18 May 2012
Fundamentally Flawed and Finding Fixes
I Got 29 Trade Proposals, but all the Jazz Need is 1
WRITTEN BY PETER J. NOVAK | 18 MAY 2012
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The Utah Jazz lockout shortened 2011-12 season came to a close about two weeks ago with a disappointing sweep at the hands of the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs. The team had its annual locker cleanout the following day, where it was reported that Jazz Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor told media members in attendance that he didn’t feel the Jazz needed to deal any of its quality big men and that he was perfectly amenable to returning in 2012-13 with the same frontcourt.
Despite O’Connor’s statements, the writing is on the wall for most Jazz fans and local and national media types who see that the Jazz’s greatest strength (their frontcourt depth) is indirectly contributing to the teams greatest weakness (backcourt depth). This is of course because the NBA operates in a system where each team can only allocate a limited amount of resources to its player salaries, and thus each team must budget its needs within the confines of that system. Accordingly, if a team dedicates too many resources (draft picks, salaries) to one particular area of its roster (in the Jazz case, the Power Forward position) it will necessarily mean that other positions on the team are underfunded (in the Jazz case, the point guard and wing positions).
The Jazz as presently constructed have invested their greatest amount of resources into the power forward position, which includes veterans Al Jefferson ($14 million), Paul Millsap ($6.7m) and young prospects Derrick Favors ($4.4m) and Enes Kanter ($4.13m). Those four players (out of a total of fifteen) comprised about 52% of the Jazz’s reported 2011-12 total salary cap expenditures (approximately $57m). While Jefferson and Kanter log most of their minutes at center, an argument could be made that their shorter stature would ideally suit them for the power forward position. Favors logged time at center as well, but he is on record as saying that he sees himself as an NBA power forward.
While having that frontcourt depth is nice and did lead to much of the Jazz’s success this past season, the 2011-12 season taught us that the Jazz still lack proven playmakers at point guard and both wing positions. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks have each shown glimpses of potential. Potential that might lead one to believe that both of those guys are future starters on a championship contending team. At other times they have each failed to make a consistent and necessary impact in games, and neither player has found a consistent three-point stroke in the NBA. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if either of those guys is ideally suited for the small forward position especially when it comes to defending some of the NBA’s larger small forwards like Kevin Durant or Lebron James.
Perhaps the position that all Jazz fans can agree needs to be addressed this offseason is point guard. Jazz fans, and no doubt the team, have been let down with Devin Harris’s play since the Jazz acquired him last spring. Additionally, Harris has an expiring contract that would seem to signal that his time with the Jazz will come to an end next offseason, unless the team finds a way to deal him first.
While the Jazz certainly have their holes that need to be addressed, they are not without assets to help them fill their needs. As the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs the Jazz may need just a few tweaks, to go along with current player development that will enable the team to reemerge in the Western Conference’s elite. To accomplish these needs the Jazz have a number of tools available to them offseason, as follows:
- Free Agency: Between committed salaries and various cap holds, the Jazz at present time sit about $4m below the estimated 2012-13 salary cap (approximately $58m). That does not give the team much room to maneuver and due to some complexities of the cap the Jazz really only have the Non-Taxpayer Mid Level Exception (the “MLE”) to entice a player to sign with them. This will enable the Jazz to sign a restricted or unrestricted free agent to a four year contract with a maximum salary of $21.35m. The Jazz could sign lower level free agents and the team could create cap room by making unbalanced trades that would free up salary cap space, but for the time being, if you are pining for the Jazz to sign a free agent, hope that player would be content with a starting salary of $5m per year.
- Traded Player Exception: Much has been made of the $10.9m Traded Player Exception (the “TPE”) that the Jazz acquired when they traded Mehmet Okur to the New Jersey Nets prior to last season. Without getting into too many of the boring details, the TPE allows the Jazz to take back a single or multiple players, either simultaneously or in separate transactions, who have a salary that is less than $10.9m for the upcoming season. This tool is especially appealing for teams that have made financial commitments to players that they now want to unload without taking back any salary commitments in return. In an ideal scenario the Jazz would get serviceable players in a “contract dumping” transaction but in the current NBA environment we are likely looking at taking back overpaid players or a combination of an overpaid player and a worthwhile asset (like draft picks, cash, young inexpensive player).
