Should the Utah Jazz Make a Move Before the Trade Deadline?

Dec 18, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) defends against Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 97-88. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) defends against Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 97-88. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Utah Jazz are faced with the difficult decision of whether to make a move or trust in the team’s recent success.

The Utah Jazz never like to make things easy. Just over two weeks ago, it might have seemed that this struggling squad’s only chance to make a playoff push would be to make some sort of trade. The Jazz were sitting at 19-25 after losing to the Detroit Pistons in another game that was closely contested but Utah was unable to finish. The week prior, the Jazz had lost back to back overtime games to the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks, respectively. The inconsistencies and inability to close out games had become a repeated theme that appeared incurable with the team’s current roster.

Then the switch came on and out of nowhere the Jazz rattled off seven straight victories, the longest such streak since 2010. The return of the deadly post duo, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, to full health proved to be a critical to the Jazz’s success. Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward stepped up and hit big shots throughout the streak. The Jazz were clutch in the final minutes of several games and finally looked like a force to be reckoned with. Yes, they dropped Wednesday’s game to the New Orleans Pelicans, but bear in mind that it was the second night of a back-to-back against a fresh New Orleans team after having gone into overtime the night before against the Dallas Mavericks.

With the Jazz’s phenomenal play of late, the decision of breaking up the team that was so successful going into the All-Star Break by trading for a new addition becomes a much tougher decision.

Which means it’s important to look at the Jazz’s weak points to see where they most need improvement. The first and perhaps most glaring weakness is the point guard position. It was no secret that the Jazz were going to struggle with consistent point guard production after Dante Exum went down with an ACL injury over the offseason.

Starter Raul Neto has averaged by far the least amount of points per game of the starters with only 6.2. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if he were contributing more in other areas, but Neto is also only putting up 2.5 assists per game while turning it over 1.4 times. That isn’t to say that Neto doesn’t have positive qualities, but the Jazz could certainly use more scoring and/or facilitating production from their starting point guard.

While Trey Burke has significantly better scoring numbers (11.8 ppg) than Neto, their field goal percentage, assist, and turnover numbers have been pretty much identical while Burke’s three-point percentage (34.7 percent) has surprisingly been worse than Neto’s (39.6 percent). Burke is also a liability on defense particularly against some of the elite point guards of the Western Conference.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

This leads us to the first and seemingly most talked about trade option for the Jazz which is Atlanta’s Jeff Teague. If the Jazz weren’t required to give anything up in return, adding the veteran Teague to the mix would be phenomenal. Teague is averaging 15.1 points per game (which would be third most on the Jazz behind Hayward and Favors) as well as 5.5 assists per game while shooting a career high 40.8 percent from behind the arc. Teague is a solid facilitator but also has the ability to use his speed and ball-handling to carve through opposing defenses. Not to mention, he’s a solid defender that would help shore up the Jazz’s perimeter defense which, despite Utah’s overall stingy defense, currently ranks 24th in the league in terms of opponent three-point percentage (

Teague is also on an affordable contract of $8 million per year that ends following the 16-17 season meaning his stay in Utah wouldn’t have to be permanent if it didn’t pan out. Looking beyond this season, Teague would provide much-needed veteran leadership and playoff experience while serving as a seasoned mentor to the young Dante Exum.

But the addition of Teague brings with it the question of who the Jazz would give up in return. Most reports, including articles from the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune, have Alec Burks tied in as the likely trade piece. Yet it likely wouldn’t be a one-for-one trade, but rather there is speculation that the Jazz would have to give up both Burks and Burke to get a hold of Teague. This seems particularly steep especially considering the Jazz’s next big weakness that has to be considered with any trade – their bench.

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Utah’s bench currently ranks in or near the bottom third in both points per game and field goal percentage despite logging the tenth most minutes per game ( Some of this is a result of the constant lineup changes that have come with the onslaught of injuries that the Jazz have suffered this year. Nevertheless, it remains no secret that depth certainly isn’t a strong point for the Jazz. While the starters have put up incredible numbers over the Jazz’s recent run, bench points have been hard to come by.

Therefore, trading away Burke and Burks, the Jazz’s two best bench players by far, seems counterproductive. However, this doesn’t necessarily end the possibility of a deal for Jeff Teague. CBSSports writer Matt Moore presented a potential trade opportunity that would send Alec Burks, Trevor Booker, and two picks to the Hawks for Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore. While Trevor Booker has without a doubt provided valuable energy and hustle off the bench, his departure would leave more minutes for the ever-improving Trey Lyles, while shoring up the void in the backup shooting guard/small forward position left by Burks by acquiring Bazemore.

That isn’t to say that Bazemore is comparable to Burks skill-wise, but Bazemore is a solid player who would certainly bring more depth than the Jazz have currently with Burks sidelined. He’s only 26 years old and has shown steady improvement with a solid statline this season that includes 12.4 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep. Keeping Burke as the backup point guard while adding Bazemore as a backup wing to provide scoring while Hayward and Hood were on the bench would work wonders for the Jazz’s depth.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

But this brings us back to the original question of whether giving up Burks for Teague in the first place (regardless of other players involved) would truly be worth it for the Jazz. Initially, it might appear not. Burks is just 24 years old and still has plenty of untapped potential. His driving and finishing ability is better than Teague’s and he certainly could grow into the better overall player of the two. However, despite Burks’ skill set, he hasn’t necessarily been the greatest fit for the Jazz and might not be moving forward.

The Jazz’s greatest success last year came following the All-Star Break and this season so far has been during the recent streak leading into the All-Star Break. The Jazz were without Burks during both of those stretches. In fact, Burks has played just 55 games over the past two seasons due to injury. Given the Jazz’s lack of a reliable point guard, Teague likely could be a better fit for the team than Burks and certainly has been more durable than the apparently injury prone Burks. Not to mention that the acquisition of Teague would be more of a short-term move to make a playoff push anyway and a healthy Teague would be much more useful in that case than an injured Burks.

Furthermore, trading Burks for Teague could make a lot of sense financially for the Jazz further down the road. The contracts of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert all expire following the 2017-2018 season. Although Hayward is already being paid a max deal, Favors and Gobert could likely be in for big pay increases, meaning that the Jazz would likely be faced with the decision to cut Burks loose anyway just a few years down the road. Particularly if Burks can’t stay healthy, holding on to Gobert and Favors seems a much wiser choice, especially since Rodney Hood continues to show vast improvement and may be in for a large payday himself the following year. If Burks won’t fit in the Jazz’s long-term plans financially anyhow, it would make more sense to get value out of him now to help with a playoff push rather than just having to let him walk later.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

Thus, the answer to the question posed in the headline of this article is, conditionally, yes. If they can get the right pieces back then the Jazz should make a move. Giving up Burks and Burke would be too much to ask. But if the Jazz were able to swing a deal that brought over Teague to shore up the point guard spot and Bazemore to solidify the bench, it would be a move worth making.

There are certainly other trade rumors swirling around having to do with the Utah Jazz. Though none of them seem as probably or beneficial as this one with the Hawks. ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently brought up the possibility of trading away Gordon Hayward for a potential top-five pick, but honestly after all the Jazz have invested in Hayward, it seems foolish to deal him away just to practically reboot the rebuilding and development process.

Therefore, in terms of trade rumors that are on the radar, the Teague-Burks trade is the only one that makes sense for the Jazz. And if it shores up the Jazz’s glaring weaknesses, helps create a playoff push this season that will lead to invaluable experience, and alleviates financial stress down the road, then there’s no reason why the Jazz shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Next: Alec Burks Comes Out of Twitter Hibernation

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