Weekly Q&A: Favors Rumors, Rubio Fit & More Trade Talk

January 16th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Melissa Majchrzak via cavs.com

At least until the trade deadline, we’re going to make the regular Q&A a tradition to start each week. There is so much to discuss right now, from cap rules to specific trade possibilities to the general direction the now 17-26 Jazz should head.

With 20 questions tossed in by the tweeps and readers this week, I’m going to have to go somewhat rapid fire this time around. Exception: I’m going to start with a fundamental question that might merit a few extra thoughts.

Would you agree that playoff chances are looking really slim nowadays? At which point should the Jazz shut it down for the season?

-Ammar @_am _h

This is an important place to start because the answers and implications to this loaded question color so much of what is to follow.

So let’s start with the part that’s easiest to dispense with (and maybe hardest to admit): yeah, at this point the Jazz are most likely not a playoff team. They’re not totally out of it, but they’d have to play .600 ball just to get to 41-41 by season’s end, and most projections say they need 43 or so for the playoffs. Teams that are nine games under .500 don’t usually start playing like 50-win teams overnight, which is why FiveThirtyEight has downgraded Utah’s odds to 18 percent, and B-Ref has them at 11.5 percent. As such, I think the Jazz are already at a point where any deals they make should be focused on how to make a Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert-led Jazz better next season and beyond.

But now to the second part of your question, Ammar — I’m not sure what “shutting it down” would look like. The Jazz have already taken the leash completely off their rookie prodigy, giving him more minutes and possessions than virtually any other rookie. They’ve already begun to transition roles from guys like seventh-year pro Alec Burks to guys like rookie Royce O’Neale, and the 33-year-old Thabo Sefolosha is now injured. The way this roster is set up, the young guys who would get more opportunities on a true rebuilding team are already playing big roles. Maybe less Joe Johnson? More Tony Bradley?

Gobert isn’t the type to let Utah shut him down for half a season if he’s healthy, and with him playing the Jazz will likely be too good to full-on tank. So their approach should probably be to do what they’re basically doing already: give Mitchell as much as he can handle, try to be as good as they can be for the sake of giving him and others a meaningful development laboratory, and focus on building winning habits.

Is there any truth to rumors of infighting within the Jazz organization?

-Joshua @YoshiJazzFan

Everything I’ve ever heard about the relationship between Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder is that they’re very spiritually aligned on the big picture stuff. Identity, how they think about player evaluation, the things they want the Jazz to represent, etc.

That said, they’re both guys with strong personalities and a bunch of opinions they’ve formed and ensconced over time, so it would be unreasonable to expect that they literally agree on everything. My best guess is that the rumor that “management and the coaching staff may not be on the same page” is probably somewhat overblown, although they’re two grown men who certainly have a right to their own well-founded opinions. Smart people can disagree.

Case in point: two and a half years ago, a report surfaced that Snyder was pushing for the Jazz to supplant the injured Dante Exum with reserve guard Garrett Temple. Snyder cared enough to (apparently) get the word out on Utah’s interest, yet Lindsey tamped the rumor down in public and never appeared to seriously engage Temple’s representation. That’s a perfect example of what I mean — the two basketball thinkers obviously prioritized Temple differently, and yet I don’t think that was evidence of any kind of deep philosophical rift. If they do have divergent views on some of their options this trade season, it probably won’t be the last time. It’s part of operating in a high-stakes world with few black-and-white, right-and-wrong answers.

OK, at some point I’ve got to speed up here…

Anyway we could get Evan Fournier And Aaron Gordon in a trade? I’d be willing to give up Favors + Hood + 1st round pick to make that happen!

What about an unprotected first round pick.. we are destined for the lottery this year..   seems like he would be an awesome fit with Rudy!

-Richard @UPPERBOWL_JAZZ

I’m already on the record with my prediction that we’ll hear about Jazz-Fournier interest at some point. Whether or not I’m right about that piece, trying to get Gordon into that conversation will prove unrealistic. He’s their best piece, a former No. 4 pick. Orlando is reportedly making a lot of players available, but so far there’s not a single peep to indicate that Gordon is on the block.

Why hasn’t Snyder with all his smarts made the offense better fit for Ricky Rubio and his skill set? Assists have been cut in half and shots have gone up…maybe I’m missing something too…

-Jake @BillyHil25

No, I don’t think you’re missing anything. Ricky is struggling (predictably) to shoot the ball efficiently, and his shortcomings in that department have made it really difficult for the Jazz to run their stuff. That said, I’m not sure there’s a magic wand Snyder can wave. They’ve tried different things: having Rubio off ball, having him attack the sagging big, running multiple actions to get the screener’s man off balance before the central P&R action. All of those work here and there, but ultimately, it’s hard to be an elite P&R facilitator when teams so brazenly neglect to guard you coming off the pick. I still believe in the impact Rubio makes in other areas, but there are times when it feels like the Jazz are running in mud on the offensive end.