- Expiring Contracts: Another valuable commodity to NBA personnel folks, is expiring contracts. Similar to the TPE, this allows a team to unload a longer term financial commitment for one that will come off that teams books at the end of the upcoming season. As a technical matter, every single contract on the Jazz’s books is eligible to be wiped off at the end of the 2012-13 season. Realistically, though the Jazz will exercise the “team options” they hold and retain their four young first and second year players beyond next season. Other teams may come calling to the Jazz to swap some of their longer term contracts for those of expiring Jazz players.
- Talented Basketball Players: I placed this bullet next to last, as it seems the NBA has shifted over the past decade or so, with the major impetus behind trades in this era being the affect the transaction will have on a teams bottom line or future capacity to spend. That is why so many trades now seem to be executed with non-equivalent basketball talent. In this regard the Jazz have a number of talented players that other teams may come calling for. Millsap is the most productive for his level of salary, but Jefferson and Harris may have value as NBA starters to some teams out there.
- Andrei Kirilenko: Kirilenko gets his own special category because his situation is unique. While Kirilenko had a successful basketball campaign abroad last year, the Jazz still retain his “bird rights” which enable them to offer him a contract of up to 35% of the team’s salary cap. While nobody expects the Jazz to overpay for Kirilenko (again), the Jazz are in a position to offer Kirilenko more money than he can get elsewhere. While there would not appear to be room for Kirilenko on the teams present roster, especially considering the fact that Kirilenko’s success in Europe came mostly at the power forward position, any trade the Jazz make for Millsap or Jefferson may free up a spot on the team for a veteran forward with Kirilenko’s skill-set and ability to play both small and power forward. One last note on Kirilenko, it would appear that due to the “Keith Van Horn” rule, the Jazz will not be able to sign and trade Kirilenko to another team, as he was not with the team for the past season.
Lottery Team Trade Proposals
What follows below is a list of potential trades made with both the Jazz team needs and objectives and the counterparties needs and objectives kept in mind. I am cognizant of the fact that my opinion on what teams’ need and want to do is highly subjective, but hopefully this exercise will give Jazz fans an idea of what type of moves might be available to help this team improve. The types of trades you’ll read below are both large and small, as sometimes it is the small roster moves that can provide a team with the extra variable it was missing.
For the purposes of cutting this already long article short, we are breaking it into two parts. What follows below is a trade proposal between the Jazz and each non-playoff team, organized from best to worst. Part two of this article will feature a trade proposal from each playoff team from worst to best. In parenthesis next to each player is the reported remaining year(s) and salary on each players’ current contract.
The Trade: Houston trades Kevin Martin (1yr $12.9m) and Samuel Dalembert (1 yr $6.7m team option “T/O”) to
Utah for Al Jefferson (1 yr $15m).
Why Houston Does It: As evidenced by its attempts to trade for Pau Gasol and sign Nene as a free agent last offseason, Houston is attempting to upgrade its frontcourt options. While Dalembert was signed to fortify their frontline, he eventually fell out of favor with Kevin McHale and lost minutes to Marcus Camby. For Houston, trading Martin is as much about freeing up cap space and playing time for Goran Dragic in order to retain him as a free agent this offseason, something Darryl Morey has been very public about wanting to accomplish. While Dragic primarily plays the PG position, the Rockets have used both he and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt together.
Why Utah Does It: Outside shooting. I could stop the analysis there as that is the obvious hole that the Jazz are trying to fill in this scenario. It should be noted that Martin has lost some of his shooting touch over the past couple of seasons and his defense is and always has been questionable. The Jazz would hope they could cover for that with Hayward and Favors defending around him. The Dalembert part of the equation is not merely a throw in, as the Jazz could use a big, rim protecting 7-footer to fill in for some of the minutes in the frontline rotation that you lose by trading away Jefferson. Dalembert is not a long-term solution for the roster but would be good for 20 minutes a night as a defensive specialist and to give Kanter some needed time to develop.
