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NBA PM: The Trade Deadline is Nearing

The trade deadline is less than 30 days away. Steve Kyler breaks down the latest rumors surrounding notable players.

Steve Kyler

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Trade Deadline Less Than 30 Days Away

As the crickets of the 2015-16 NBA trade season continue to chirp, there are some buyers in the NBA market place open to making a deal. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be many teams looking to be sellers; even some of the most aggressive in-season traders are starting to accept that there are not many deals worth doing and this could lead to a very anti-climactic trade deadline.

Here are some of the names to think about, and what is being said about them in NBA circles:

Markieff Morris, Phoenix

There continues to be talk that the Phoenix Suns could move off forward Markieff Morris if they really wanted to, but there is a growing sense that what comes back in a Morris deal may not be very attractive to the Suns in both the short-term and the long-term.

Sources close to the Suns say that they are not going to make a bad deal just to force Morris off the roster, but as the deadline gets closer there is an increasing sense around the league that Phoenix might blink on a deal just to remove the problem from their equation.

Morris has returned to the starting lineup, which could help the Suns’ case. However, Morris has been wildly inconsistent in his production, which could hurt the process too.

At points this season, Morris has been linked to the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, but sources close to all three teams said recently that Morris was not a player they’re actively consideration. But as the deadline looms, being a buyer means considering what’s available to buy and Morris is a player who could be had and his price tag may go down inside the next 30 days.

Dwight Howard, Houston

While this may sound like semantics, Houston Rockets big man Dwight Howard does not have an opt-out in his contract. The wording of his deal is an opt-in. While it is functionally the same, the process is slightly different. Howard will be a free agent in July and that was always what was agreed to when he signed in Houston. This was always part of Houston’s thinking and it was part of their free agency pitch. The option year was simply injury protection, as the plan from the first day in Houston was that Howard would ink a new deal this summer.

This becomes important because there is a narrative that suggests Howard would walk away from Houston in July and therefore the Rockets have to trade him before the deadline. The problem is that’s not what either side agreed to when they did the deal.

That’s not to say that Howard wouldn’t explore his options or that Houston wouldn’t want to rethink would could be a $30 million per year re-commitment to Howard.

What it does mean is that Houston is not looking at deals involving Howard, and they are prepared to enter the offseason and address Dwight’s situation in July.

The Rockets feel like they are in a good place with Howard and that he is a key part of why they have turned the season around, so trying to move him before the deadline just is not in the thought process.

That’s not to say a blockbuster deal landing on Houston’s doorstep wouldn’t get consideration – it means there isn’t much there worth talking about, especially as it pertains to Howard.

It is still very possible that the Rockets pull the trigger on a deadline-related trade. They have guys with trade value who could help a team for a stretch run. But what’s become very clear is that Howard likely won’t be moved.

David Lee, Boston

When David Lee and his agent requested a trade from the Golden State Warriors, it was not because Lee was unhappy. Rather, it was because Lee was entering the final year of his contract and needed a situation where he could play in order to secure a sizable deal this summer. The Boston Celtics were one of several options presented, and Lee and his camp chose Boston specifically.

As the deadline approaches, Lee is averaging 15.7 minutes per game on the season and has not played in five of the Celtics’ last six games. When Lee plays, he’s been productive, but the Celtics simply do not have a role for him.

The problem for Boston is that it’s difficult to move Lee’s $15.4 million contract without any long-term cap impact. Their desire to keep their flexibility and not take on long-term money is something the Celtics have made clear to inquiring teams.

One of the teams that continues to be mentioned as a possibility for Lee at the deadline is the Toronto Raptors. However, making the cap math work would be complicated unless a third team that’s willing to take on one of Toronto’s longer deals gets involved.

The Celtics have been on a skid as of late and have been actively looking at deals where they could liquidate some of their duplication or trade up in the talent department, and Lee is one of the guys they are expected to try to move at the deadline.

Finding a deal for a $15.4 million contract is never easy, but it seems that both Lee and the Celtics want to try to find a trade before the Feb. 18 deadline.

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans

For as much press as New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson gets about his future, the point that most miss in talking about trade rumors and his free agency is that – if all things were equal – the Pelicans would like to keep Anderson long-term. The problem is the ballooning salary cap is likely going to price him out of the Pelicans’ range for the role they want him to play.

There are no shortage of potential suitors for Anderson, but just as the Pelicans have to weigh his future in their decision, so do the teams trying to pry Anderson out of New Orleans.

What is a stretch-four rental worth to a would-be contender? That’s something the Pelicans are trying to understand and they are in no rush to short change themselves.

Pelicans sources admitted that moving Anderson was likely to happen just because of the business of the situation, but cautioned that New Orleans wouldn’t do a bad deal just to make a trade and that unless an offer was meaningful to them, they may stay the course, finish out the season and see what happens in free agency.

The Pelicans do hold Anderson’ Bird Rights and could exceed the salary cap to keep him. Anderson’s July cap hold is $12.75 million.

While Anderson seems like a chip the Pelicans can and likely will cash, their stance is that it’ll take the right deal for them to move him.

