The Utah Jazz are in a very special and interesting place with the looming trade deadline on February 23rd. They have found themselves in the thick of the playoff race out West, led on offense by Gordon Hayward, and anchored by one of the top defenses in the league, led by Rudy Gobert.
George Hill has also been a pleasant surprise for the Jazz, putting up career scoring numbers for their backcourt.
The biggest issues that plague teams in the playoffs are health and depth. Seeing as the Jazz met their metaphorical yearly insurance deductible in November, and they are putting out one of the worst bench products in the league, this team is not a blueprint for long-term success.
The injuries have continued since the start of the season, so it’s fair to be optimistic in thinking that’s out of the way for them. But the depth issues is something that isn’t so easily managed. The fact that they’re already lacking depth translates to them not having much to offer on the trade market, making it even harder to rectify this issue. I know, it’s like a cyclical paradox.
Some of the main needs for the Jazz are players that can create a spark off the bench, a defense-centric big man that can crash the boards and protect the rim with Gobert off the floor, and another veteran role player.
One thing the Jazz aren’t short on is point guards, one name that jumps out immediately on the depth chart is Shelvin Mack. The 5th year guard showed a lot of promise last season as he filled in the starting role amidst injuries. But lately, he’s been struggling to find himself in the rotation with the Jazz and the move to give Alec Burks more minutes has given the notion that Mack might be on his way out of Utah.
Another thing to look at regarding Mack is he will be a free agent this coming offseason, so it’s assumed that Dennis Lindsey will at least be putting his feelers out on the market to see what he can get in return.
In return for Mack, it would make the most sense for the Jazz to look for a backup big man, where they are currently the weakest.
An ideal swap would be with the Knicks for Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn brings a rebounding centric defensive presence that will fit in beautifully the with Jazz’s second team. He’s under a $4 million dollar salary for this season and next season with a player option for 2018 when he’ll only be 27 years old. Not to mention, this opens up the possibility for Kyle O’Quinn Snyder memes.
This move actually also makes sense for the Knicks too, seeing as it’s likely that the Knicks will move on from the Derrick Rose experiment this summer, and will possibly re-sign Mack for a fraction of what Rose will be looking for.
Another name that has started to draw speculation is Derrick Favors. The big man was expected to put up nightly double-doubles and be a staple on both ends of the court for the Jazz. But a knee injury has kept him sidelined repeatedly and he’s been quite the disappointment when he does make it on the court.
A potential move revolving around Favors could be to Chicago in exchange for Gibson, who has perpetually been tossed through the rumor mill over the last few weeks. The Bulls aren’t making any healthy strides and it’s clear there is some serious turmoil from top to bottom within the organization, it’s likely they’ll look to make a move.
Gibson could bring a solid rebounding effort on both ends, an active defensive presence, and the ability to score from inside and mid-range. Possibly the most significant factor that Taj Gibson could bring to the Jazz is another veteran player. He has not only been around the league for quite some time, but he’s played in a lot of games with heavy implications and a lot of arduous playoff series. The 31-year-old Gibson is on his final year of his contract as well, so this wouldn’t be a huge gamble for the Jazz.
Like I mentioned, the Jazz are in a very interesting place as the deadline draws near. The market for players like Lyles isn’t going to yield any return that will push them further in the playoffs. Joe Ingles is a bright spot for their bench that they can’t afford to ship. Dante Exum is still raw and has shown flashes of great playmaking and defense so it’s not necessarily wise to make a deal based around him. Rodney Hood has dealt with one injury after another this season and hasn’t been able to get his footing under him enough to create a valuable market.
Things are going well for them as of late, so there’s no real call for desperate measures, but in order to make a big push in the playoffs, they might need to look towards the trade market. But this is a delicate, young roster; one ill-fated move could disrupt the upward trending franchise.