Who Says No: I think this is a pretty fair trade, but ultimately I think O’Connor nixes this one as he values Jefferson higher than the return package here.
The Trade: Phoenix trades Channing Frye (3yrs $6m, $6.4m, $6.7m player option “P/O”) and Hakim Warrick (2yr
$4.6m, $4.9m) to
Utah for Raja Bell (1yr $3.5m). Utah would have to use $6m of the TPE to consummate this trade.
Why Phoenix Does It: The Suns by all accounts are ready to amicably part with Steve Nash, which will undoubtedly put them into rebuilding mode. While the team is rather bare in the backcourt, they do have a glut of average to above average centers and power forwards. It would appear the Suns value Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris the most going forward, but I have also heard rumblings that they would like to extend Robin Lopez’s contract as well. This would seem to make both Frye and Warrick expendable, especially when considering their present overinflated salaries. This trade allows Phoenix to get rid of a couple of longer term contracts to help them enter the rebuilding process sooner.
Why Utah Does It: Frye is a Jazz killer with his deadly outside stroke. While our frontline seems full now, we don’t currently have a weapon that can hit three-point shots like Frye on the perimeter. His game would seemingly compliment Jefferson and/or Favors going forward. Warrick is not wanted, but the inclusion of his salary is what makes the deal more appealing to the Suns and he can give the team spot minutes, as needed. The Jazz also use this opportunity to unload the 1 year remaining on Bell’s contract.
Who Says No: I think the Suns would nix this one first. While unloading those contracts would have an appeal to them, unless they need the cap space to make free agent moves this summer, they might just be better off hanging on to those players for now.
The Trade: Milwaukee trades Brandon Jennings (1yr $3.1m, $4.3m qualifying offer “Q/O”); Drew Gooden (3yrs $6.68m, $6.68m, $6.68m); Mike Dunleavy (1yr $3.75m) to
Utah for Al Jefferson (1yr $15m); Alec Burks (3 yrs $2.1m, $2.3m, $3.2m, $4.4m Q/O); and a future conditional 1st round draft pick.
Why Milwaukee Does It: Just a few short months ago Milwaukee put an end to the Andrew Bogut experience. While they were able to acquire a dynamic backcourt scorer (Monta Ellis) and defensive role playing big man (Ekpe Udoh), they lack any consistent scoring options in the post. This trade gives them a true inside outside game with Jefferson in the paint and Ellis playing lead guard on the wing. Additionally, they get a young shooting guard in Burks who could play opposite Ellis in either guard spot. Finally, they were able to eliminate Drew Gooden’s onerous contract from their payroll, which will help give them flexibility to free up money to extend Jefferson and/or Ellis at the end of next season, or alternatively rebuild from the ground up.
Why Utah Does It: Utah needs a future point guard and Jennings may be the best available as he and Ellis has fairly duplicative skill-sets. Utah may have some concerns about Jennings long-term commitment to Utah after he made some comments which caused some observers to question his commitment to a similar small market franchise such as Milwaukee. Despite that though, if offered, there is rarely a situation when a young player won’t re-sign a big money contract extension at the end of his rookie contract and the Jazz would hold all the cards for the following two seasons. Jennings is lightening quick and is still only 22 years old and gives the Jazz someone to grow with its young core. His game reminds me of a young Tony Parker and similar to Parker he needs to improve his outside shot. With Jennings and the subtraction of Jefferson, the Jazz would want to open the floor more and become a more up-tempo team. This may play well into the strengths of Favors and Hayward going forward. The Jazz also acquire a relatively cheap Dunleavy, who when healthy, can still shoot well enough to help spread the floor at either wing position. Gooden may be overpaid, but as a 3rd big man he can give the team solid rotational minutes for the next three seasons.
