A few NBA trade rumors have begun circulating, but do any of them have significance for the Utah Jazz’s offseason plans?
The Utah Jazz most certainly have their work cut out for them this offseason. Of course the free agency of Gordon Hayward is the most prevalent item that stands out for the Jazz, but a part of potentially tipping the scale in convincing him to stay may depend on what the team brass opts to do leading up to and during the draft prior to the start of free agency.
With four picks in this year’s draft and a handful of tradeable players that could prove to be valuable assets in the eyes of other teams, the Jazz could (and very well should) be active trade partners this month. I already mentioned earlier this morning that Utah most definitely ought to look to move their first round picks, but of course the hard part of any trade is finding a worthy suitor.
With that being said, though, a few NBA trade rumors have already started emerging and it’s worth taking a look at how they could potentially involve or affect the Jazz.
The first that emerged was that, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Detroit Pistons are open to trading their 12th pick in the NBA Draft, preferably for a veteran that could make an instant impact. This happens to sound absolutely identical to what the Utah Jazz did last season when they turned their very own 12th pick into George Hill.
If Utah were interested in that pick, they have some veterans that could perhaps fit the ticket such as Alec Burks, Derrick Favors or Rodney Hood, who is young but comes on a very friendly contract. In reality, though, I suspect that Utah won’t want to part with Hood or Favors for the pick and that the Pistons wouldn’t be all that interested in the injury-plagued Burks who’s coming off a disappointing season even though Utah would likely be thrilled to be free of his contract.
Not to mention, while there’s been minor speculation that Utah might like to trade up in the draft to get a guy like Donovan Mitchell who’s a talented young prospect and seemed thrilled with the idea of suiting up for the Jazz, I’m not entirely sure that simply making a move to add another largely unproven rookie to their ranks is exactly what the team will have in mind for making improvements that provide a further case for Hayward to stay.
Where the Pistons’ openness to trading the pick may pay dividends for the Jazz is if they’re able to step in as a third team that makes the trade work, in similar fashion to how the Indiana Pacers traded away George Hill last summer as a way to acquire another veteran in Jeff Teague. If Utah could send a veteran to Detroit, while the Pistons send their pick to a third team which in turn sends a valuable and fitting player to the Jazz, a beneficial trade for all three could be worked out.
Obviously, there’s a lot of hypothetical moving parts there, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that Utah looks to capitalize on Detroit’s willingness to exchange their pick.
The next reported rumor was associated with the Los Angeles Lakers where the Huffington Post’s Jordan Schultz reported that LA is actively seeking trade partners for combo guard Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson mainly came off the bench for the Lakers but he was a key cog for them as he averaged 14.7 points per game this past season.
In my personal opinion, I think that Clarkson is an attractive young talent with a bright future. His versatility to play both the one and the two is appealing and while he needs to improve his shooting percentages, he has a lot of promise. From a pure basketball standpoint, I wouldn’t take any issue to him being immediately added to the Jazz roster. However, from a financial standpoint, I’d definitely say he’s much too pricey for his value and for what Utah is looking for.
Clarkson still has three years remaining on his current contract where he’ll make roughly $11.5 million, $12.5 million and $13.4 million, respectively, in the coming years. That’s quite a bit of money to be locked into, especially if Jordan fails to show much improvement in the years ahead. Utah would likely be better served holding onto the much more economical Rodney Hood in hopes that he can prove his worth than investing that kind of dough in Clarkson.
So while trading for the main guy that LA seems to be dangling right now (although GM Magic Johnson reportedly said that the only player he wouldn’t be willing to trade right now would be Brandon Ingram) likely wouldn’t make sense for the Jazz, the rumor affects them more than anything in its potential to eventually alter the landscape in the Western Conference.
As things sit now, the Jazz are in prime position to make a run at either the #3 spot in the West or perhaps even the #2 depending on what comes of San Antonio this offseason. However, it’s no secret that Magic Johnson is looking to revamp the Lakers sooner rather than later, and their allure to free agents has been well-documented.
All-Star forward Paul George has been tied to the Lakers on several occasions recently and whether this Clarkson trade is part of a move to perhaps bring PG over sooner rather than later or if Johnson has something else up his sleeve, make no mistake about it, the Lakers are looking to become relevant as quickly as they can. To be quite honest, I’m surprised the once dominant franchise has stayed down this long and their return to greatness feels long overdue.
Therefore, I’m not saying that a simple Clarkson trade will be anywhere enough to bolster the Lakers back into being Western Conference contenders, but I am saying that it could be an early signal that LA’s return to relevance could already be in the works. Given that the Western Conference is already a dogfight, throwing one more legitimate power into the mix would only make life more challenging for the Utah Jazz.
The final rumor that surfaced earlier today is one that has been brought up before. According to an ESPN report, the New York Knicks are interested in an upgrade at the point guard position and could be pursuing the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio. It seems like Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors since the beginning of time, so it comes as no surprise that he’s being brought up once again.
Given that Minnesota will likely look to eventually turn the point guard reins over to Kris Dunn, it makes sense that there might be plenty of willingness on their part to trade Rubio. Setting the Knicks’ interest aside for one moment, if Rubio were available, there’s a chance that Utah could have some interest as well.
If George Hill’s asking price becomes too high, there’s already been significant speculation that Utah could instead look to hand the point guard reins over to Dante Exum and then add a less expensive veteran to work alongside him. Two names that have come up often have been Serbian player Milos Teodosic as well as former Jazzman Deron Williams. However, perhaps Rubio could be added to this mix as a vet target to help soften the blow of losing Hill.
It’s not totally implausible, but much like I mentioned with Clarkson, while Rubio’s playmaking and passing abilities as well as his skill with running an offense would likely be much appreciated on the Jazz roster, he probably doesn’t make the most sense financially. At roughly $14 million per year, Utah could certainly acquire him if Hill were to leave, but paying him that much while hoping that Dante will end up being the starter makes little sense at all.
My guess is that if Utah loses Hill, it will look to either make a big splash on a point guard via free agency or a trade, or it will simply add an affordable veteran and turn the reins over to Exum. Adding Rubio would put them smack dab in the middle of those two options and truly wouldn’t make much sense.
If the Jazz do forego retaining Hill or adding an expensive point guard in the offseason, then their splash would likely be utilized on a different position of need such as a shooting guard or power forward.
In all likelihood, I would imagine that a potential Rubio trade would have little effect on the Utah Jazz other than the fact that it could potentially alter the competitiveness of the division rival Minnesota Timberwolves.
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So while the NBA trade rumors have started building some amount of momentum, nothing all that earth-shattering has arisen yet that would have much of an effect on the Utah Jazz. Nevertheless, it would be absolutely shocking if Utah opted to stand pat this month rather than make a move, so although the organization will more than likely be tight-lipped about it, expect some changes on draft day or prior.
The Utah Jazz proved this past season that they are on the cusp of greatness, and with the need to convince Hayward to stay as well as make a few upgrades to truly arise as one of the best in the West, you can bet that they’ll put an enormous emphasis on making substantial offseason improvements.