The NBA Trade Deadline has officially passed. While the Utah Jazz were expected to make big changes, they did everything but as the clock hit 3 p.m. ET. However, team management were wise to remain vacant and keep this roster together—but not in the way you would expect.
The Jazz were at the center of a plethora of superstar deals this season. While an Eric Bledsoe and Paul Millsap swap was discussed with the LA Clippers, it even went as far as Al Jefferson possibly heading to San Antonio. Obviously neither deal was pursued, and the duo will remain in Utah.
Both big men are unrestricted free agents this offseason, and this was a driving factor in the team trying to move them. An expiring contract is a valuable asset in a trade, as it gives the receiving team cap relief in terms of whether they decide to extend the player or let them leave.
However, keeping Jefferson and Millsap will give the Jazz almost $24 million in payroll relief. Utah is in the playoff hunt, but their moves are limited due to being over the cap. This will change in the coming offseason, giving the team some financial flexibility.
In addition, the Jazz will not miss either player if they leave during free agency. From a personnel perspective, the youthful combination of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors is preferable to the aforementioned veteran duo.
Kanter was selected third overall in the 2011 NBA draft, with Favors being taken at the same slot the season before. The potential of both players is off the charts, as neither have been regular contributions in the rotation.
Which move was right for the Jazz?
Favors has started 38 games in his career (23 coming in a New Jersey Nets uniform), while Kanter has started just one that came this season.
The 6'11" center put up 18 points, 8 rebounds and a block in 35 minutes, which is a fantastic output in his first game in the opening lineup. With Jefferson and Favors both out with injury, Kanter stepped up his game and showcased the talent that lies waiting on the Utah bench.
Kanter is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.3 minutes this season, which gives him 21.1 points and 13.6 rebounds per 48 minutes. He undoubtedly needs a bigger role, and the departure of Jefferson in the offseason would allow this.
Favors is in the very same situation behind Millsap. He's put up 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in 22 minutes a game for the Jazz. He's making his mark on defense as well, rejecting 1.4 attempts per contest. His foul rate of 3.1 a night is far too high in relation to his playing time, which could seemingly point to a lack of defensive discipline.
If Favors can stay out of foul trouble, he'd live up to his potential as a future star at power forward. Millsap may leave in free agency, thus in similar fashion to Kanter, giving him a chance to shine.
Many questioned Utah's lack of interest to make big moves at the deadline. However, a deeper look shows they end up winners. According to HoopsWorld, the Jazz will have approximately $40 million in cap space next season.
Considering the talent waiting to be unearthed in Kanter and Favors, the re-signing of either Jefferson or Millsap doesn't seem necessary.
Trading the latter for Bledsoe would have been a phenomenal deal, as combining his athleticism with the aforementioned reserves would leave defenses in awe. Yet, general manager Dennis Lindsey must be confident in another unreported move for the future to not pursue said trade.
Whichever way you look at it, the Jazz ultimately made the right decision at the deadline. Keeping the starting frontcourt duo ensures a playoff berth, yet also denotes a large chunk of cap-space in the offseason and the chance for their potential stars to play next season.
Missing out on other deals may prove costly, but Utah's front office was wise to consider the team's future assets.
All stats sourced from espn.com/nba/statistics