NBA AM: Jazz Could Crash Trade Deadline Party

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Utah Jazz Set To Be Players At Trade Deadline

There’s no way around it. This is a rebuilding year for the Utah Jazz, one where the organization is allowing their young core of Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke to gain experience and learn on the fly. While some franchises, such as Brooklyn and New York, have struggled to live up to the lofty expectations of their respective preseason hype, Utah is right where most slotted them to be.

The Jazz (17-33) are owners of the second worst record in the Western Conference this season, but if the team gets its personnel decisions right over the next six months, a big improvement in 2015 is undoubtedly on the horizon.

There are many variables to pulling off a successful NBA rebuilding project, but here are three essentials: significant talent on rookie scale deals, draft assets and salary cap room to maneuver.

On paper, the Jazz are positioned strongly on all of these fronts.

With the February 20 trade deadline just over a week away, the Jazz are strongly positioned to become an active player in the market festivities with a plethora of veteran players on expiring contracts.

Utah currently has $56.2 million in guaranteed salaries on the books this season, but just $27 million of guaranteed payroll for the 2014-15 campaign. The quartet of Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson represent over $31 million in expiring deals the Jazz could look to flip at the deadline to secure more assets in their rebuild.

Let’s briefly take a look at each of these guys:

Richard Jefferson (2013-14 Salary: $11.0 million): Jefferson, 33, is in the latter stages of his career but had multiple season in which he averaged more than 18 points per game in his prime. Jefferson created a bit of stir earlier this season when he openly discussed his free agency plans this summer and the desire to join a contender and chase a championship. Jefferson has been a solid veteran in the locker room during his time in Utah and Burke credits him with providing a mentoring role, but it’s hard to envision him in Utah after this season.

Marvin Williams (2013-14 Salary: $7.5 million):  Williams never quite lived up to his draft position, selected ahead of All-Stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2005, but he has quietly strung together a respectable career. For a team looking to make a playoff push without trying to add significant long term salary, the Jazz may receive a few calls.

Andris Biedrins (2013-14 Salary: $9.0 million): Biedrins’ game has dramatically fallen off a cliff since the 2009 campaign. This season the center has played in just six games logging 45 total minutes and scoring three points.

Brandon Rush (2013-14 Salary: $4.0 million): Rush has appeared in 27 contests this season but the guard is still struggling with the aftermath of a knee injury which cost him almost all of the 2013 campaign. Expect Rush’s name to be mentioned in the trade circuit leading up to the deadline.

From a draft standpoint, the Jazz are also well positioned. Here is a snapshot of the team’s draft assets:

  • 2014 first round draft pick from Golden State
  • 2016 second round draft pick from Golden State
  • 2016 2nd round pick to from Golden State
  • 2017 first round draft pick from Golden State
  • 2017 second round draft pick from Golden State
  • 2018 second round draft pick from Denver

Burke, Burks, Favors, Hayward and Kanter are all young guys with bright futures still on their rookie deals.  The Jazz will have a decision to make during the summer with Hayward set to hit restricted free agency and reportedly seeking a deal in the $11 million per year range.

The Jazz aren’t relevant in the league’s playoff mix this season, but with their assets currently in the portfolio the team could serve as conduits during the trade deadline frenzy.

Celtics’ Brandon Bass Attracting Interest Around The League

The Boston Celtics are eyeing their first non-playoff season since the 2007 campaign. This was to be expected as the club dealt future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn last summer to usher in their rebuilding project. Factor in former All-Star guard Rajon Rondo missing the early portion of the season while recovering from a torn ACL and the Celtics are eyeing the draft lottery.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has made it clear he will actively work the market looking for a deal which benefits the franchise.

“When you’re a team that’s won (so few) games at this stage of the season, there’s probably more talk and more speculation than if our team won 40 games at this stage of the season,” Ainge told A. Sherrod Blakely of . “That’s just the nature of our business.”

The report also states veteran forward Brandon Bass has continued to draw interest from teams around the league – most notably Charlotte, Golden State and Phoenix.

Bass, for what it’s worth, appears to be taking the rumors in stride as we near the February 20 trade deadline.

“You can’t let that affect your game,” Bass said. “You just have to go out and play your game, do what you do and whatever happens, happens.”

Bass is averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds on 48 percent shooting this season in 53 contests (44 starts).

Bucks’ Sanders Out Indefinitely

The Milwaukee Bucks (9-42) are owners of the league’s worst record this season and the team received more troubling news recently.

Starting center Larry Sanders will be out of the lineup indefinitely after suffering fractured right orbital bone this past weekend versus Houston. There is no timetable for Sanders’ return to the lineup.

“It’s really unfortunate because the kid had been playing well,” Bucks head coach Larry Drew told Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel. “He was starting to play with a rhythm and had played two of his better games this year.”

After a rough start to the season which had many questioning the Bucks’ decision to give Sanders a four year $44 million extension in the offseason, the center had been averaging 11.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in four February contests.

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