Who Says No: Besides Jazz fans who haven’t seen enough of Jennings play, probably Milwaukee. While I don’t doubt their need for an upgrade in the post, an Ellis/Jefferson pairing would be brutal on defense and may have a hard time sharing on offense.
The Trade: Portland trades Wesley Matthews (3yrs $6.5, $6.8, $7.2) and the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to
Utah for Paul Millsap (1yr $7.2m)
Why Portland Does It: Portland has completely blown up their team and will enter the offseason with a ton of cap space and a ton of needs to fill. The Blazers appear to be focused on building the team around Aldridge and Batum, and thus will have many options to consider once they hire a General Manager. The Blazers may look to a few different ways to improve their team with veterans or with young players, or perhaps a combination of both. Millsap would give Aldridge a relatively inexpensive frontline player to team up with and both players have an inside-outside game that could compliment each other well. Portland would also be clearing Matthews contracts off their books, giving them three solid players to build around along with the 1st round pick they got from the Nets and more cap space to pursue free agents.
Why Utah Does It: Utah makes this move because the power forward position belongs to Favors now and to get into the upcoming draft with the 11th overall pick. With that pick (and having reacquired Matthews) they would seemingly target filling the need at point guard. At #11 the Jazz could have a choice of either of the top two point guard prospects, Kendall Marshall and Damian Lillard. Matthews had a tough end to the 2012 season and he does not appear to be playing up to the lofty contract that Portland gave him. Perhaps a new home on a familiar team would help him get back on track to the player he was becoming before all the drama unfolded in Portland.
Who Says No: Probably Utah. O’Connor appears to value his veteran proven commodities over draft picks and he didn’t want to pay that much money for Matthews the last time he had the opportunity.
The Trade: Minnesota trades Darko Milicic (1yr $5.2m, $5.6m T/O) and the #18 pick in the 2012 NBA draft to
Utah for future 2nd round draft considerations. Utah would have to use $5.2m of the TPE to consummate this trade.
Why Minnesota Does It: By all accounts Minnesota had finally turned things around with the strong positive influence that Ricky Rubio brought to its team. Unfortunately, Rubio got injured and the team quickly regressed back to its norm. Despite that, the team should feel confident that it has a decent core in place right now with Love, Pekovic and Derrick Williams forming a solid frontline and Rubio handling the ball distribution duties. The team would appear to be in a good place to compete if it can get some help at the wing positions. Considering their current salary cap commitments, Minnesota does not have a lot of money to throw around at free agents. Enter, the Utah Jazz. With this trade the Timberwolves free up some cap flexibility to go out and pursue help at the wings trough free agency or trades, perhaps someone like Jamal Crawford who was almost traded their before the trade deadline this past season.
Why Utah Does It: Utah may be interested in getting back into this deep draft, and this is one way for them to dip their toes back in. While the Jazz wouldn’t have much use for Milicic his contract expires at the end of next season along with the bulk of the Jazz roster, and the Jazz would not lose long-term salary cap flexibility with this trade. With the 17th pick the Jazz would likely have the option of the 3rd or 4th best point guard prospects, which is likely to be a player like Marquis Teague or Tony Wroten. Those guys need some time to learn and the Jazz could give them spot duty behind Harris and Watson this season.
Who Says No: Probably Utah. While O’Connor might want back into the draft, $5.2m for the 17th pick may be a bit too pricey.
The Trade: Detroit trades Rodney Stuckey (2yr $8.5m, $8.5m partially guaranteed); Charlie Villenueva (2 yr $8.0m, $8.5m P/O); Austin Daye (1yr $2.9m, $4.1m Q/O) and the 9th pick in the 2012 NBA draft to
Utah for Paul Millsap (1yr $8.6m); Devin Harris (1yr $8.5m); and Raja Bell (1yr $3.5m)
Why Detroit Does It: Joe Dumars severely hamstrung the financial flexibility of his team a few years back when he signed Villenueva and Ben Gordon to inflated contracts. Both have underperformed and the Pistons need help getting out from under them, while also trying to improve the team going forward. This trade helps them unload the remaining two years owed to Villenueva. To do so the Pistons will need to include Stuckey who may be expendable with Brandon Knight having a similar style of game and impact on the team. In return the Pistons will get a solid veteran presence in that locker room in Millsap who will slide right in next to Monroe and alleviate a ton of pressure on Detroit’s promising big man. Harris and Bell are mostly throw ins to make the contracts work, but both could give the team spot duty that may replicate the production of the guys they are trading away.