Do you know who cursed the Jazz? Because this injury streak absolutely has to be the result of a curse, even Gordon Hayward was the victim of it.

-@alaric1224

I don’t know, but it’s clear that someone ticked off the Hawaiian volcano goddess or paid religious tithes on their net income instead of their gross. In the last three seasons combined — 207 games and counting — they’ve had a fully healthy roster for just four games!

Any idea who the big name free agent was who was interested in coming to Utah that David Locke mentions at around the 7:20 mark here?

-Dave @D_HUG

(Trib beat writer) Tony Jones and Locke have hinted at bigger time FAs having a desire to play for the jazz. Are there any untold stories from last summer of guys considering the Jazz, before Hayward jumped ship?

-Mark @Mmueller88

We’ve all heard that Otto Porter was down for a meeting, right? Not that it would have mattered, since the Wiz ultimately matched his offer sheet with Brooklyn anyway. Kyle Lowry makes some sense, since he was reportedly weighing his options before going back to Toronto. Aside from that, how many “big name” free agents were there? Steph and KD were never going to leave Golden State. The only other stars on the free agent market were Blake Griffin, whose new deal was announced well before midnight on July 1, and former Jazz man Paul Millsap. Danilo Gallinari is a borderline star, I guess.

And has Hayward jumping ship affected that all, the Nikola Mirotic rumor aside?

-Landry @LanRovr0

Two-part answer. Yes, I’m sure that not having Hayward — or more accurately, not being a 50-win team that’s trending up — takes a little juice out of the Jazz’s free agency pitch. Having said that, the Jazz were only going to have the cap space to sign a major free agent if Hayward left and took his $24 million cap hold with him, so obviously whoever they were talking to was copacetic to the idea of a Jazz future that didn’t involve #20. As the Mirotic rumor suggests, Snyder has a good brand among NBA players, and it has to help that Utah already has a transcendental defensive stud, and now an up-and-coming young star to boot.

What are Utah’s plans with Rubio? Will he finish the season in a Jazz jersey ?

-Kelvin @melarakelvin

I’m betting yes. His value is in a weird place right now, and there aren’t that many realistic deals that can be constructed with his eight-figure salary for this season and next. The question, in my mind, is what role he has as the Jazz head into the second half of the season. I know they’re nervous about the possible chemistry impacts of moving him to the bench, but something has to change for the Jazz to break out of this funk. Maybe a trade or two will put some players around Rubio that help accentuate his strengths a little better, but he’s definitely a player whose load could change over the next 39.

What are the guarantee dates for our players that have team options next season?

-z @kja2064

Well first of all, they are non-guaranteed contracts, not technically team options. That might sound like a semantic difference, but it matters, because players with pending options can’t be traded as easily, whereas a player with a guarantee date can be dealt.

Sefolosha’s $5.25 million becomes guaranteed on July 1, while Jonas Jerebko’s $4.2 million and Ekpe Udoh’s $3.36 million both guarantee on July 9. All three can be an interesting part of draft-centered trade discussions, and the later dates on Jerebko’s and Udoh’s deals mean they’ll be in play as flexible salary chips well into free agency.

Anyway Cleveland trades Jae Crowder and Channing Frye for Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson? Do you like that trade idea?

-Jordan @TheDarkPig21

That’s an interesting one. Both Crowder and Frye have had really disappointing years, so some team might catch the Cavs in the mood to move on. Crowder looked like such a steal in a defined role in Boston, and getting him back to that level of production could be a real boon for someone. Johnson wouldn’t do much for Cleveland, but Hood and his matching rights would be a nice get for them in exchange for two struggling role players. The Jazz might be able to find a better haul for Hood somewhere out there, and I still think the more likely Cavs-Jazz deal would involve Derrick Favors, as Adrian Wojnarowski suggested today.

Nothing on Niko for a few days, are the Bulls asking too much or is a trade done?

-Jager1 @TheAccountant90

Mirotic’s trade restriction lifted on Monday1, so if the deal were done, we’d have heard about it by now. The teams are probably just engaged in a game of chicken at the negotiating table. I’m sure it comes down to the pick. Chicago’s waiting to see if another team will bid the price up and embolden them in their quest to land a first rounder, and Utah is waiting to see if Chicago will get desperate enough to relent on their pick requirement by February 8.

If the Jazz do make a trade soon, is it likely to be before the deadline, or at the deadline, when most moves seem to be made? If no move is made, does Q continue to roll out the trio of death when Rudy returns?

