Community consensus has established the Utah Jazz as a primary target for draft day trade. Observing the niceties, the Jazz are safely tucked away in the Western Conference, and Salt Lake City played home to the only good movie Matthew Lillard ever made. There's no pre-existing bad blood, which makes this trade much easier to swallow as a fan. Not that I'd hunger strike over dealing with Cleveland...or would I? As long as their draft picks are willing to suit up and play, I guess I could stomach that.
But mechanics aside, as Rook noted last week, picks #3 and #12 should guarantee us what we're hoping for; the front court player of our choice (Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, or Derrick Williams, should the legend David Kahn draft Brandon Knight) and which should serve up Chris Singleton, Tristan Thompson, or Markieff Morris at #12 (or whomever's dear to your heart). But as usual, once you're in the dream, it's easy to figure out what to do. The trick is figuring out whether or not it's a pipe that gets you there.
First, let's take a look at how the fortunes of the Jazz have changed over the past year.
Things started with the Jazz as a serious playoff contender. A frontcourt rotation of Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Mehmet Okur at PF and C, with the return of Andrei Kirilenko and Raja Bell signing at SF looked to make up for the void at SG with the departures of Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver, and with Deron Williams at the point, the Jazz looked like a playoff contender again. Jerry Sloan coached the team to a 27-14 start and the playoffs in the tough Western Conference looked assured.
We aren't really sure where the meltdown started, bu the Jazz's struggles seemed to begin after a road loss to the Wizards. Seemingly before we knew it, Jerry Sloan was resigning, Deron Williams was no longer a lock to re-sign in Utah, playoff contention was fading fast, and it didn't seem like things could get much worse for the Jazz. Then they pulled the trigger on the deal Masai Ujiri refused to, suddenly Devin Harris and Derrick Favors were on the roster along with a pair of first round draft picks and Deron Williams was out. There were faint whispers in Phoenix that Paul Millsap might be available for Steve Nash and Robin Lopez.
The most popular theory is that the 3rd pick can be had for the 6th and taking on Memo's expiring deal. Chris Singleton's performance thus far in draft workouts has him amplifyiing his draft stock, combine that with all withdrawals from the draft due to fears over the labor strife, and suddenly #18 doesn't seem like a likely spot to land what we're looking for. Rook mentioned the possibility of taking on Raja Bell's 2 year, 6.7 million deal in exchange for swapping those picks, but expressed doubts about whether or not that would be sufficient incentive for Utah, even should the Wiz elect to include or swap second round picks. The Jazz's reversal in fortunes works in our favor. Perhaps they're simply looking for depth at SG and shedding Bell's salary while not having to reach to draft Klay Thompson or Marshon Brooks fits with trading down to nab Kemba Walker. And if only #6 and Memo is the price of acquiring the #3, that tastes better than serving up Javale McGee, no?
Others contend the Jazz would rather trade Al Jefferson, but that rules out the Wizards because we don't have the talent we're willing to trade for a piece a contender would pay through the nose for around the deadline...should the new CBA allow it. In addition, a contract like Jefferson's is not the kind of salary ballast the ten point plan calls for this early in the rebuild. Playing devil's advocate, Andray Blatche and his contract are the wild card there.
The problem we're looking at is that the Jazz may simply not be willing to merely shed salary for those picks, and none of our young pieces are worth a mere six spots in the middle of a weak draft, or play a position where the Jazz already have a full rotation. Could we buy the Timberwolves' 20th pick for cash and flip that with the #18 and #6 cum Memo's expiring for the #3 and #12? Is that worth it?
The urgency of these discussions will no doubt reach panic levels as the draft approaches. We cannot afford to overpay, and there's still plenty of value in this draft whether we stand pat or not. As Mike said earlier, this is Ernie's time to shine. Personally, I think the Jazz draft Enes Kanter and wait to see if we draft Brandon Knight. If that happens, we swap.#12 and #18, acquire Okur and Bell (goodbye Josh Howard and Mo Evans), swap seconds, and trade Hamady N'Diaye. The Jazz draft Klay Thomspon or Marshon Brooks to play next to Brandon Knight. As Samuel L. Jackson said, "Hold on to your butts."
But who knows? As disgrunted said weeks ago, trading up is a panic move. Maybe we stand pat. In either case, I'm going to need some stomach antacids. As Samuel L. Jackson said, "Hold on to your butts."