Weekly Q&A: Hood Rumors, Kemba Talk & More As Jazz Approach Deadline

January 22nd, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

(Kent Smith via Hornets.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 struggling Jazz should head.

The internet people are an inquisitive bunch, throwing more than 20 questions my way on this winter Monday. That means we’ll have to move more quickly than I’d prefer. But we can always keep the discussion going in the comments and out on social media.

Utah’s deadline approach

What do you think is the most likely scenario for the Jazz by Feb 8th? @TonyMitchell816

Oh, there will definitely be changes. They might not be the marquee deals that fans have spent the week constructing, but my standing prediction is that at least two (and maybe all) of Joe Johnson, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood will be traded. That means the starting five and the rest of the rotation will both look different on February 9.

It sounds like the Jazz are determined to find a return for Favors and a new home for Johnson. They’ll move off of Burks’ salary if they can, and Hood might represent their best chance at getting a starter-level asset.

If you’re (Jazz GM Dennis) Lindsey, under what circumstances would you part with the Jazz’s 2018 first round pick? @zaclambert

You’d have to get a star. Maybe not an All-Star, but someone who’s top 10 in the league at their position, i.e. an above average starter. And they’d have to have some contract left, as opposed to a rental.

Remember that the Jazz spent a pick to get George Hill for a season, and another pick to get Ricky Rubio for two years. If they spend another pick — potentially a much better one! — for someone who doesn’t stick around long term, that’s pretty rough on a team that needs first rounders to retool a little post-Hayward.

Given the trend of needing 3+ All-Stars to compete for a title (yes, there are exceptions) , how do you think Utah will acquire their third star (assuming Gobert is the first and Donovan develops into the second)? @aheffy

Well yeah, for starters, I dismiss the premise a little bit. Who was MJ and Pippen’s third? The early 2000s Lakers? Or the Spurs’ on their 2014 title? Actually, I think a much more historically accurate way of talking about it is that you need at least two stars and then you need that Swiss-army guy who can do a little of everything.

But overall, your point is valid: the top of the Jazz’s roster isn’t as strong as the tops of other rosters in the West, and they likely won’t start to climb in any meaningful way until they add another guy who’s in the top 5 or 10 at his position. They could get lucky and acquire that type of player in a trade, but it’s far more likely that they’ll find him the way they found Gobert and Mitchell: by drafting smart and waiting on that guy to get good. Sorry, I know that’s not a sexy answer.

Do you think that the front office will move to improve the roster to get to the playoffs or will they reason in the medium to long term? @TomPicci14

I gave a longer answer to this question last week. The short version is that I don’t think the Jazz are close enough to No. 8 to make the playoffs a do-or-die goal, or bad enough to really tank (Monday’s embarrassing loss to Atlanta notwithstanding), especially now that Gobert is back. The focus now shifts to how to make the last 35 games as valuable as possible for Mitchell, Gobert and others so that they head into next year having developed chemistry and changed the momentum. They might create a better context for that development by finding different fits via trade, but only if the deal also makes them better beyond April 2018.

What’s the long term plan for power forward? @mitchiam

Lindsey answered this when he told Spence Checketts that Utah wanted a “6’10” player who can knock down 40 percent of his 3s.” The Jazz desperately want a floor-spacing PF next to Gobert. The Gobert-Favors tandem still works (when Rubio isn’t with them), but Quin Snyder clearly prefers to play with a stretch big next to Gobert. That’s why the Nikola Mirotic talk is very real, and there are others that fit that mold. Some are stars that would be hard to acquire cheaply (Kevin Love), while others might be had for the right offer (Kelly Olynyk).

Do the Jazz need to acquire a new PF, or is Jerebko able to fit what they need? @TonyMitchell816

Jerebko is a good player, and on paper his skill set makes good sense around Gobert and the rest of Utah’s personnel. But he’s not really a long-term starter in terms of macro quality. That’s not meant as a knock. If he were a starter-caliber option, he wouldn’t have been available on a team-friendly contract at half the NBA’s average annual salary and with an option year. Remember that Jerebko has been out of the rotation at different points in the year.

What is the value of doing nothing that puts our cap flexibility at risk? Seems that the ability to sign someone this summer (a luxury most of the league does not have) trumps any of the b-type trades we could make now (Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, anyone from Charlotte). @caseyadamson

Totally valid (and valuable) question. At the risk of answering a question with a question, I’d start here: how likely do you think it is that the Jazz sign a top FA this summer? The best unrestricted guys are Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. There are also RFAs (like Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela) and guys who could hit the market via an option (Kevin Durant, Paul George and LeBron James, for starters). If you think the Jazz have a legit shot at any of those guys, then you’re right, it’s probably best to keep the proverbial powder dry for this summer.