Brandon Jennings, Detroit

Much like Anderson, Jennings is headed toward unrestricted free agency and likely a new team in July. The Detroit Pistons are getting monster production out of Reggie Jackson, making Jennings a backup in Detroit. Jackson is clearly the team’s point guard of the future after inking a five-year, $80 million deal last summer.

The problem for the Pistons is similar to what the Pelicans are going through: What’s a rental really worth at the deadline and could Jennings be more valuable as postseason depth and injury insurance than the piece he would return in a trade?

The answer to that question today is yes. Will that answer hold true come February 18? That’s the big question for the Pistons.

Detroit president and head coach Stan Van Gundy has said repeatedly that he does not see trading Jennings as very likely. However, if the right package gets offered, that could change since Jennings clearly isn’t part of the Pistons’ long-term plan. Jennings’ ending contract is worth $8,344,497.

Joe Johnson, Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets have blown up their front office and coaching staff, which has put the organization in a little bit of a chaotic state. League sources say that the Nets have not closed up shop, but that they are not overly active on the trade front either.

Most league insiders say that trading guard Joe Johnson may be nearly impossible at the deadline given the size of his $24.8 million contract. To be clear, the Nets have paid roughly $12.1 million of the cash owed on the deal, but making the cap math work would be hard to pull off without sending long-term contract money back to Brooklyn, something they are absolutely closed to considering.

Nets assistant general manager Frank Zanin is running the trade deadline in an external way; he is clearing deals through team CEO Brett Yormark and the chairman of the board Dmitry Razumov, so while there is not a GM in place, business is continuing.

Sources close to the process say that there isn’t a lot of urgency to make a deal before the deadline. Instead, the priority is to get new leadership in place and let the future of the team take shape that way.

That’s not to say the Nets wouldn’t do a deal, they’re just not overly active in looking for one.

The real question is will Johnson opt to leave some of his guaranteed cash on the table if he is not moved in order to gain his release via a buyout. Today, his side says absolutely not. However, there is a sense that once the deadline passes, that stance could change.

Greg Monroe, Milwaukee

Surprisingly, there has been some talk in the press that the Milwaukee Bucks could and should explore the trade value of big man Greg Monroe. The reasoning in the reports is that Monroe basically signed a two-plus-one contract – guaranteeing his deal for two seasons and then he has a player option on the third year – and that he has been a strange fit inside the team dynamic.

While there is no doubt that Monroe isn’t a perfect fit, he’s been one of the better players all season on a team that struggled to produce offense a year ago.

Bucks sources found the idea of moving Monroe laughable, but when you consider that Milwaukee is 18-25 on the season and about five games out of the eighth seed in the East, could Monroe return the best value?

It’s an interesting question to ponder, especially given the Bucks’ young frontcourt. However, Bucks sources could not have been more adamant that moving Monroe at the deadline was not under consideration and that landing him in free agency was a huge win for the team so they were not open to trading him.

Long-term marriages in the NBA are very rare, so you never say never, but if the Bucks opt to move players it will likely be guys from their ending contract pool like O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless.

A name that continues to get connected to the Bucks is Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson, but sources close to the Lawson situation say a deal to Milwaukee is highly unlikely at this point.

Kevin Martin, Minnesota

The Minnesota Timberwolves and guard Kevin Martin have agreed that he’ll play a lesser role while the team tries to find a trade for him.

The problem in finding a deal is that Martin has a player option for next season that’s worth $7.37 million.

League sources say there are a couple playoff teams that would have interest in Martin for a playoff run, but keeping him into next season at $7.3 million is not very attractive. And the teams that might actually view Martin as attractive next season have no guarantee that he’ll stay in his deal.

So what is Martin worth as a rental and what’s he worth if he stays in his deal? One situation appeals to one group of teams, while the second scenario appeals to a very different group of teams.

To ultimately find a trade, Martin may have to decide on his option year in advance of a deal and it does not seem like Martin nor his agent are very open to that, especially given his injury history.

It’s pretty clear that the Wolves and Martin are ready to part ways, but it does take a suitor to make a trade happen and the option year is a problem for many of the teams linked to him.

Brandon Bass, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have been making calls to gauge what some of their veteran players are worth. The obvious answer on many of the higher dollar guys is not much. The Lakers are said to be open to trading guard Nick Young and center Roy Hibbert, but neither seem overly attractive on the trade front, especially if the Lakers have to take on salary that runs into the 2016 salary cap year.

The player that’s more likely to be moved is forward Brandon Bass. The Lakers tried Bass on at a low dollar amount hoping he could contribute and be something of a tutor for forward Julius Randle. With the Lakers going nowhere fast, Bass is one of the guys the front office is expected to move by the deadline.

Bass has been nursing a problematic foot, so that is a concern, but the sense is the Lakers will be players at the deadline and Bass could be on his way out.

The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline is February 18 at 3 p.m. ET. While NBA teams can consummate deals at any point, there does not seem to be much desire for change at the moment. With that said, a number of insiders warn that the bulk of deadline deals end up being salary cap related and a lot of those deals start to take form during the All-Star break.

