When the news broke that NBA prospect Joel Embiid’s foot surgery would likely require four-to-six months of recovery time, the natural speculation was not only about how far he might fall, but which player would benefit from Embiid’s slippage and find himself as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
His former Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins seemed like a lock for the top pick heading into his freshman season with the Jayhawks, so it came as no surprise that analysts presumed he might (once again) be the Cleveland Cavaliers’ selection with the No. 1 pick this Thursday.
That idea has once again been called into question, when news of a potential blockbuster deal between the Cavaliers and Utah Jazz broke late Monday afternoon.
Spencer Checketts, one of the hosts of 1280 AM The Zone’s ‘The Big Show,’ was one of the first to report the news of a proposed deal that would involve the Jazz sending their No. 5 pick along with power forward Derrick Favors in exchange for the Cavs’ No. 1 pick and point guard Jarrett Jack. According to the report, the Cavs wanted an additional unprotected pick thrown into the deal, but the Jazz have countered by offering their No. 23 pick as well.
Clearly, discussions are still fluid and further details will undoubtedly surface before Thursday’s draft, but Basketball Insiders was able to confirm with a league source that part of the ongoing discussion centers on whether Utah would also be willing to add guard Alec Burks into the equation. The source was also able to confirm the Jazz’s desire to utilize the top pick on Duke’s Jabari Parker, rather than Wiggins.
The 6’8 scoring forward made headlines in April when he announced that he would not only forgo his sophomore year with the Blue Devils, but also enter the NBA Draft rather than leaving for his two-year missionary trip. Born and raised around the Chicago area, Parker is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), and would normally be required to fulfill such a trip before entering the professional ranks. However, an exception was made for the potential No. 1 pick.
The idea that Utah is seriously considering moving someone they once considered a franchise cornerstone in Favors could come as a surprise to some, but the fact that Parker is seen as someone who would be widely embraced by the fan base and perform at a very high level would seemingly offset any initial outcry. It should not be understated just how significant it would be for Utah to not only bring in a bona fide scorer, but also a phenom who is a bit of a ‘crossover’ player that could appeal to all members of such a uniquely regional fan base.
It is also important to keep in mind that Favors, 22, is also just about to enter into the four-year contract extension signed last summer that will pay him just over $47 million with additional yearly incentives that could total another $1.1 million along the way. Favors has dedicated himself to his conditioning and showed true signs of development for the Jazz in 2013-14, but it is believed Utah would then use the savings from the deal to be able to match whatever offers free agent Gordon Hayward were to receive on the market in hopes of retaining the versatile swingman.
Even though it may seem like a bit of a steep price from Utah’s perspective, the deal makes total sense for Cleveland. With uncertainty surrounding point guard Kyrie Irving and whether he wants to sign an extension with the Cavaliers next month, bringing in a young and talented big man like Favors could be just what they need. Whether he’s brought in to pair with Irving or to act as a new starting piece for the next era in Cleveland, Favors could truly flourish as he develops and finds his way in newly hired David Blatt’s variation of Pete Carril’s Princeton offense.
It is uncertain whether the inclusion of Burks would be in addition to or instead of Cleveland’s reported desire for a future unprotected pick, but you can certainly understand why the Jazz might be hesitant to also include him given the fact Favors has such star potential. Burks may be somewhat unheralded around the league, but he quickly developed into a viable scoring and open-court threat in just his third year with the Jazz. He was surprisingly effective in the absence of point guard Trey Burke to start 2013-14, and then enjoyed a relatively seamless transition into a support role once the rookie returned from injury. Not only did double his previous career scoring average (14 PPG), Burks also made strides as both a playmaker and defender as well.
Jarrett Jack is a piece that helps this proposed deal make sense for both sides. Not only was the fit in Cleveland not quite what was anticipated heading into last season, but the 30-year-old veteran could provide some much-needed leadership in a reserve role for a Jazz team that was the third-youngest (24.9 average age) in the league last season.
Over the next two days, it will be interesting to see whether these talks continue to develop or if additional teams are added into the discussion. At least one thing is certain: Cleveland is not only receiving offers, but is clearly exploring the idea of trading out of the top pick.
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