The problem is that it’s not very likely that Utah will be on any of those guys’ lists. And even if they were, Utah can’t create max cap space as easily as people seem to think. A number of various cap holds and obscure rules will clog the Jazz’s space until they make some tough decisions. They can clear them, but it involves spending assets on salary dump trades AND severing the ability to negotiate with their own free agents. And if they strip it down far enough to get the needed cap room, then the question becomes: are they still an attractive option for free agents if the pitch is to come play with Gobert, Mitchell and little else?

So while you’re right that it’s probably not work limiting future options just to land someone like Clarkson and his eight-figure salary, there are deals that the Jazz should — and would — make now even at the expense of 2018 cap space.

I’m working on something that will allow fans to tinker with different scenarios and see just how hard it is to create the requisite space to go after any of those top guys.

How do I stop being so sad about our record and being equidistant from playoffs and top-5 lottery. Mitchell highlights only work for a few minutes. @NBAgiam

There’s no doubt it has been a disappointing season. Owing to another rash of injuries and some consistency issues from certain rotation players, the Jazz haven’t made good on the playoff expectations up to this point. But Mitchell’s emergence as a legit star is far more important in the long term than anything the Jazz could have accomplished in the postseason. Nobody expected him to be this good this fast, so it’s impossible to call the Jazz’s season a waste when they have so quickly found a new path forward around a Mitchell-and-Gobert core.

The Jazz will either get their act together now that guys are getting healthy (and after whatever trades they make)… or if they don’t, they’ll get another top 10 pick to accelerate their reset. So I guess the answer is to take the long view.

If you were to have a say who should be untouchable for the Jazz. @Oteachjohn

I love this question, because Jazz fans need to realize how short the list is. Gobert. Mitchell. Beyond those two, everybody is up for discussion. They’d prefer not to include Dante Exum, but they would if it nets them the right return. And then there are the guys who are not untouchable, but who are unlikely to be traded because their value to Utah exceeds their trade value: dudes like Joe Ingles and the emerging Royce O’Neale.

Questions about the Jazz roster (non-trade related)

Can the Jazz still extend Dante right now, or will they need to wait for the off-season? @TonyMitchell816

They missed the opportunity to extend Exum’s contract by October 16, 2017. They can sign him to a new contract (or match offers made by other teams) starting on July 1.

Every time Ekpe plays he is a huge contributor. With Favors and Rudy healthy is he going to be totally benched. Jazz plans for him? @Oteachjohn

Udoh is a casualty of Snyder’s penchant for 4-out lineups. The six to seven minutes that Favors and Gobert play together each night already stretch the limits of Snyder’s comfort level. That said, if Favors gets moved by February 8, Udoh will slide right back into those backup center minutes. And given his value contract — the Jazz hold an option for next season at $3.36 million — I expect him to return next season as well. He is a smart player who understands what the opponent wants to do and smarty short-circuits a lot of plays without standing out on the stat sheet.

Knowing all we know now and considering the options available at the time, how do you grade the Udoh, Sefolosha, and Jerebko signings today? @BYUJazz12

The smartest thing about those three deals was the non-guaranteed salary in year two. That made all three acquisitions very low-risk, medium-reward signings. All three have played very well and have been a positive influence on the rest of the club, so those deals have paid off about as much as one could have reasonably expected. Those three have actually posted the three best net ratings of all rotation regulars for Utah. So it’s hard to find any grounds to malign those deals. Very shrewd work by Lindsey.

Questions relating to the new Rodney Hood rumor

Who is reaching out for Hood? What is his value? @LilBax

I don’t know specific teams, but obviously the only teams that would trade for Hood right now are those that would be committed to paying him a restricted free agent this summer. That obviously limits the field a little. On the other hand, those teams would be trading for the opportunity to control Hood’s next 3-4 years with matching rights, so they might be willing to offer more value than they would for a guy who was going to become a free agent after 35 more games.

Would Toronto be interested in parlaying one of their younger pieces like Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, or OG Anunoby plus their first round pick for Hood? Does that make sense for the Jazz? @adam_bushman

Toronto may or may not be interested in that construct (all three of the players you mentioned have started intermittently for the Raps), but that type of deal is about what Jazz fans could expect. Hood isn’t likely to headline a trade for a star player, but he could get Utah a shot with a young guy who hasn’t really had a chance yet.  They’d likely net *either* the young player *or* the first-rounder, though.

Do you think the willingness to trade Hood is in pursuit of a more established or less injury-prone player or about draft picks? @jstuart87

Seems like there’s been a change in Hood’s mentality and desire to be in Utah. Following [the boos he received last week], the message from the Jazz is they’re moving him for sure. What changed? Is it from Hood’s camp – he wants out? Curious if anything’s been hinted at. @rmordekai

Well first, there’s a difference between “they’re moving him for sure” and “they’re listening to offers.” But let’s assume the Jazz are ready to move on from Hood: it’s about the recognition that he’s about to get paid like a core piece, and the fact that so far, he hasn’t really been one for Utah. Some of that has been situational, with unfortunate injuries and unexpected changes to his role. But if you’re going to pay Hood the $15 to 20 million he could command as a restricted free agent, you had better believe he can be one of your top three or four players as the team nears contention.

