The NBA Playoffs were predictable — sometimes boring, even. But the offseason has already shaped up to be one filled with chaos and excitement.
Here’s a quick and incomplete rundown of the recent happenings:
1. The Boston Celtics traded their first overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.
2. Paul George took an unconventional route to next year’s free agency by straight up telling the Indiana Pacers he wants no part of the team anymore.
3. The Cleveland Cavaliers, a year after winning the championship and making it to the finals three years in a row, didn’t renew GM David Griffin’s contract, much to the disappoint of LeBron James, who’s been linked to both teams in Los Angeles.
The league is in pandemonium. Teams are preparing for Thursday’s NBA draft, but it seems like some are finding entertainment from playing the lyre and watching their franchises burn to a crisp.
Amid the commotion, the Utah Jazz remain calm and calculated. That doesn’t mean fans can’t have some fun, though, right?
Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey told the Deseret News that the team may not use all four of its picks Thursday. If you’re unfamiliar with the draft, it usually entails a lot more than just picking players out of college and pro teams overseas. On draft day and the days leading up to it, teams increase their communication with each other, creating more discussion about possible trades.
For this, I used the RealGM trade checker to create three realistic trades involving the Jazz and one for the sake of giving you a headache — but in a good way, like a basketball-induced brain freeze.
Jazz get: Jordan Clarkson
Lakers get: Derrick Favors, 30th pick
The Lakers have been a model for success, but the franchise is currently in a strange transitional period with the reigns being handed to Magic Johnson. These sorts love affairs usually don't end well, but the Lakers hired famed contract negotiator Rob Pelinka to help Johnson along the way, too.
The duo wants to restructure the Lakers and get out of rebuilding fast. Landing George will help, but the Lakers need a point guard to lead the team.
The Lakers picked D’Angelo Russell second overall in 2015 and are expected to pick UCLA guard Lonzo Ball in this year’s draft. Both play point guard, but at 6-feet-6, Ball will be able to play shooting guard too. The guards will complement each other, and if nothing else, it will allow the Lakers to figure out which point guard to build around and generate competition.
Jordan Clarkson is the odd man out and the Lakers are reportedly looking to trade him. This is the most realistic trade, and it’s one I dropped in an earlier piece detailing Utah’s offseason objectives.
Clarkson, 24, isn’t capable of starting on a winning team, but he can be a sixth man. Last season, he averaged 14.7 points while shooting a career-high 44.5 percent. He’s under contract until 2020 and will continue expanding his game, particularly defensively. At this point, Clarkson is more reliable than Alec Burks and can play point guard in spurts.
The Lakers would get cap relief with Derrick Favors and another desired draft pick.
Neither team is taking much of a risk with this move. Clarkson isn’t a foundational piece for the Lakers, but he’s talented enough to make an impact on a 50-win team like the Jazz. If the Jazz deem it financially prudent to let Joe Ingles walk this summer, Clarkson would be a decent replacement.
Jazz get: Reggie Jackson
Pistons get: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, 30th pick
The Detroit Pistons acquired Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder, gave him the keys to run the team, paid him $80 million and got buyer’s remorse. Now the Pistons want to start over and are reportedly looking for a first-round pick, an expiring contract and a young player for Jackson. The Jazz need a point guard, and they have all three things the Pistons want in exchange for Jackson.
The price is steep, but when Jackson is healthy, he’s capable of playing at an All-Star level.
In 2016, Jackson averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists, inserting himself in the second-tier of point guards. A knee injury caused Jackson to miss several months of action this past season and derailed any momentum he built during his breakout. Still, Jackson made 36 percent of his threes and 87 percent of his free throws.
Jackson isn’t the defender George Hill is, but he’s a proven scorer and will shore up the point guard problem in Utah for years to come. He’s also used to playing with a lob-catching big in Andre Drummond, so transitioning to playing with Rudy Gobert wouldn’t be an issue.
Losing Dante Exum might hurt the Jazz in the future, but the trade would allow Utah to keep its 24th pick and replace Exum with either Derrick White or Jawun Evans, who are projected to be available at that slot. While Jackson starts, the point guard selected at No. 24 can develop as a backup, just as Exum would have.
It’s a high-risk, high-reward trade, but it’s one the Jazz might consider making to lock up a long-term point guard.
