NBA All-Star weekend means over-hyped contests, gaudy jerseys, and a swirl of over-the-top trade rumors as the NBA trade deadline nears.
The Utah Jazz are in the midst of many of these rumors and are in a precarious position at the trade deadline.
After being knocked out of the playoffs the last two years by a team that went on to represent the Western Conference in the finals, this season looked to be the year the Jazz would seriously challenge the Lakers and Spurs for the Western Conference and make it back to the Finals for the first time since Jordan retired the second time.
Things haven’t worked out that way though, as the season has been marred by inconsistency and injuries, leaving the Jazz in a confusing position.
With key players like Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Paul Millsap all up for free agency at the end of the season and an owner who has vowed to stay out of the luxury tax, the Jazz as we know them only have one season left as it is.
Here are some arguments for all sides of the debate:
Make a Move
The popular rumor in the pre-season was the Jazz would move soon-to-be free agent Carlos Boozer during the season rather than let him walk with no return.
The Jazz may want to gauge the market for the All-Star power forward, but after missing the last 41 games of this season it’s tough to imagine any team clamoring to get their hands on an injury risk that’s likely to bolt as soon as the season ends.
Andrei Kirilenko would be another trade piece the Jazz would like to move, but with three years and close to $50 million left on his contract, and Isiah Thomas no longer employed, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for him either.
A possible juicy attachment to any deal the Jazz could make is moving the rights to the Knicks first round pick in the 2010 draft.
More likely, though, any move the Jazz would possibly make would be more of the under-the-radar variety, similar to last year’s deal that netted Kyle Korver, probably with a defensive stopper in mind this time.
After making the aforementioned Kyle Korver trade last year, the Jazz went on a tear through the NBA and were arguably the second-best team in the Western Conference before running into Kobe Bryant in the second round of the playoffs.
This year’s team however has never been healthy, losing an astounding total of 134 games played to injuries by the All-Star break and last year's starting line-up of Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur has yet to play on the floor at the same time at any point this season.
If the Jazz can finally shake off the injury bug it’s not inconceivable to believe the team can get hot again down the back stretch of the season and become the offensive juggernaut they were after the All-Star break last season.
Despite all the misfortune, they are still in playoff position and can even win the division as they trail the Denver Nuggets by just six games going into the break.
The most likely and best option for the Jazz is to sit back and see if this team can put it together once everyone is healthy again.
The worst thing a team can do is handicap itself by making a panic trade that sacrifices the future of the franchise, like the Suns and Mavericks did last year in acquiring Shaq and Jason Kidd, respectively.
Once the season is over, it will be a crucial point for this franchise. Okur, Boozer, and Millsap will all be free agents, and the Jazz are not a franchise that will go into luxury tax to keep the team together, so at a max the Jazz can only keep two of the three and maybe only one depending on the size of the contract.
After the season, Kirilenko will only have two years left on his contract and will be a bit easier to move, or the Jazz could let Boozer walk and hope that Millsap can effectively replace his numbers.
Anyway you cut it, Jazz GM Kevin O’Conner has his work cut out with him over the next six months trying to get a team on the verge of greatness over the hump and keep it from forever being a "good but not great" team.
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