Why Utah Does It: Utah would consider this trade as part of its youth movement. This trade, more than anything would be about acquiring the 9th pick in the draft. At that spot the Jazz could be in position to land any of the top point guard prospects and some interesting small forward prospects like Perry Jones III and Harrison Barnes, if either drops. Stuckey is three years younger then Harris and gives you a tad bit better production at relatively the same price. A new environment and a stable coaching situation may help him realize his full potential. Villenueva is coming off an injury plagued year but has a decent three-point stroke when he hits his spots. He could help spread the floor at both the forward positions. Daye is mostly salary cap filler but he has had spurts in his career which make you think he can be a rotational NBA player. He’d get the chance to earn minutes at the small forward spot.
Who Says No: I think this is close, but O’Connor would probably shoot this down. Of course if the Warriors drop a spot in the lottery they don’t consider this at all.
The Trade: Toronto trades Andrea Bargnani (3yrs $10m, $10.75m, $11.5m P/O) to
Utah for Paul Millsap (1 yr $8.6m) and Raja Bell (1yr $3.5m)
Why Toronto Does It: By all accounts Jonas Valanciunas had a highly successful international campaign and has cemented himself as a future hall of famer in the NBA. While that may be a bit exaggerative, the reports from overseas have been positive, which poses somewhat of a dilemma for Toronto. While Bargnani is their best player now, they may want to free up playing time for Valanciunas at the center spot. By trading Millsap for Bargnani, the Raptors get a slightly more successful player who probably fits in better next to their alleged future franchise cornerstone. As an added bonus Millsap is much cheaper than Bargnani for the time being and this gives the Raptors a chance to try him out before committing to him long-term.
Why Utah Does It: Millsap may be the odd man out in the Jazz’s frontcourt situation. In order to prevent discontent, it might be wise to trade Millsap now and get value in return. Bargnani could seemingly come in and pick up where Okur left off, as the sweet shooting stretch big man. This could open the floor for everybody and a more limited bench role may finally allow Bargnani to stay healthy. There is some risk here though as Bargnani’s contract is fairly big for the next three seasons and his health hasn’t been the best since he’s been in the league. Also as an added benefit, the Jazz were able to unload Bell’s contract, but that aspect isn’t key to this trade.
Who Says No: Although I think it makes sense for both teams, I’m guessing both teams say no. Toronto will likely want to see what it has in Valanciunas before deciding to move on from Bargnani and the Jazz like the flexibility that Millsap’s expiring contract brings.
Golden State Warriors
The Trade: Golden State trades Dorrell Wright (1yr $4.1m) to
Utah for future 2nd round draft considerations. Utah would have to use $4.1m of the TPE to consummate this trade.
Why Golden State Does It: Golden State took on a fairly big investment when they acquired Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson at the trade deadline. While Jefferson is not worthy of his current contract status, he did give the team similar production to what they got from Wright. Since Jefferson’s contract is likely not moveable, this trade allows them to free up some cap space to re-sign Brandon Rush or upgrade their roster elsewhere.
Why Utah Does It: While Wright regressed some last year his 36% 3 point shooting was still better than most of the Jazz team. This isn’t a big upgrade for the team, but it gives the team an option at SF and doesn’t tie the team’s hands financially long-term.
Who Says No: O’Connor, but only because Lacob went on the radio discussing private trade conversations.
The Trade: Brooklyn trades Anthony Morrow (1yr $4m) and Johan Petro (1yr $3.5m) to
Utah for future 2nd round draft considerations. Utah would have to use $7.5m of the TPE to consummate this trade.
