Who Should Be the Odd Man out in the Crowded Utah Jazz Frontcourt?

Preston DeGarmoAnalyst IDecember 10, 2012

Apr 29, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) and Paul Millsap (24) during the second half of game one in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.  The Spurs won 106-91. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz have arguably the deepest post rotation in the league, with two borderline All-Stars in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap along with rapidly improving prospects Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

Though this depth gives the Jazz a major advantage in most respects, it also complicates the task of dividing minutes among the four capable big men. Fortunately, a solution may be at hand.

Jefferson and Millsap are both in the last year of their respective contracts with the Utah Jazz, and at this point it seems inevitable that the Jazz will elect to deal one or both before the trade deadline in February. However, since Utah remains a playoff threat and has no reason to dive into a rebuilding mode, it stands to reason that the Jazz will keep one player and move the other in order to maintain a strong three-post player rotation.

But who should stay and who should go?

This question has stirred substantial debate over the past several months, and trade rumors involving Millsap have become increasingly prevalent during that time. However, it is Jefferson, not Millsap, who should be the odd man out in Utah’s frontcourt rotation.

Although Jefferson has expanded his mid-range game noticeably in recent years, he remains a post player at heart. Favors’ lack of range makes him a poor fit next to Jefferson, and Kanter has inexplicably failed to carry over to the NBA the outside shooting success he showed in Europe. Therefore, any combination of these three players will inevitably result in frequent log jams in the paint.

Fortunately, Millsap is a veteran logger who carries the key to keeping the post open in Utah.  

One of the league’s top stretch power forwards, Millsap has the versatility and shooting range to complement Favors and Kanter perfectly. He is a deadly mid-range shooter who is capable of operating effectively from the perimeter as well as in the paint.

Though undersized, Millsap is a tremendous rebounder who also has a substantial advantage over Jefferson on the defensive end. He is a decent shot-blocker for his size, but his main value stems from his exceptional ability as a ball thief. Millsap averaged 1.8 steals per game last season, which is an impressive number for a point guard but incredible for a power forward.

Apart from some shot-blocking, Jefferson offers little to the Jazz defensively, as he seems intent on saving his energy for the offensive end.

Although Utah would lose a go-to player by trading Jefferson, Millsap has shown bursts of stellar scoring ability in the past (he averaged 18.1 points per game during January of last season), and the Jazz have a capable young scorer named Alec Burks ready to step into an enhanced role on offense.

What’s more, it’s not outlandish to think that Jefferson’s scoring numbers could be maintained by Favors who, by his sheer athleticism, is already a significant threat offensively. The 21-year-old Favors has yet to develop any semblance of a post game, but his tremendous finishing ability suggests that he could develop into an offensive force given time.

Scoring aside, Favors’ defensive dominance alone makes him a suitable replacement for—and possibly even upgrade over—Jefferson as the starting center.

Considering the NBA’s current drought of dominant post players, Jefferson has great value as a trade asset, and the Jazz could surely garner substantial compensation from parting with the big man.

Since practically half of Utah’s roster is set for free agency come next summer, the Jazz will be looking for young players and draft picks in any trade, and they could likely find a new go-to wing player (Monta Ellis, perhaps?) in exchange for Jefferson.