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NBA Daily: What We Forgot

With the NBA season now a month old, Matt John looks into no what we have learned, but we had previously forgotten.

Matt John

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With every new NBA season, we tend to forget a few things here and there; players or teams that go through a down year are often, warranted or not, cast aside for the next best thing, only to resurface in the NBA’s collective conscience later on.

Like last season, for example, Dwight Howard was regarded as a nothing-addition for the Los Angeles Lakers, a gamble that they may have been better off not taking. However, Howard played an integral role in the Lakers’ run to the NBA title and reminded everyone that, when he plays without distractions, he’s one of the league’s fiercest around the basket.

But that’s just one example. So, who or what has been re-discovered this season? Let’s take a look.

Stephen Curry: Still Phenomenal

Nobody’s forgotten that entirely. It’s just been a while since people have seen Curry at the peak of his powers.

Sure, it was easy to be skeptical of what he was capable of coming into this season. But, with Kevin Durant gone, Curry had free reign to score and shoot as much as he desired. And, with that freedom, Curry’s put up his best numbers since 2016, his second MVP season. In 15 games, Curry’s averaged 28.2 points 5.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists and shot 45 percent from the field, 37 percent from three and 93 percent from the line. He’s reminded everyone why he’s one of the games best and that he can accomplish anything or score on anyone on any given night.

Of course, the absence of Durant, as well as the loss of Klay Thompson and others, has led to another atypical season for the Warriors. Their 8-7 has them tied for seventh in the Western Conference and, while they have certainly improved on how they looked to start the season, they have a long way to go before they’re back in title contention.

The Warriors may never again reach the heights they once knew, either before or with Durant. But, until Father Time dictates otherwise, Curry should long remain a nightmare for the opposition.

Tom Thibodeau Can Get It Done

What can you say about the New York Knicks? Unironically, a lot.

Not only have they shown themselves to no longer be the butt of the NBA’s jokes, but, compared to the last decade-plus of Knicks’ basketball, the 2020-21 season might be their brightest yet.

Julius Randle’s transition into more of a point forward-type has generated a career-year and All-Star buzz. RJ Barrett has continued to improve rapidly, while rookie Immanuel Quickley has “quickley” become a fan favorite. Most impressive of all, however, is that New York has allowed the fewest points per game (102.7) and the fourth-fewest points per 100 possessions (106.8) in the NBA.

In other words, they finally look like a competent basketball team. But what’s changed? Two words: Tom Thibodeau.

The players have bought in to Thibodeau’s scheme and, clearly, it’s had a positive effect. Of course, the disaster that was his Minnesota Timberwolves tenure made us forget just what a proven head coach Thibodeau could be, but he’s put it all together in the past and, in New York, he would seem to be doing so once again.

Of course, there is plenty left to do. The Knicks’ spacing is a joke — and a bad one at that. In fact, their entire offense could stand to see some of that energy they bring on defense; the Knicks are dead last in the NBA at 101.3 points per game.

Still, at 8-8, New York is no longer a doormat and, given the last few seasons, that’s probably the best they could’ve hoped for. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Knicks won’t be either, but the franchise looks like they may have finally turned a corner toward relevance.

Maturity Issues Loom Large

Like the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been another NBA-darling this season. And again, like New York, their players have bought in; head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has everyone playing with energy on defense and, while their offense hasn’t quite reached the same level, they’re competing to the best of their ability.

Of course, the progress of Kevin Porter Jr. could have been the cherry on top of it all. But that ship has sailed.

After an outburst directed toward general manager Koby Altman, Cleveland has since moved on from the young forward. Of course, the Cavaliers knew Porter came with baggage when they selected him with the last pick of the first round in the 2019 NBA Draft, but his potential was salivating and Cleveland had hoped they could help him grow — not only as an NBA player, but as a person. There have been success stories in the past, troubled players that have come in and shut out the noise and become both respectable characters and NBA players. DeAndre Jordan, a former lottery talent, dropped in his own draft due to similar concerns, but overcame those issues and has since gone on to play a long career.

Unfortunately, it just hadn’t gone that way with Porter and the Cavaliers, as the noise became too much to bear for a team with a long road back to relevancy. It’s reminded everyone just how hard it can be, both as a player and as their team, to deal with those issues and, regardless of the talent or potential, the headache sometimes just isn’t worth the risk.

Luckily for Porter, it’s not too late; a fresh start with the Houston Rockets should do him wonders. And, hopefully, the Rockets can help him overcome that baggage, his maturity issues and whatever else he may be dealing with.

But even if they don’t or can’t, Porter must wake up and seize his opportunity while he still can; if he sees another falling out in Houston, there’s no telling if he’ll ever get another chance elsewhere.

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NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks

Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.

Drew Maresca

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Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.

So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.

Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.

But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.

Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.

Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.

But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.

So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.

He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.

Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.

But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.

Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.

Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets

Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.

Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.

That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.

But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.

But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.

The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.

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NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key

Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.

Ariel Pacheco

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The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure. 

Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders. 

Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.

Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them. 

Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll. 

Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.

Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well. 

Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.

The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA. 

Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.

As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.

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