The Jazz obviously had that kind of hope for Rodney when they boldly stated that he’d be the main offensive weapon going into the season — but it hasn’t worked out that way. While he’s scoring more than ever, his overall impact is lower than ever by some advanced metrics, and he has now been replaced as a starter in each of the past two seasons. So I think it’s fair to have questions about writing a player in that situation a massive check.

Kemba Walker rumors

Thoughts on a potential Kemba-DM pairing. Defensive and offensive fit together. @TheDarkPig21

I’ll start by saying I think it’s moot, because unlike Kevin Pelton, I don’t think it’s very likely that the Jazz can land Kemba with with their available assets. Or perhaps more accurately — it would take enough assets to land the All-Star guard that it might be too risky for Utah to surrender picks and young players just for 100 games or so before Walker becomes a free agent in 2019.

But I’ll humor you. Walker and Mitchell duplicate each other in some areas, but they both offer in spades some qualities NBA teams can’t have enough of. They’re both diminutive, quick, shoot-first guards. Mitchell’s real strength is breaking down defenses and finishing; Walker is a better shooter and takes better care of the basketball. Neither (so far) has really excelled as a facilitator, which is where some of the concerns come in about the two sharing the rock. Personally, I’m not worried about that; both guys are pretty team-focused, so they’d figure it out. There are 90-100 possessions in a basketball game, more than enough for each guy to take his turn.

For me, the bigger concerns would be whether the two can defend together. Mitchell has a 6’10” wingspan that he uses to disrupt, but he’s still learning the game and gets caught wandering. And Kemba is just small, making it tough for him to cross-match to bigger guards.

Do you think a player like Nic Batum could revitalize his game with a system and support staff like the Jazz have? @StewieStoney

Putting this here because I assume it relates to the construct where the Jazz take Batum back in a Walker trade

Three-part answer here: 1) It’s not like Charlotte doesn’t have a system. They do, and some of their philosophies and even personnel are similar (at a high level) to the Jazz’s. 2) Batum hasn’t been having that bad a year. His efficiency and per-36 numbers are not that far off from career levels, he’s just missed a bunch of games and played a slightly smaller role when he has played. 3) The real issue with Batum is that contract: $77 million over the next three years. That would completely destroy Utah’s cap flexibility going forward.

Specific questions about other potential targets

Also, Ben Dowsett has thrown out a scenario of Favors, Exum, and Hood (and the 2018 1st) for CJ McCollum. I like McCollum but not that much. Curious about your take on a trade for CJ. A good fit for Utah? If so, is that trade too much in your opinion, or am I wrong? @rmordekai

Yeah, Ben’s probably right: that’s probably about where the conversation starts for Portland, or it’s a short discussion. You could probably sub in Johnson for Favors since the latter is only there for salary-matching purposes on an expiring deal, but Portland would not be unreasonable to demand Hood, Exum and the 1st as a starting point. With McCollum on the Jazz, that pick likely slides back to the very end of the lottery. No. 14 will likely yield a rotation player, and Hood’s a borderline starter / high-minute reserve type.

Whether this deal is fair or too steep pretty much comes down to how you feel about Exum. Jazz fans still have a lot of hope for him, but the trade market isn’t necessarily going to value him based on what he might still become.

With Clarkson balling out for the Lakers and him on trading block, think he and Mitchell could play together? Bring Randle over with the deal and try him out. @bobby_latimer

With two years left in the low eight-figure range, Clarkson is a good example of a guy who would be a band-aid now but ultimately limit some of the club’s financial freedom. I’m not sure Clarkson is good enough to make that sacrifice. Even accounting for his recent hot stretch, a Clarkson possession is still worth less than the average NBA possession, and he doesn’t really defend. As for Randle, he’s skilled, but has never been accused of being a stretch big — 26 percent from three in his career. So you’d have some of the same spacing issues trying to play him with Gobert. I don’t think he’s the answer Lindsey is looking for.

With the news about Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs’ FO on the outs, could the Jazz make a trade for Kawhi while keeping Gobert, Mitchell, and Exum? I know our three best assets but we could take back Gasol. @TheAccountant90

Nope, sorry. You don’t get anywhere near a top-5 MVP candidate (when healthy) without including your best players & assets in the deal.

DL kinda admitted they’re going after Mirotic. Any way we can get Denzel Valentine out of that deal as well? Link. @Sporkaccione1

That probably doesn’t make sense for Chicago. Teams start their rebuilds by getting young, cheap assets with promising futures and team control. Valentine hasn’t been very good yet, but the Bulls are in no hurry, and he’s the type of asset you collect at this phase of rebuilding.

Thanks for all the questions! We’ll keep doing this as the trade deadline (February 8) approaches.

 

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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