NBA Trade Rumors: Utah Jazz Must Be More Patient with Devin Harris

Zac Watne@thoughtcomicsCorrespondent IIFebruary 1, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 12: Devin Harris #5 of the Utah Jazz drives against Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 12, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 118-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Devin Harris is not playing his best basketball right now with the Utah Jazz.

Though he is listed on the 2011-12 NBA All-Star ballot, his numbers are down across several categories. His per-game averages are 9.4 points, 4.6 assists, 1.5 rebounds and 0.4 blocks, all while shooting only 43.4 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from behind the arc.

Only his three-point shooting and blocks are above his career averages, while his points and rebounds are less than half those of his banner 2008-2009 All-Star season with the New Jersey Nets (21.3 points and 3.3 rebounds).

There have been rumblings, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, that Harris is on the trading block. However, keeping him around is in the best interest of the team at this point for several reasons.

Given Harris’ fairly lackluster season thus far, not many teams are going to offer up much in return as part of a trade. Why would they? Few teams, if any, would be willing to send the Jazz someone that can step in and play in the system right away and match, or increase, his production.

Harris is too expensive and has a multi-year deal right now ($9.3 million for 2011-12, $8.5 million for 2012-13). GM Kevin O’Connor would have to throw in one of the core pieces to the team to sweeten the deal for any kind of trade to happen, and that would not be in the best interests of the franchise.

Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Al Jefferson and Alec Burks are all players the Jazz can't afford to lose in a deal to get rid of Harris.

Harris’ inability to attract realistic suitors without additional pieces thrown into a trade makes this option a no-go since the Jazz need to hold onto Harris in order to keep their young talent together, including the recently-resurgent C.J. Miles.

Another option for the Jazz would be to use their amnesty clause on him to clear room for signing another player, but that is not going to happen.

Paying Harris the remaining balance on his contract for both this year and next without getting anything in return is probably not even on the radar of Utah’s management team, who has been calculated and diligent with their personnel maneuvers over the last couple of years.

For now, Harris will remain on the team, and given his recent season-best 24 points against the Toronto Raptors, that may not be such a bad thing. Of course, half of his points from that game came during a very productive first quarter, after which he seemed to disappear.

Per the Salt Lake Tribune, Harris acknowledged his recent struggles before Utah’s 116-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 27:

"Obviously, I can’t be happy with the way I’ve been performing lately. I’m just focusing on being effective. They want me to push the ball more; I’ve got to play more in transition. And that’s what I’m trying to focus on doing."

At least he understands and seems to accept the criticism he has been receiving lately.

Perhaps he will realize how much potential the Jazz have with all the young talent around him and that will fire him up to play better.

He may also realize that his contract is up in a little over a year and he needs to bust his hump to prove his worth, either playing for Utah as the starting point guard, or for another team that will want a rejuvenated, one-time All-Star.  

Either scenario bodes well for the Jazz, but for now keeping Harris is the best (and only) option.