Utah Jazz' NBA Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint
If the strategy of the Utah Jazz front office could be summed up in one word, it would be "patience."
From ownership to management to the coaching staff, the Jazz organization religiously sticks to the mantra of patience. While this patience can be frustrating to fans pining to see young developing players such as Enes Kanter and Alec Burks get more playing time, this attitude has been a large part of Utah's sustained success.
Just as patience is preached in player development, patience will also be used by the Jazz front office at the trade deadline. Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O'Connor have maneuvered the team into a position of great flexibility, with most of the Jazz roster becoming free agents after this season.
The beauty of this flexibility is that it can be used whenever the best opportunity presents itself. Utah could use it now at the trade deadline to acquire anything from a big-name superstar to another draft pick by taking an undesired contract off another team's hands.
Opportunities will abound in the next week for the Jazz, but that does not mean a deadline move is inevitable.
A knee-jerk reaction from the powers that be within the Jazz organization is exceedingly rare. Simply put, it's not in the Utah Jazz playbook to make a trade simply for the sake of making a trade. It seems just as likely the Jazz will stand pat at the trade deadline as opposed to pulling the trigger on a deal.
What Should the Jazz do at the Trade Deadline?
The art of putting together a mutually beneficial trade is a difficult one. On his Locked on Jazz podcast, Utah Jazz radio play-by-play man David Locke routinely dissects trades concocted by Jazz fans via ESPN.com's NBA Trade Machine. While a few reasonable trades are submitted, the majority prove to fall apart after minimal critique by Locke.
In addition to the complexity of building a deal, Lindsey also has the added variable of the organization's desire to win now. At 26-20, Utah is in the thick of the playoff hunt. Therefore, any trade that is strictly a forward-looking deal for Utah is out of the question.
A trade centered around any of Utah's "core four"—Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks—also seems unlikely since Utah's ceiling appears to be the sixth seed.
This essentially leaves two types of deals: a minor trade that doesn't touch the "core four" or a deal involving Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap that returns enough immediate value to the Jazz to keep the team as or more talented than they are currently. The very specific criteria a potential Jazz deal has to meet fuels the skepticism that Utah makes a big splash before the trade deadline.
It's hard to criticize Lindsey and O'Connor's strategy, considering the consistent success it has previously yielded. However, one has to wonder if they're overvaluing the oodles of cap room they will have after this season.
In theory, the cap room is valuable after this season because it gives Utah the opportunity to sign a franchise-altering free agent such as Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. Looking both to this offseason and to the long term, this approach seems to have some logical holes.
How likely is it Utah will be able to lure a highly sought-after player to the small market of Salt Lake City? If another team in a bigger market can match the max offer Utah gives a potential player, do the Jazz have any chance of landing the player? This isn't even taking into account the player's current team, who can offer the player more money.
The difficulty if not outright inability of the Jazz to acquire a franchise player via free agency logically supports the Jazz making the acquisition via trade, either at the trade deadline or possibly on draft night.
Going forward, the Jazz should certainly stick to the mantra of patience provided they understand that a boat-load of cap room is not nearly as valuable to Utah as it is to a big-market team.
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