Utah Jazz’s Trade Decision Hinges on Success of Favors, Exum

Feb 11, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (right) talks with assistant coach Lamar Skeeter (left) prior to the game against the Boston Celtics at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (right) talks with assistant coach Lamar Skeeter (left) prior to the game against the Boston Celtics at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

The Utah Jazz’s decision to stand pat at the trade deadline will be justified only by solid performances from Derrick Favors and Dante Exum.

Despite a hectic stretch filled with several rumors and heightened speculation in the final hours leading up to the trade deadline, the anticipated mark came and went without there being a single move made by the Utah Jazz. To some this was a major disappointment, while to others it was a total relief.

To be quite honest, while at one point I was beginning to fully expect the Jazz to make some kind of move, by the eve of the deadline I was actually feeling quite confident that they would indeed stand pat. Coincidentally, such ended up being the case.

And though I was a considerably opinionated proponent throughout the trade season of adding backup point guard help and patching up the struggles at power forward, at the end of the day, I’m not one to argue with the final decisions of Dennis Lindsey and his brain trust. Either the Jazz couldn’t find a fitting deal or decided they wanted to see what a fully healthy team could actually do, or quite likely, a combination of both.

In fact, according to a recent tweet from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones, the Jazz’s lack of making any moves at the deadline was largely motivated by not wanting to do anything that could potentially mess with the team’s current chemistry. Given how well the Jazz have played for the most part and their very apparent cohesion on the court, this makes a lot of sense.

Nevertheless, it also means that we can’t yet put out a verdict on whether the Jazz’s decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a good one or not. In fact, we likely won’t know if that was the right decision until significantly later, such as at the season’s end.

And the fact of the matter is that coming to the conclusion of whether Lindsey and Co. made the right decision by not making any changes will have everything to do with the performances of Derrick Favors and Dante Exum during the final stretch of the season.

Heading into the trade deadline, it was apparent that Utah’s two main points of weakness have been their backup point guard position and the power forward position. While with exception to his injuries, George Hill has done a masterful job of running the point for the Jazz, Quin Snyder has been stuck in a painful situation when trying to figure out who to give the point guard reins to in the second unit.

Throughout the season, we’ve seen each of Utah’s three backup point guards – Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto – get a shot to run the point. And we’ve also seen each of them disappoint at one time or another.

Nevertheless, while Snyder was clearly hesitant to trust the backup duties to Exum in the season’s early going despite being the one many believed deserved the opportunity, given Dante’s improved play of late, it looks as if he may finally be ready to take over the role.

And that more consistent play that Exum has displayed of late may have very well solidified Utah’s decision to not make a trade at the deadline.

Recently, Utah Jazz radio announcer David Locke brought up a potentially interesting comparison between Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker, who tore his ACL in his rookie season (and again recently, unfortunately) and what we might be able to expect out of Dante Exum.

In the tweet below, you can see that a year removed from his ACL injury, Parker’s numbers shot up dramatically following the All-Star break and therefore Locke surmises that perhaps we could see a similar jump from Dante at this point of the year.

That would certainly be a welcome sight given the inconsistencies Utah has experienced at that position so far.

Aside from Exum and the point guard carousel, the other area that has been a struggle for the Jazz has been the power forward position. Backups Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw have had a hard time finding their shot and have been thoroughly disappointing throughout the season.

However, they’ve also had to play much larger roles than they were expected to coming into this season, so to be perfectly honest the power forward problem doesn’t reside with them. The true root of the problem begins with Derrick Favors.

To be fair to Favors, there’s no question that injuries have taken a toll on him this season. Although his numbers are down significantly this year from last year, he’s also appeared to simply not have his legs under him for nearly the entire season and has also missed significant time with a lingering knee issue.

However, as is the case with Exum, if Favors can get his act together and turn his game around in these final games of the season, then he could very well prove to be better than any power forward the Jazz realistically could have traded for at the deadline.

In other words, if the Favors of old can get fully healthy and back in action for the Jazz, then Utah’s decision to stand pat at the trade deadline will look very much justified.

And that is the defining reality about the Jazz this season – although they’ve truly been very, very good, they have yet to benefit from a fully healthy, consistent and contributing roster. If they’re able to get to that point in the final 25 games and peak in time for the playoffs, we could truly have something phenomenal on our hands.

While it was only one game and it was of course against a lackluster opponent, the good news out of the gates for the Jazz was that both Derrick Favors and Dante Exum played extremely well in last night’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

D-Faves finished with 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks while the Ex-Man turned in 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting while adding four rebounds and three assists. It was the kind of productive night that Utah desperately needed out of both guys to begin repairing what has been their two most glaring weaknesses this season.

And while doing it in one game will prove a lot different than doing so over the course of the remaining 24, it was at least an extremely positive indication that the duo, and consequently the Jazz as a whole, are headed in the right direction.

So, were the Jazz wrong to stand pat at the trade deadline? Or did they make the right decision? The honest answer to that question is that it depends almost entirely on how well or poorly Favors and Exum play the rest of the season. If their pre-break struggles turn out to be the harsh reality, then Utah may have very well been better off trying to make a deal.

But if the game against the Bucks wasn’t an anomaly and instead was the start of a new trend, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the Jazz did exactly the right thing by standing pat and keeping the band together just as it has been constructed all year. If such ends up being the case, then Dennis Lindsey will once again prove his genius and the old adage that “sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make” will continue to ring true.

More from The J-Notes

Rather than blow up the roster or make a dramatic move, the Jazz opted to put their trust in Derrick Favors’ and Dante Exum’s ability to step up and become key contributors for this squad.

Now it’s up to the two of them to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that faith was anything but misplaced.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com