Why Brooklyn Does It: Much like last season, Brooklyn is in a huge state of flux until it figures out what is happening with Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Similar to last year, the Nets are not looking to take on long-term commitments and may in fact be looking to shed salary in order to accommodate a trade for Howard. This trade helps them get two replacement level players off their roster and the $7.5m they are owed in 2012-13. It gives them more flexibility to re-sign Williams and Gerald Wallace and accommodate trades with Orlando that requires them to take on some of Orlando’s bad long-term contracts.
Why Utah Does It: Much like Wright, Morrow regressed last year, but is still a decent three-point shooter and could fill in solid minutes at the small forward position for the Jazz. Petro is also a borderline roster guy, but his salary is affordable and he provides a deep reserve with some length for defensive purposes. This trade allows the Jazz to try out two potential upgrades with no financial commitment beyond next season.
Who Says No: Dwight Howard. This ball is all in his court.
The Trade: Sacramento trades Tyreke Evans (1yr $5.25m, $6.9m Q/O) and Jimmer Freddette (3yrs $2.4m, $2.5m, $3.2m, $4.4m Q/O) to
Utah for Paul Millsap (1yr $8.5m); Alec Burks (3yrs $2.1m, $2.3m, $3.2m, $4.4m Q/O) and a future conditional 1st round draft pick.
Why Sacramento Does It: Sacramento has been stuck in the lottery for quite a while now, but appears to have promise if they can get DeMarcus Cousins head on straight. Perhaps what they need more than anything in that regard is a change of the supporting cast around him, starting with adding a veteran hard working power forward who could help lead the team on the court. Millsap’s varied skill set may be a good pairing with Cousins, allowing Cousins to focus on the things he does best. Additionally, it is no secret that the Kings do not feel that Evans fits into their future plans anymore and Burks may be able to give you 75% of Evans production in limited minutes. If you add in the 5th pick in the draft and re-signing of Jason Thompson, things may be finally shaping into form for Sacramento.
Why Utah Does It: For Utah this is about taking the risk that Evans can return to his Rookie of the Year form. While he has not been an overly efficient player he could potentially settle in to the shooting guard position in Utah and lead the team in scoring with Favors and Kanter on his side to hit the offensive glass and clean up the scraps. The Jazz also acquire Jimmer in this trade, who was somewhat rendered useless by the emergence of Isaiah Thomas in the latter half of the season. Jimmer may not ever become a starter in the NBA but his ability to shoot would make him a valued commodity off the Jazz bench and in the ticket office.
Who Says No: I think Sacramento might be able to net a bigger haul for Evans, so they’ll hold off on this for now.
New Orleans Hornets
The Trade: New Orleans trades Emeka Okafor (2yrs $13.5m, $14.5m) and the #10 pick in the 2012 NBA draft to
Utah for Al Jefferson (1yr $15m)
Why New Orleans Does It: As everyone knows by now New Orleans has new ownership that will be eager to turn the team around to fill their arena. The team will focus on re-signing Eric Gordon this offseason, but other than that virtually everything else on their roster is expendable, starting with finding a taker for the remaining two years of Okafor’s bloated contract. This trade gives the Hornets more financial flexibility down the road and in the interim gives the team an inside scorer to pair with Gordon. The team will also have a pick from 1-7 to address other needs, and thus won’t miss the 10th overall pick that badly.
Why Utah Does It: Utah does this trade if they are convinced they really want to get in this draft and aren’t considering re-signing Jefferson next year. This trade gives the Jazz the ability to acquire a future point guard as discussed in other scenarios above, but also gives the Jazz a rotational big man to work in with Favors and Millsap. Okafor is on the downside of his career but, so long as his knee checks out, should be able to give the team solid defensive production at the center position. This frees both Favors and Millsap to play primarily at PF and gives Kanter a few more years to develop.
Who Says No: The price for acquiring the 10th overall pick in this trade is about $13m and I think that may be a little rich for O’Connor’s blood.
