Utah Jazz: Interesting Kemba Walker trade possibility surfaces

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 13: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 13, 2018 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 13: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 13, 2018 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In conjunction with the recent news that the Charlotte Hornets are open to trading Kemba Walker, an intriguing trade proposal involving the Utah Jazz emerged from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.

After somewhat of a slow stretch in the NBA trade rumors department, an Adrian Wojnarowski report from this morning sure went a long way in poking the hornets’ nest (yes, pun intended). The latest reports indicate that Kemba Walker is indeed on the trade block as the Charlotte Hornets look to shed some unwanted contracts and look more towards the future than at an underwhelming present.

Although several teams may very well be interested in acquiring Kemba’s services, this morning I went into detail on what a Kemba Walker trade might require for the Utah Jazz and noted that their chances of landing him are probably pretty slim. While I still stand by that notion, a recent ESPN Insider piece from Kevin Pelton suggesting potential trades for the Hornets All-Star did bring up a pretty intriguing option for the Utah Jazz.

Below is the proposal that Pelton put together:

"Hornets get: Guards Rodney Hood and Ricky Rubio, forward Derrick Favors, 2018 first-round pickJazz get: Guard Kemba Walker, forwards Jeremy Lamb and Marvin WilliamsUtah could offer an intriguing combination of cap flexibility and talent to Charlotte. The Jazz’s short-term contracts come attached to quality players; Favors would surely have some value to a third team as a rental in the final season of his deal, while Rodney Hood could be worth re-signing as a restricted free agent.Would Utah be willing to offer this much given the Jazz are currently five games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference? Perhaps not, but this deal would give Utah a compelling alternative to testing free agency this summer, and Williams would be a good fit as a stretch 4 next to Rudy Gobert. A starting lineup of Walker, rookie Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Williams and Gobert would make the Jazz favorites to return to the playoffs in 2018-19."

As should come as little surprise, this hypothetical trade option has already begun swirling around Jazz Twitter and started some pretty strong debates. So naturally, I wanted a chance to weigh in on it myself.

At first glance, I really like it. Although, as a big Kemba fan, I’m probably a little bit biased. The Jazz get to add an All-Star to their roster, who is on a friendly deal right now and that they may very well be able to convince to stay beyond 2018-19 when his contract expires.

Along with that, they get a less than desirable contract in Marvin Williams, but also a guy who has played in Utah before (and presumably enjoyed his time here), is shooting 45.9 percent from three and could potentially be an ideal stretch-four fit alongside Rudy Gobert. The Jazz would also be receiving a guy with lots of upside in Jeremy Lamb who has finally started to show this season what he may eventually be capable of.

In return, they’re giving up Derrick Favors, who’s almost sure not to be back next season anyway after he hits unrestricted free agency, Ricky Rubio, who has wildly under-performed this season and Rodney Hood, who is an attractive piece, but hasn’t proven to exactly be a difference maker and may very well command a higher salary than the Jazz want to pay in restricted free agency. That all sounds like a nice exchange, right?

But then comes the hard part. In this hypothetical situation, the Jazz would also include their first-round pick in the 2018 draft. Aw man, you mean we don’t get to just give away things we don’t really want for something extremely valuable? Sorry Jazz Twitter, that’s not the way these things work.

Kemba Walker is a proven All-Star and there’s practically no questioning that the Hornets will be able to get a nice return for him. Without giving up the first round pick, there’s almost certainly no way the deal gets done. Some Jazz fans have suggested doing the deal only with protections on that pick, but I think even that likely shuts the door on the transaction. Kemba Walker is an incredible talent to give up, so Charlotte will want as high of a pick as possible to make up for losing him and to spark their rebuild.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to get something nice in a trade, whatever you’re sacrificing has to hurt a little bit.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure if this deal is enough to get Charlotte to pull the trigger. Maybe they could flip Favors for a pick or some other coveted piece, but other than that the only motivation for adding the impending free agent would be for his expiring contract.

Rodney Hood is solid, but he’s no Kemba and could turn into yet another overbearing contract for the Hornets if they opt to keep him this summer. And aside from the financial savings with Rubio, he’s proven extremely ineffective this year. Even with the pick and dumped contract of Marvin Williams involved, I think the Hornets are going to want more of a promising young player instead of three that may not even be a part of long-term plans.

Setting that all to one side, though, and assuming that Charlotte is all in for the deal, I still have a couple of hesitations on Utah’s side of things, too. First off, the obvious one is giving up the first-round pick. If Dante Exum and Donovan Mitchell are going to pan out as the backcourt of Utah’s future, they’ll likely want that pick in order to add a small forward or power forward in the draft that can fit in alongside those two and Rudy Gobert.

Instead, if they get rid of the pick and add Kemba, they could find themselves with a guard logjam while still having a weakness at the three and four-spots. Even if Williams pans out as a solid stretch-four, it might still leave the Jazz hurting in a vital area. Plus there’s the risk of not being able to re-sign Kemba once he hits unrestricted free agency. If he bounces AND the Jazz gave up the pick in what figures to be a talented draft, that could really hurt their long-term success.

Then there’s the question of if adding Kemba and Williams now hurts the Jazz’s flexibility during the summer and leads them to missing out in the free agent market. Honestly, in some ways it’s hard to see them convincing someone better than Walker to join them in free agency and the trade would guarantee an additional All-Star on their roster whereas they could just strike out in free agency, but there’s still certainly risk involved.

There’s also the concern that Walker and Mitchell would be too undersized of a backcourt which would lead to several teams exploiting them on the defensive end. In short, if Walker doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, the Jazz will have likely given up a valuable first-round pick, and perhaps even a solid rotation player in Hood if he continues to improve, for nothing.

Once again, on the flip side of things, though, a backcourt of Mitchell and Walker could give opposing teams fits. Throw in Rudy covering their backs and protecting the rim on defense, Marvin Williams as the stretch-four and perhaps a solid small forward added through a later draft or free agency (or though he’s principally a guard, maybe a Jeremy Lamb emergence?) and we could be talking about an extremely effective core for the Jazz.

Is that a possibility they should pass up if given the option?

My gut reaction is that if Charlotte is willing to do the deal, the Jazz should likely go for it. It’s not everyday that you have a chance to bring in All-Star caliber talent and, even with the first-round pick, at an asking price that reasonable, it’s a move that Utah should be willing to do.

Are there risks involved? Of course there are! But show me a trade that has ever gone down that hasn’t had any risks. And show me a team that hasn’t made major improvements without taking such risks.

If the Jazz can somehow get some decent protections on the pick, it becomes even more of a no-brainer in my mind. That’s probably unlikely given that, as I said, I don’t know that Charlotte takes this deal to begin with, but that would certainly be a nice touch to sweeten the deal.

Next: Former Utah Jazz point guard George Hill drawing interest from the Cavs

Whether the Utah Jazz are real players in the Kemba Walker sweepstakes or not, you can rest assured that we’ll continue to see a whole lot more of his name in the coming weeks as we draw ever nearer to the February 8th trade deadline. As his status and that of other potential Jazz trade targets becomes known, we’ll be sure to keep you updated here at TheJNotes.com.