Utah Jazz: 4 way-too-early midseason buyout candidates

Blake Griffin (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Blake Griffin (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Thaddeus Young vs Utah Jazz (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /

Of every player on this list, Thaddeus Young projects as the least likely to enter the buyout market. There’s a simple reason for that: Thaddeus Young is the best player on this list.

The San Antonio Spurs have been particularly tank-adverse over the twilight of Gregg Popovich’s career, and that seems unlikely to change during the 2021-22 season. Even if they find themselves dissatisfied enough with their win total to entertain the notion of parting with some of their veterans, Young is likely to yield some kind of return at the trade deadline.

Nonetheless, Utah Jazz fans can dream. The NBA’s trade market is notoriously volatile and unpredictable. It may end up being the case that no contender is willing to part with assets to obtain Young’s services, perhaps due to mild regression in his game, or simply because they’re all satisfied with the rotations they’re fielding midway through the 2021-22 NBA season.

In fact, that’s another element that makes this hypothetical unlikely: the Utah Jazz may already have their Thaddeus Young. Rudy Gay was acquired this offseason to play precisely the role the Jazz brass would have to envision for Young. Both longtime NBA players project as backup 4 / small ball 5 rotation players at this stage in their careers.

Here’s the rub: Young would probably play the role better. His 1.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) from the 2020-21 season comfortably exceeds Gay’s competent -0.2 mark. The eye test affirms the metrics. Young is a multifaceted defender, able to guard smaller wings on the perimeter with his foot speed, and protect the rim when necessary as well.

Fans in Salt Lake City need not lament. Gay is still well-suited for the role. Offensively, he may even be more suited for small-ball center duties. His 38.1% accuracy on 4.4 three-point attempts per game clears Young’s 26.7% on a mere 0.7 attempts per game from last season. Still, Young is only a season removed from shooting 35.6% on 3.5 nightly three-point attempts. If he could replicate that kind of efficiency, his superior defensive ability might outweigh Gay’s now-modest advantage in spacing.

That’s not the only advantage Young might offer over Gay to the Utah Jazz. His 6.3 assists-per-36 minutes from last season represent a level of playmaking that Gay and his 2.3 mark in the same stat are more-than-unlikely to provide.

As we said in the beginning, there are a multitude of reasons why this buyout is particularly unlikely to happen. The Spurs are likely to keep Young, and they’re more likely to trade him than buy him out. Furthermore, the Utah Jazz already roster a similar player in Rudy Gay (not to mention Eric Paschall).

Still, the offseason is an opportune moment to start building pipe dreams, and Thaddeus Young could provide the Utah Jazz with a remarkably potent small-ball attack.