-@bebopxz

Most trades happen closer to the deadline because that’s when people start to budge in negotiations. That said, the Jazz are clearly reeling right now, so if any team has motivation to start to move forward sooner rather than closer to February 8, it’s Utah. The Jazz’s chemistry definitely didn’t look right on Monday, and some of that could be the uncertain futures of several players weighing on them. Rather than hold their nose through another 23 days of awkwardness, the Jazz could pull the trigger early if the right deal is there. But as I said above, it would have to be a deal that makes the Mitchell-and-Gobert Jazz of next season better.

As for your “if no move is made” question… I’m going to dismiss the premise. I’m increasingly convinced that there will be some changes.

This is admittedly my pet question. If Favors gets about $8 million per year next year (as I expect he will) is he worth keeping around the organization?

-Joseph @JosephHorner

Well let’s set aside for a second what I think is a very low ballpark on his market value. The question with Favors comes down to roles. Snyder clearly doesn’t like playing him with Gobert, and he’s simply too good a player to play only during the 16 minutes a night that Gobert rests. If it were me, I’d keep him and use him as a hybrid 4/5, but the writing appears to be on the wall, both in terms of Snyder’s willingness to deploy him that way, and his desire to stick around and be a role player.

If the Jazz could keep him for $8M, that’s a no-brainer from their end, but that’s just not realistic. The mid level exception — the amount even capped-out teams can offer free agents — is $8.4 million. Fav is better than an MLE player, so even in a tight market, he’ll find something closer to starter money somewhere.

Would Cleveland take Favors for their own 1st round pick?

-Adam @adamfis57149791

Probably, yes. Cleveland’s own pick — currently slated for No. 24 — is said to be in play as the Cavs try to salvage their contention hopes. Favors makes a lot of sense for them, although they might want to first chat with his representation about the likelihood that he re-ups with or without LeBron. But yes, this is a deal that could be on the table, especially if the Cavs can’t get a star center like DeAndre Jordan or Marc Gasol.

How the heck Woj and Shams Charania get so many “bombs,” even from the Jazz?

-@JazzNationBr

There was an interesting feature on Woj a couple of years ago that detailed his contacts around the league, and the understanding he has with several GMs and power agents. Having a good relationship with someone like Woj is incredibly valuable in driving the type of coverage you want, so he’s somebody who NBA decision-makers generally don’t want to tick off. (Similar story with Shams. It will take him a while to cultivate the same relationships that Woj has, but it helps his legitimacy to have worked for the master.) I’ve been told that the Jazz front office has a good relationship with Wojnarowski, so I usually put decent stock in Utah news that he breaks, as opposed to others who have a spottier record in reporting Jazz stuff. And in general, you shouldn’t buy the tired schtick that the Jazz never talk to media. The Jazz don’t like to negotiate in the press, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have good ongoing dialogue with certain reporters, both locally and nationally.

Seems like people are overblowing Jazz’s desire for cap space this offseason considering we’re operating over the cap. With Dante’s $17 million cap hold this summer, what do you think is a fair contract for him, considering age, lack of experience, upside, injury history, etc.?

-Brad @bookofzook

Yeah, the Jazz can get under the cap by several million… but in order to get far enough under that they could go after the real decision-makers, they’d have to do some significant finagling. That means letting their non-guaranteed guys walk, and not keeping the matching rights to players like Hood or Exum. We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t think they’ll strip down the roster to the degree necessary to clear max cap room.

As for Exum, it’s extremely hard to say. He’ll likely still get eight figures annually from someone. It sounds like he’ll work his way back this season, and how he looks next to Mitchell will be a really important thing for Utah to figure out heading into free agency.

How would you like a trade for Justise Winslow at power forward to replace Sefolosha and develop him into that kind of player? Cheap two-year contract. Involve a 3rd team so they can unload Whiteside/Tyler Johnson. I’d be OK with trading Hood for Winslow straight up, freeing Alec Burks.

-Sporkaccione @sporkaccione1

Bill Simmons mentioned on Zach Lowe’s podcast today that one of the smartest deals you can make is for a lottery pick who maybe just needs a change of scenery. Winslow really hasn’t worked out for Miami, which could make him an intriguing reclamation project for somebody. That said, he’s a wing, and so far the experiment to play him at PF hasn’t worked out that well. He’s definitely worth a flyer, depending on what Miami is asking. He probably won’t fetch a starter-level asset, so Hood straight up feels too stiff a price. Stanley Johnson is on a strikingly similar path: big wing, former top 10 pick, not a great shooter, coming off the bench in his third year. It’s the non-shooting part that makes both guys questionable fits in Utah — that’s something the Jazz need more of, not less.

Thanks for all the questions. We’ll do this again next week!

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

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