Method in the Madness – Justifying the Jazz’s Strategy

MIllsap, Hayward, Jefferson & Mo Williams - Utah JazzPhoto by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, and if you’re a Jazz fan, it’s almost impossible not to talk about.

But as February 21st approaches with all the hype of a Mayan doomsday prophecy, one of the greatest fears among Favors and Kanter-loving Jazz is that the 21st will be just as uneventful as December 23rd. While rumors and trade talk circulates in league circles, there hasn’t been much noise about the Jazz. Even when they do discuss the issues, little information surfaces, as evidenced by GM Dennis Lindsey’s recent interview with Hoopsworld. Lindsey’s as adept as anyone in the Jazz organization at keeping his cards close to his chest. Everybody knows this – from fans to league GM’s – yet, oddly, everyone still seems to be surprised by it.

I wouldn’t read too much into the silence. Sure, whirlwinds of rumors may have preceded the moves of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. Yet before Deron was traded, there was about as much noise as a Prius would make in space. Same goes for a plethora of smaller moves the Jazz have made within the last few years.

Now, bare with me for a moment.

Lets name a few things that negatively affect a player’s trade value, besides a bad attitude (Demarcus Cousins) or a huge, unmerited contract (Elton brand):

1. A player is already expected to be traded.
2. Hundreds of rumours magnify that expectation.
3. Sources from said player’s team comment on how much they’d like to make a trade.

Herein lies the simple genius behind the way the Jazz are handling the press. While alleged interest for Millsap surfaces from teams like the Nets and Bucks, it’s fairly one-sided. I have no doubt that the Jazz brass spend plenty of time discussing trade scenarios with bigwigs from other teams – but rarely, if ever, are they initiating that conversation. They hold the power, and are about as likely to relinquish it as Jessica Alba is to give you a call this weekend.

Alright, then. So that makes sense. But that doesn’t excuse the Jazz and coach Corbin from at least playing the young guys, right? I’ve heard many an acquaintance tell me they’d rather watch Favors, Kanter and Burks miss the postseason than watch Big Al and ‘Sap lead us through another short playoff run. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had the exact same feeling more than once: If one or both of our starting bigs are history after this season anyway, why play them just to get knocked out of the playoffs early and miss out on a lottery pick?

But then it hits me, and I realize the list above isn’t quite complete. Two more things that greatly diminish an NBA player’s trade value:

4. He isn’t getting any minutes or putting up stats.
5. He isn’t helping the team win games.

As David Locke pointed out on his Facebook page, Jefferson has been tearing it up over his last several games. He’s also showing up more on defense since the turn of the new year. Millsap had his slump earlier, but has been playing more like himself as of late. Neither of these players are perfect, but I’d venture to guess they’d be doing much worse if they weren’t getting consistent minutes. Not only that, but then we’d be dealing with the rumblings of a disgruntled roster, another huge trade value assassin.

I have no idea whether or not a trade will go down before Millsap and Jefferson expire. No clue at all. But if it does happen, I’d think the best time to strike a deal would be right before the trade deadline, when competing teams’ worst offers have all been rejected and they’re getting a little desperate. That way, the Jazz will get the best possible deal – not just scraps. If something doesn’t go down, there will certainly be some backlash amongst fans and analysts – as for me, I actually trust that this would only mean a good enough deal didn’t present itself. Lindsey and O’connor haven’t given me, as a fan, much reason to think otherwise.

I’m fairly convinced that many a team in the same situation would have screwed it up by now. In an soap opera era of oft-disgruntled superstars, excessive whining to the media, turnstyle coaching changes and overall drama, It’s amazing the Jazz organization has kept it together so well – including Corbin and his players. Favors and the other young guys will get the playing time they deserve, whether this season or next. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy the elite level of play the team’s demonstrated in January and see if they can make some noise in the playoffs.

Posted in Featured Writers
  • TheMaestro13

    Good analysis. I agree, as long as they actually make the trade.

  • Jon Gee

    The Jazz will do what they always do. Stand pat, lose in the first round of the playoffs, get a pick in the 15-20 range that doesn’t pan out and lose some players to free agency, getting nothing in return. Management will always be content for them to be a 7th or 8th seed playoff team and sell tickets. The days of Stockton and Malone are long gone. This team will never be a serious title contender again.

    • Neon_Black

      I know it’s the “cool” thing right now to be a defeatist and regurgitate this BS over and over again, but it’s a pretty ignorant point of view. Everyone acts like they know what goes on behind the scenes, and everyone thinks they have the acumen and guts to run a professional basketball team.

      Lindsey did amazing things with the Spurs. O’Connor and crew are statistically one of the best drafting teams over the past 10-15 years. The Deron Williams trade was ballsy and netted us Favors and Kanter – the guys you’re complaining about not getting enough minutes wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for that move.

      Building a championship team takes patience if you aren’t a team like L.A. who can just buy a complete new star-studded roster instead of ever having to rebuild or draft well.

      The fact is that no one on the Jazz is dumb enough to not understand how important Favors, Hayward and potentially Burks and Kanter are to this team’s future. Jazz fans are so catty, fickle, spoiled and hard to please. They don’t understand how amazing it is that we’re not the Bobcats or Bucks. It is an absolute miracle and a testament to how this team is run that we’ve only had a few down years in like a 20 year span. So chill the hell out and have some patience.

  • Mr Green

    The NBA is so unpredictable with today’s players. I am anxiously waiting to see what happens.. Either way I support the front office of the Jazz as they are the best in the league by far..

  • mrobsession

    Sometimes the best move you can make is to not make a move at all. Teams generally are trying to get rid of their bad contracts and underperforming players.

    People that complain and complain about the Jazz’ lot in life are tiring because they don’t really have any suggestions. They either think we can offer players that we don’t need and somehow trade them for a star. Or, they think we should just lose on purpose to try to get better draft picks.

    I won’t disagree that Utah doesn’t get the first pick on free agents and that we have often had to pay a high price to get people here, but what is the alternative? I don’t know if the Jazz will able to contend for a title. Very few teams honestly are able to do that year after year. But I like their ability to find talent in the draft. Even when they don’t have the best draft picks, they more often than not find good contributors. They rarely make horrible trades. And, most importantly to me, they generally make good fiscal choices to ensure that the team stays in Utah.

    I realize that being a sports fan means having to read posts from people who think they know more about how things are than people that do this for a living, but sometimes it’s just tiring.