Utah Jazz: Potential Trade Targets Should Devin Harris Continue to Struggle
In 2009, Devin Harris was in the midst of a career season with the New Jersey Nets. He averaged 21.3 points, 6.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game and was named by coaches to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He appeared to be on the cusp of cementing his place amongst the NBA's elite point guards. However, in subsequent years with the Nets, he saw his level of play decline due to injuries and what he has referred to as the toll of playing for a losing team.
Since his move to the Utah Jazz last February via the Deron Williams trade, he has continued to struggle in his efforts to regain that All-Star form and occasionally looks out of place in the Jazz offense. Should that continue to be the case, there are some interesting trade possibilities around the league.
According to SI's Sam Amick, Jazz G.M. Kevin O'Connor proposed a trade that would've sent Harris, along with Utah's 12th pick to San Antonio for Tony Parker before last year's draft. The Spurs rejected that offer, but with San Antonio being a year older, Harris having only two years remaining on what was a sizable contract and O'Connor having the ability to send another pick (via the Golden State Warriors pick obtained in the Williams trade; top seven-protected this year, top six next year), they may be more inclined to pull the trigger on a deal the second time around.
Parker is old enough that the Spurs may not consider him part of their long-term plans, but young enough that Utah could build a team around him and be very competitive for the next several years with the help of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward. Moreover, Parker's ability to get to the basket and superior mid-range game could be an excellent fit in a Jazz offense that has struggled to put points on the board this season.
The 2005 NBA Draft was a good one for point guards. The Jazz selected Deron Williams with the number three selection. With the fourth pick, Chris Paul went to the New Orleans Hornets. The third point guard picked that year was Raymond Felton, who figured to be the point guard of the future for the Charlotte Bobcats. Three years later, the club drafted D.J. Augustin, and Felton's days with Charlotte were numbered.
This season, Augustin finds himself in a similar situation after the team decided to take NCAA tourney standout Kemba Walker in the draft, leaving the Bobcats with two good, young point guards and only so many minutes to go around. In a swap involving Harris and Augustin, both teams stand to gain a great deal. The Bobcats would have a slightly older but still effective former All-Star in Harris to help foster Walker's growth and potentially become his back-up a few years down the road.
The Jazz would be getting an equally-capable point-man just entering his prime. Augustin has shown the ability to score, dish, knock down free throws at an excellent rate and provide a respectable threat from deep, which are all things the Jazz covet.
Mike Conley, Jr. was a hot prospect coming off of his run with Greg Oden at Ohio State. His ascension from the Big Ten leader in assists to a quality starting point guard in the NBA has been slower than many fans in Memphis may have liked, but the scoring ability he showed at times during the Grizzlies' surprising playoff run last season, his defense and his ability to play in transition make him an attractive option at the point for the Jazz.
The Grizzlies may be in a situation over the next couple years where they want to go all-in with their core of Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo, surround them with quality veterans (like Harris) and take their best shot at contending for a championship. In that case, Utah might be able to complete a trade where they could take on a player like Conley and allow him to grow with their young nucleus.
An older team like the Boston Celtics must keep its focus on contending for a title. If it is unable to do so, the time has come to shift that focus toward rebuilding the franchise. Rajon Rondo's name has surfaced in trade rumors seemingly every year for the past several seasons. Moving him makes sense—It yields the potential to bring back good, young players for the rebuild, or even free up cap space, which would allow team president Danny Ainge to be a player in the free agent market.
Utah could be an attractive trade partner in either sense with their collection of young talent as well as the $10.8 million trade exception they obtained by shipping Mehmet Okur to the Nets. Rondo would help provide ball movement for a team that hasn't moved the ball well in Deron Williams' absence and an elite defensive presence, something the Jazz have lacked since Andrei Kirilenko left for Russia last summer.
Should the Jazz fail to find a suitable replacement for Harris this season, another option could be packaging players, picks and/or using their trade exception to obtain a higher selection on draft night. This year's class appears to be one of the strongest in the last several years, and if the Jazz can get into one of the top spots, they may be able to obtain a player like Harrison Barnes and shore up the team's small forward position.
With their cadre of talented big men and a player like Barnes playing next to Gordon Hayward on the wings, they could then look toward free agency to acquire a quality starting point and round out their young roster.