Utah Jazz: Best trade in franchise history with the Philadelphia 76ers

Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images) /

The John Stockton and Karl Malone era of Utah Jazz basketball was the indisputable best era in the history of the franchise. That’s not a controversial take; it’s practically irrefutable. The high water mark for the dynamic duo came in 1996-97, when the Jazz finished 64-18 and advanced to the NBA Finals.

Stockton and Malone aren’t just the two best players in Utah Jazz history. They both have a strong case for the best player to ever lace up at their respective positions in NBA history. Nonetheless, they couldn’t carry the Jazz all the way to back-to-back NBA Finals trips on their own. Heading into the 1993-94 season, the club made a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to bring in some necessary reinforcements.

At the time, this exchange felt like a solid return for both teams. Jeff Malone may be one of history’s forgotten players, but he was no scrub. He earns the unique distinction of being the second-best Malone in Utah Jazz history.

At the time, he was entering his age-32 season and arguably on the decline. He was coming off a season wherein he averaged 16.2 points per game: a solid mark, but relatively far removed from the 20.2 per game he averaged in Salt Lake City in 1991-92.

Unfortunately for the 76ers, the talented off-guard was about to suffer one of the most precipitous declines imaginable. Malone would average 5.8 points per game in the 1995-96 season, after putting up 18.4 per night across 19 games the season before.

Meanwhile, Jeff Hornacek was a tailor-made third man for the dynamic Utah Jazz pick-and-roll duo. From his debut 1993-94 season in Utah up until his retirement in 1999-00, he shot below 40% from three-point range precisely once. Undeniably, The Paperboy would have thrived in the modern game. It is unfathomable that a consistent 40% three-point shooter would average 1.9 attempts per game throughout their career in today’s NBA.

Hornacek found ways to make exceptional contributions in Salt Lake City regardless. His best scoring season for the Utah Jazz came in 1994-95, when he averaged 16.5 points per game for the team. Meanwhile, he remained a stalwart defender throughout his career, posting a remarkable 100 Defensive Rating in his age-35 season in 1998-99.

All told, the trade generated 55 Win Shares (WS) for the Utah Jazz, and a modest 1.6 for the 76ers. This was a trade that had the appearances of an even swap when it occurred, but was actually one-sided in retrospect.

Next. Best trade in Jazz history with the Portland Trail Blazers. dark

Casual NBA observers around the world can recall the remarkably successful Stockon/Malone era of Utah Jazz basketball. Diehard fans in Salt Lake City know that Jeff Hornacek’s floor-spacing and defense were integral to the era’s success.