The immediate and distant future for the Utah Jazz is completely up in the air.
Injuries to key players Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward as well as the virtually unmovable ceiling of seventh or eighth in the West might lead some to think Utah should be focused on trading veterans for young assets and draft picks and forgetting about the playoffs this year.
Yet in true Utah Jazz form they continue to exceed expectations, winning nine of their last 13, including signature wins over Indiana and Miami. Couple Utah's success in the face of adversity with the Utah front office's ironclad commitment to producing a winning product, and it seems the near future should hold much higher priority to the Jazz than the distant future.
With some leg work, salary cap wizardry and willingness to take some risks, could Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey complete a trade that makes the Jazz better immediately and brightens their future?
As the trade deadline quickly approaches, the ESPN NBA Trade Machine is undoubtedly beginning to challenge the first day of the NCAA March Madness tournament as being the nation's biggest drain on corporate productivity. I giddily spent hours on the trade machine concocting the five best trades Utah could hope to pull off by February 21.
Why the Jazz Make the Deal
The Utah Jazz would be sending Paul Millsap and Raja Bell in exchange for Bledsoe, Caron Butler and Willie Green.
Bledsoe has really exploded onto the scene since taking over as starting point guard for the injured Chris Paul. Bledsoe has averaged 15 points and 5.8 assists in his last nine starts, including averaging 22.3 points over his last three games. Bledsoe's best effort came in a losing effort against Boston when he tallied 27 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds.
Bledsoe rebounds well for a point guard and is a tough and energetic defender—a hot commodity that will see his growth again stunted when Paul returns to the starting lineup. The price will certainly be high for Bledsoe.
If the past nine games are any indication, Bledsoe has already developed and impressive all-around NBA game but still has room to grow. Bledsoe could turn the Jazz from fringe playoff team to serious Western Conference contender if he continues to improve at this rate.
Butler and Green's inclusions are primarily for cap reasons, and to give the Clips additional incentive to consummate the deal.
Why the Clippers Make the Deal
The Clippers would be dealing a bench player for a starting-caliber power forward in Millsap while still getting out from under the contracts of the comically overpaid Caron Butler and Willie Green. Millsap and Bell's deals expire after this season, so the Clippers would either get a great power forward to help take the offensive load off Griffin, and would be a good pair with the offensively-challenged DeAndre Jordan.
And is anyone arguing Millsap would be a huge improvement over Lamar Odom?
This deal would maximize the Clippers' assets while still greatly improving their interior offensive game.
Why the Jazz Make the Deal
In this deal, the Jazz would send Paul Millsap, Raja Bell and Jamaal Tinsley to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and Channing Frye.
If Eric Bledsoe gets traded to a different team or stays with the Clippers, the Slovenian Samurai would be a good second option.
Dragic has battled through injuries and playing on an abysmal team to put up impressive offensive numbers. Dragic is averaging 14.2 points and a career-high 6.4 assists. Although Dragic may not be quite the distributor ideally suited for the Jazz's offense, he would give them the perimeter scoring punch they simply lack at the moment.
Frye is out for the season with a heart ailment, but could give Utah a stretch 4, which would behoove them greatly by spreading the floor.
Why the Suns Make the Deal
The Suns are clearly going nowhere this year, and would love to get out from under a few of their more burdensome contracts. Despite being one of the NBA's cellar dwellers, the Suns have also expressed interest in acquiring a star player, presumably to boost revenue.
Acquiring Paul Millsap would give the Suns about a half of a season to see if Millsap fits the bill. If he doesn't, his contract comes off the books after the season and the Suns have a lot more money to spend on a big-name free agent.
Why the Jazz Would Make the Deal
Our first three-team deal has Danny Granger going to Utah, Paul Millsap and Jamaal Tinsley going to the Clippers and Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and Raja Bell going to Indiana.
This deal would give Utah the athletic perimeter scorer they currently lack, and could catapult Utah into the next tier of Western Conference teams. This would also finally put a merciful end to the Raja Bell fiasco, which has been going on since last season.
Why the Clippers Would Make the Deal
Basically, all of the main points of the Clippers taking on Millsap were covered in the previous trade idea between the Jazz and the Clippers.
In addition, this scenario has Tinsley heading back to L.A. to provide a fail safe in case Chris Paul's injury lingers any longer than expected.
Why the Pacers Would Make the Deal
The Pacers are such a talented, well-rounded team, they have very few holes. If one position could be upgrade it with a capable point guard who still has room to grow.
The Pacers have been playing so well without Granger thanks to the meteoric rise of first-time All-Star Paul George. Dealing Granger would maintain the balance the Pacers currently have rather than worrying about Granger will fit in with a team that's clearly not his anymore.
Why the Jazz would make the deal
Though results have been good, the Utah Jazz truly has a hard time finding any leadership or scoring ability. Bringing in the vet Pierce gives Utah some star power as well as a powerful team leader who's not afraid take to the final shot in a game.
If Boston's luck runs out and they find themselves lottery bound, then they may consider selling their high-price veterans for young assets and draft picks.
Why the Celtics Would Make the Deal
To be succinct, the Celtics would make this deal to demolish the current roster and go full steam ahead into rebuilding mode.
The Celtics would be getting someone in Jefferson who can score virtually at will close to the basket and would improve a ghastly rebounding rate for the C's.
Again, this is the biggest "if" there ever was. IF Danny Ainge decides to keep his team intact, this will all be a moot point.