 points over two seasons.
Yeah, probably a good call.