The Utah Jazz have strong building blocks of a contending team. The only problem is, they lack at least one more piece. Sure, Utah is one of the best, if not the best defensive team in the NBA. But their offense has meddled in mediocrity – even dating back to the Gordon Hayward days.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, they’ve never been seen as a premier A-List location for free agents. They don’t have the same pizzaz as the Los Angeles Lakers or the history of the Boston Celtics and even New York Knicks. Over the past 20 years, the best free agents they’ve gotten have likely been Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Joe Johnson – albeit after he began to decline from his prime.
What’s more, the Jazz look to have room for one max slot this summer, but what’s the point of saving that space if you don’t foresee being able to fill it?
The Oklahoma City Thunder took a risk by “renting” Paul George for one season and eventually used their culture, system and city to lure him into another contract – a huge win for small-market teams. If the Jazz want to compete in the next few seasons, especially with Rudy Gobert and Mitchell playing the way they’ve been playing, they’ll need to make a splash this trade deadline and hopefully lure in a big name player that either has a few years left on his contract – or at least one they feel they can convince to stay.
Let’s take a look at some potential names and what may need to happen to make a deal.
We can start with this one. From what has been widely reported, this is the most likely scenario to happen. The Utah Jazz have already offered a package that revolves around Ricky Rubio and a 2019 first round pick.
For salaries to match, they’d likely need to include Derrick Favors, or any combination of their smaller, expiring contracts. The Detroit Pistons are supposedly in the game, as well, and their first round pick will likely be better than Utah’s, so the Jazz may need to offer something more if they are serious about acquiring Conley.
Conley would be an ideal fit for Utah. Although he’s older, has a heavy contract with two seasons left, and carries with him a history of injuries, he’s still a better player than Ricky Rubio. He may not be enough to push Utah to the NBA Finals, but he definitely gets them closer than their current option at starting point guard.
Coming off a season-ending surgery, Conley doesn’t appear to have taken any steps back this season. While the Memphis Grizzlies are struggling to generate the same success as year’s past, Conley is still putting up 20.3 points and 6.3 assists a night, almost matching career highs. He’s doing so with a 50.3 effective field goal percentage.
Conley fits in perfectly with what Utah does on the defensive end, as well. He is quick, knows his spots and can guard the best players with the best of him. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in grit and hustle. Conley would essentially be a perfect fit for Utah’s system.
While Conley is the more realistic candidate, Jrue Holiday is certainly the better one. He’s younger, has a more attractive contract and likely better than Conley overall (although that could still slightly be up for debate). Jrue is bigger than Conley, can easily guard more than one position, and is as defensive-minded – if not more so – than Conley.
Holiday is playing at an All-Star level this year, pouring in 21 points and eight assists a night on a highly-efficient 52.6 effective field goal percentage.
The biggest difference between both trade scenarios? Conley has been made available, while Holiday has not. The New Orleans Pelicans have done their due diligence ever since hearing the franchise-crushing news from Anthony Davis by shopping their other players, but it appears Holiday has been put on the “least-available” list.
There likely is a package the Jazz could put together for Holiday, but it’s very unlikely the Jazz would be willing to offer it. If a reasonable deal is there, Utah would be out of their minds to not take it. Then again, if Holiday is made available, they’d have to compete with plenty of other teams offering comprable or even significantly better packages.
This is a player the Jazz were considering to make a move on during last year’s trade deadline, as well. While Holiday has been held out of most trade talks, the Pelicans are reportedly shopping Mirotic.
As much as the Jazz could use an upgrade at point guard, an upgrade at the four is just as necessary. Jae Crowder offers a killer punch off the bench, and Derrick Favors is a beast playing the five, but he is fitting less and less in Utah’s current system when he starts at the four. The Jazz likely want someone who stretches the floor a bit more to compete with today’s more modern style of play.
It shouldn’t take as much to get Mirotic. Last year the Chicago Bulls wanted nothing short of a first-round pick. The asking price is likely still the same, but if Utah plays their cards right they could possibly offer a package revolving around Derrick Favors and two future second rounders.
Mirotic wouldn’t be a franchise-altering player, but he definitely moves the needle for Utah. He also does not eat up cap space beyond this season, so Utah could still lure in a max-level free agent, or try to re-sign him to a similar contract to his current one.
A few other players that come to mind are the likes of Blake Griffin, Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon. All of these players would likely improve the Jazz’s current roster, but every player would likely come with a steep asking price.
Griffin is clearly the best player out of that group, but he’s also the oldest, the most injury prone and has the heaviest contract. The Piston don’t seem too inclined to move him so it likely isn’t in the cards.
There are rumors that the Jazz have shown interest in Harris. The Los Angeles Clippers could re-sign him in the offseason, but the Clippers are also targeting elite free agents reportedly. If Utah thinks that trading for him may convince him to re-sign with them in the offseason, they might inquire the Clippers front office to see if a deal could be made. The Jazz would land an intriguing piece and the Clippers would get something in return – which, depending on the return, could be highly beneficial if Harris walks in the offseason for nothing.
The Orlando Magic haven’t shown any signs of trying to move Gordon, but it could make some sense to do so. They want to build around Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. His contract is incredibly favorable, and it’s pretty certain many people would be interested in how well he would fare outside of Orlando.
It isn’t absolutely necessary for the Utah Jazz to make a move this deadline. They aren’t on the clock like the Lakers, who are dealing with a prime-but-soon-to-be-declining LeBron. Utah could still wait out the season, enjoy marginal playoff success, then try to pull someone in during the free agency period. But if history has proven anything, it’s that Salt Lake City isn’t the draw that Jazz brass would hope, and making a splash before the trade deadline might be their best chance of building a top-tier roster.
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