Jazz get: Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves get: Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles, 24th pick
Ricky Rubio was projected to be a Steve Nash-type player coming from Spain, but he lacks a shooting touch and has yet to develop a real jump shot despite playing six years in the NBA. The sample size is large enough to conclude that Rubio will never be an efficient shooter. But he’s one of the best passers in the world and could fill a seemingly never-ending need for the Jazz.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will reportedly pursue free agents Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague and Hill in free agency, which makes Rubio expendable. Wolves president Tom Thibodeau will also have interest in Derrick Rose, whom he’s loved since their Chicago days.
Trading Rubio will allow the Wolves to sign an All-Star caliber guard (Holiday or Hill) with more scoring ability. The onus on producing points cannot be completely on Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — none of whom are particularly adept at running an offense.
Having any of the mentioned point guards will give more room for the Wolves to develop Kris Dunn, the Wolves’ fifth overall pick from last year.
Favors’ role in these deals is fairly simple. His contract is expiring, and he’s still relatively productive and can earn minutes on any of the 30 teams, including the Wolves, who have a flimsy rotation of bigs. Trey Lyles has the tools to become a solid floor spacing big alongside Towns, which is something the Wolves sorely lack.
The Wolves also have three players coming off the books this summer — Adreian Payne, Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad — and can replace them with the picks it has in this year’s draft, adding onto its already impressive young core with the seventh and 24th overall selections.
Utah made a similar trade last year when it got Hill from the Indiana Pacers in a three-team deal, but this time, it would be more than a rental.
Rubio has two years left under his deal and his passing would be highlighted with the Jazz, who were fourth in passes made per game last season. Rubio can thrive in a pass-first system and would have a solid target in Gobert for lobs. Rubio was also fourth among guards in steals and can replace some of what Hill brought to Utah. He averaged a career-high 9.1 assists last season.
If the Jazz can find a way to acquire Rubio, surround him with shooters, bring back Gordon Hayward and make Gobert a focal point in its offense (which would inevitably happen with Rubio on the court), it can sustain its status as one of the Western Conference's elite.
Jazz get: Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee
Knicks get: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, 24th pick, 30th pick, 2018 first round pick
When I originally concocted a trade involving the New York Knicks, I had Carmelo Anthony coming to Utah. It’s only a matter of time before Anthony is shipped out of New York and his value has never been lower.
A team like Utah has the assets to acquire Anthony without giving up pieces from its core. But it’s unlikely Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to come to Salt Lake City from Manhattan. Plus, the Jazz don’t seem too keen on adding players like Anthony, who’s built a reputation of being a selfish star, to their roster.
Then Tuesday, a report surfaced that Knicks President Phil Jackson hasn’t ruled out trading Kristaps Porzingis. Why would the Knicks want to trade their 21-year-old franchise player? Because the Knicks do Knicks things.
Every team in the NBA, including the Jazz, should pick up the phone and call Jackson immediately. The Knicks are desperate and want to shake up its roster, even if it means completely imploding and making a trade they will regret for decades to come.
Utah can put together an enticing trade package that will give the Knicks something to build around.
New York would officially be hitting the overhaul button if it seriously decides to trade Porzingis, and its focus will be turned to raw young players and future draft picks.
The Knicks own the eighth pick and would be getting Utah’s 24th and 30th picks, along with next year’s first-round pick. That will give Jackson more flexibility to replace Porzingis, as Thursday’s draft is deep with big men, especially ones projected to go late in the first round.
The Rose experiment didn’t quite work for the Knicks and Jackson would definitely have interest in a point guard with as much upside as Exum.
In New York, Exum can work through his kinks on the court and develop by playing a major role for a bad team. Similarly, Rodney Hood’s usage would increase in New York and his numbers would skyrocket during a contract season. If he accomplishes the impossible and finds consistency with the Knicks, Hood could be in for a big payday. Favors, again, is on an expiring contract and would get serious burn in New York.
As for the Jazz, well, it would instantly have the best young front court — and really, the best front court overall — in the NBA.
Porzingis and Gobert fit together like Latvian butter and French toast. Porzingis is already one of the most versatile bigs in the world and he’s merely a 7-3 baby. He can dribble, shoot from the perimeter and protect the rim. Couple him with Gobert and you get a pair created in basketball heaven, or one created by hoop scientists in a lab that develops serum for ever-expanding limbs. The length and skill of those two would be otherworldly.
Courtney Lee would be a throw-in, but his skill-set is appealing to Utah coach Quin Snyder, who loves gritty defenders and ones who can shoot.
Oh, and Hayward surely wouldn’t hate playing with Porzingis and Gobert — and neither would the rest of the league and future free agents.