The Trade: Cleveland trades Daniel Gibson (1yr $4.8m) to
Utah for Raja Bell (1yr $3.5m).
Why Cleveland Does It: As we get down to the final few teams it becomes apparent why their rosters weren’t very competitive and makes it difficult to find acquisitions that the Jazz would consider. This trade may be of interest to the Cavaliers as it saves them about $1.3m and gives them help at the wing where their needs are the greatest. Irving has a firm stranglehold on the PG position and Gibson doesn’t figure into the long-term plans in Cleveland.
Why Utah Does It: Utah needs to eliminate Bell from their locker room and adding a combo guard with a career 41.6% three point stroke is worth the slight increase in salary they have to take on. The risk here is Gibson’s health, which is no guarantee. In order to entice Cleveland further into accepting this deal, the Jazz could contribute cash in this trade, which Cleveland could then use to work out a buyout with Bell.
Who Says No: Cleveland may appreciate the money savings but only if Bell agrees to a buyout or the Jazz take back Gibson within the TPE (another possibility).
The Trade: Washington trades Andray Blatche (3 yrs $7.1m, $7.8m, $8.4m) and Jan Vesely (3yrs $3.3, $3.5, $4.4, $5.9 Q/O) to
Utah for Raja Bell (1 yr $3.5m) and Earl Watson (1 yr $2m). Utah would have to use $3.3m of the TPE to consummate this trade.
Why Washington Does It: Washington demonstrated at the trade deadline that it recognizes the need to surround John Wall with character guys and unselfish teammates in order to turn their franchise around. In that regard ridding themselves of Blatche must be high on their offseason “to do” list. While the amnesty provision is an option, they may still wish to use that on Rashard Lewis (although a buyout for Lewis makes more financial sense). Washington would not have much use for Bell and Watson beyond bringing in veteran voices into the locker room for the season and then having their contracts come off their books at the end of the year.
Why Utah Does It: This is a risky trade that has two ways it can pay off for the Jazz. Utah was reportedly high on Vesely in last year’s draft, presumably as a replacement to Kirilenko at the small forward position. Vesely had a decent, but unspectacular season and he seems destined to become an NBA role player and not a star. However, a long small forward with athletic ability is something the Jazz do need. Blatche has good size and has had some success in the NBA when he is focused. With the Jazz he would be a 3rd/4th big who could provide a scoring and rebounding punch off the bench and give spot starters minutes. His contract isn’t too out of whack with his production, but it is hard to say where he is mentally at this time.
Who Says No: Even if O’Connor covets Vesely, the $23m still owed to Blatche is probably more risk then he is willing to bear.
The Trade: Charlotte signs and trades D.J. Augustin (Estimated 4yrs $23m total, with T/O in year 4) to
Utah for Raja Bell (1 yr $3.5m); Earl Watson (1 yr $2m); and future 1st round draft considerations.
Why Charlotte Does It: Finding a workable trade between the Jazz and Bobcats is difficult as Charlotte is likely to only be interested in acquiring future draft considerations or young players off the Jazz roster. One player that Charlotte does control is restricted free agent Augustin. The Bobcats drafted Kemba Walker last year and appear to be ready to move on from Augustin and this trade allows them to recoup a future draft pick that they had previously invested into Augustin.
Why Utah Does It: Augustin is a career 37.5% three-point shooter and has had some decent assist totals for Charlotte. His career to date has been average but it is tough to tell if that is as a result of the lack of talent around him in Charlotte. This trade allows the Jazz to unload two players they no longer need and take a small risk that Augustin can succeed in a new environment. While it would save the draft pick if the Jazz signed Augustin to a free agent contract for similar numbers, the chances are that Charlotte would match such a low financial commitment and keep Augustin as an asset to move down the line.
Who Says No: I’m curious to see if O’Connor may have interest in Augustin, because I do think he has Kyle Lowry type breakout potential if he is put in the ideal environment. I expect the Jazz would only have enough interest to pursue any acquisition of Augustin in free agency though, not via trade.
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